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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Brianna Caplan Sayres, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 39
1. Jojo Moyes, Brianna Caplan Sayres, Christian Slade, & Jacqueline Winspear Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending July 06, 2014–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #7 in Hardcover Fiction) One Plus One by Jojo Moyes: “Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them.” (July 2014)


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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2. To Write a Classic

Recently my son and I have been rereading the "My Father's Dragon" trilogy by Ruth Stiles Gannett. We read all three books several years ago and he loved them. As I was organizing my books in our new house, he spotted this old favorite and asked to read it again. I happily obliged.

As we are zipping through these much loved stories, it was amazing to me to look back at the copyright for the first book... 1950. How incredible to have written a book that stands the test of time and is still being read and loved 63 years later!

This made me wonder. What makes a book that kind of classic? "My Father's Dragon" was a Newbery Honor book, so it was recognized as being exceptional for its time. (And it really is exceptional. So wonderfully fun and funny!) But do all honored book withstand the test of time that well?

And of course as a writer I can't help but wonder, how long will children be reading the books I write? (63 years from now would certainly be awesome!)

What do you all think about classics? Which long ago books do you love? Which of today's books do you think have a chance of becoming modern day classics?

2 Comments on To Write a Classic, last added: 9/12/2013
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3. Productive Waiting?

Every once in a while, I get to thinking about our blog's name, "The Paper Wait" and how very appropriate it is in this business we're in.

As a writer, it feels like I'm always waiting...

waiting to hear about the latest submissions my agent sent out, waiting to get the contract or the revised contract that will be on its way soon, waiting to hear my editor's feedback on my latest revision.

Yep, there's a lot of waiting in this job of writing. And I try to use the waiting time productively. I really do. But I admit it, I sometimes spend too much time wondering about the thing I'm waiting for. Instead of doing something else productive. Something else that could help to move my career and my writing forward.

So recently I made a list of things I really needed to do. And I got to work doing them instead of focussing on the waiting.

I started arranging school visits. And, as I excitedly await the publication of my second picture book, I went back to this post from right before my first picture book was about to come out. And I used that blog post to make a list of all the things I could start working on-- a whole lot earlier this time.

It felt good to get moving in productive ways. Also, once I got moving, other things got moving too.

I checked in with my editor and she wrote back that my latest revision is in great shape. Hooray!

And after I started arranging school visits, my son's teacher contacted me to arrange for a visit to his class and some older grades as well. Once I started working on it, it felt like the universe was helping me out. Yay!

So, there will always be waiting, but I am really going to try to focus on it less, and keep myself doing the things I need to do more.

(But I still am busy waiting for this month's awesome SCBWI Western Washington annual conference! Now that's a once-a-year treat worth waiting for!)

So how do you wait? Are you able to keep yourself productive? How?

0 Comments on Productive Waiting? as of 4/8/2013 3:48:00 AM
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4. Inspired by Rejection!

Recently I received a wonderful rejection from an editor.

Non-writers always look at me strange when I say those two words together. "Wonderful" and "rejection". How can a rejection be wonderful? they wonder.

But writers know. Rejections can be wonderful. And this one was...

It was so wonderful because the editor gave me wonderful suggestions for my manuscript. Suggestions that really made sense to me.

So I got to revising. And revising. And revising!

Have you ever noticed how you can't just make one simple change in a manuscript. Every change sparked other changes.

And in the end it was a pretty different manuscript. But still the same, if that makes any sense.

All the best parts were there. But it felt fresh and new.

A true re-vision. Thanks to a wonderful rejection!

So, what wonderful rejections have you had?

4 Comments on Inspired by Rejection!, last added: 10/12/2012
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5. Inspiring Communities

I just got back from my local SCBWI meeting. It was wonderful!

Two local authors presented inspiring workshops. (Thanks Lisa L. Owens and Ben Clanton!) Before that there were fun and funny announcements from our wonderful regional advisors, and good news announcements. Always such a pleasure to hear!

Usually, people don't think of writing as something social. But, when this social component is there, it is such fun. Now that I live across the country from my amazing Paper Wait critique group, these wider community connections are essential.

Of course, there are many ways to find community. Like many writers, I find such wonderful community online. Especially at Verla Kay's Blueboards!

And in November there are even more opportunities for online community. Good luck to all those who are doing NaNoWriMo!

My writing challenge of choice is Picture Book Idea Month. It is such fun to read the blog posts Tara Lazar has been posting each day from a wonderfully talented group of authors and illustrators. (If you read only one (and I definitely advise reading more than one), you must read Day 9's post by Kelly Light. Incredible.)

I am definitely inspired from all this wonderful community! Must get back to writing!

What writing communities have you found? Do they leave you feeling inspired too?

4 Comments on Inspiring Communities, last added: 11/13/2012
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6. A Chain of Changes

Recently I read a very inspiring blog post. It challenged me to rename three characters where I had settled for bland, generic names. The new names I came up with were much more interesting. (At least, I hope they are. :o) )

But, what really surprised me was how involved a revision this seemingly simple change entailed. I mean, it should be a simple matter of cut and paste, right? \

But it was far from that. Nothing simple about it.

The change of names reverberated through my manuscript. (Just as Ann Whitford Paul had suggested they would!) After re-naming my characters, I discovered the birth order of my young protagonists and how that fit into their motivation within the story.

And, once I gave my characters more interesting names, my last stanza no longer worked. I think that subconsciously, that last stanza had always bothered me a bit. But with the new names, somehow I could no longer pretend to myself that my original attempt at an ending worked. It needed revising. And that revising was challenging but fun to do.

Yes, those new character names really did set in motion a chain of changes. Good ones, I hope!

Has a relatively minor revision ever sparked a chain of changes in your writing? How did your chain of changes turn out?

6 Comments on A Chain of Changes, last added: 12/13/2012
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7. New Year! New Book!!

Happy New Year, Paper Waiters! I am so excited to be starting off the new year with some good news... some VERY good news! My picture book, Mystery at the Miss Dinosaur Pageant has been... acquired by Caroline Abbey of Bloomsbury Children's Books!! Yay!!!!

I am so excited I finally get to share my good news. This fun and wacky picture book is near and dear to my heart and I would like to extend a huge thank my awesome Paper Wait critique group for guiding me through revisions (and for believing in it when they first saw an early draft!). And a huge thank you to my awesome agent, Teresa Kietlinski, for believing in this story and helping it to find the right editor!

So please help me celebrate! Take a piece of cake, a scoop of ice cream and join the party!

Can't wait to celebrate lots more good news for all the wonderful Paper Waiters in 2013!

25 Comments on New Year! New Book!!, last added: 1/10/2013
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8. Triumph Times Two!!

The Paper Waiters ended 2012 with a joyful bang - book contracts for Robin and Brianna! Their celebratory posts were delightful reading. Full of !!!!!.

Such stunning good news deserves a back story. Now that the confetti has been swept away, the band has packed up, and the fireworks are ash,  I'd like to ask Robin and Brianna a few questions.

1. How long did it take you to write the manuscript that just sold?

2. Who/what influenced your revisions?

3. Anything else about this success story you'd like to share?

So . . . take it away, Robin and Brianna.

12 Comments on Triumph Times Two!!, last added: 1/18/2013
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9. The Excitement of Reading!

As a children's writer, I have seen and appreciated children's books from many angles. Of course, I enjoy trying to write them. And of course I enjoy reading them. As a former elementary school teacher, I also love teaching children to read them. And now, as a mom, I am enjoying a new thrill...

teaching my son to read them! We have finally found the easy readers that motivate him (which in his case often involve vehicles and construction-- Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder and Trucktown books are super popular around here), and it is so exciting to see him on a roll. Now he has even started reading Daddy bedtime stories. :o)

He is so excited that he will likely be reading Magic Tree House books by sometime next year, and he was even more excited when I told him all the books that he would be able to read before Magic Tree House. Books like Little Bear and Amelia Bedelia. And soon after Magic Tree House, books like Dragon Slayer's Academy and Henry Huggins! These are books that he has loved hearing as read alouds and I am so excited for him to enjoy reading them on his own.

He has always loved being read to (which I plan to continue to do for many years to come!), and now it is so exciting to see the excitement of reading on his own begin to take hold!

Looking forward to listening to him read those awesome new Richard Scarry easy readers we just discovered!

So, what books motivated your beginning reader? (I am eager to add to our collection!)

5 Comments on The Excitement of Reading!, last added: 3/11/2013
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10. PiBoIdMo: Electric Ideas!

In my last post, I was getting excited for Picture Book Idea Month. Now it's here, and I thought I'd post about how it's going.

If you had asked me after the first few days, I would have said pretty good. I came up with some cute ideas, but none of them were grabbing me quite yet.

Then came yesterday...

with not one but two really exciting ideas!

So, if you asked me how it's going now, I would definitely say, fantastic!

As I compared yesterday to the days before it, it's interesting to me to see how my idea gathering process works.

There are some ideas that I get and they go onto my list. I like them. I really do. And maybe someday I'll put in the effort to grow them into books.

Then there are other ideas. The ideas like the two I had yesterday. The moment I think of them, it's almost like a current of electricity runs through me. My mind can't help but start trying to figure out how I can transform this idea into a first draft. (And yes, by yesterday evening I had started to write a first attempt at both books.)

Now the first kinds of ideas sometimes do grow into books for me. Sometimes they collide with other ideas I've got and become something even more interesting.

But the second kind of idea. Now those are the ones that almost always turn into something interesting for me. They often take a very long time to complete, beyond the excitement of that initial spark. But that excitement for the topic seems to sustain me throughout.

So, why gather thirty ideas you might ask. Why not only gather the ones that send a jolt of electricity through you?

But it's only through regular conscious idea gathering that I was open to "catching" both of yesterday's ideas. I knew I was looking for ideas, so everything I saw became a potential idea.

Plus, it's interesting that yesterday's ideas really draw on two of the PiBoIdMo blog posts on Tara's site. One is about something little-- or at least not big (Thanks, Brandi Dougherty!) and the other is a list (Thanks, David LaRochelle!). I wasn't consciously trying to do either of these things, but I'm sure that subconsciously the blog posts stuck with me. (It is so great to hear how other people generate ideas!)

So, that's how PiBoIdMo is going for me. And I'm pretty excited about it!

How's your writing November going for you? PiBoIdMo? NaNoWriMo? Drafting? Revising? Editing? Waiting???

6 Comments on PiBoIdMo: Electric Ideas!, last added: 11/11/2010
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11. PiBoIdMo Day 21: Listen Like Brianna Caplan Sayres

by Brianna Caplan Sayres

I wish I could tell you some great strategies I use to brainstorm picture book ideas. I really do. Unfortunately, most of my best ideas don’t work that way.

No, my best ideas are more like a butterfly flitting by. They’re beautiful and they’re fast and, if I have a butterfly net handy and I’m really quick, I just might be lucky enough to catch one for a closer look.

So here’s how catching an idea works for me (and how you can try it too):

Are you listening?

(Yes, I know you’re listening to me, but that’s not what I meant. :-) )

Are you listening… to yourself?

Yes, that’s the way I come up with many of my best ideas. By listening, to myself.

Here’s how it works:

I’m talking to my husband or my son or a friend and suddenly I hear myself say something curious or funny or thought provoking or odd.

Before I took myself seriously as a writer, those comments used to just “fly away”, but now…

“That sounds like a picture book,” I exclaim, and use my handy dandy “idea net” to catch it and store it in my ideas with possibility pile.

Now if you want to be even more effective at catching promising ideas before they fly away, here’s another hint:

It can really help if the people around you start to listen for picture book ideas too. (My husband and I were in the middle of a wacky conversation, when he pointed out that the silly topic we were discussing just might make an interesting picture book idea. It hadn’t even occurred to me. But, guess what? He was right!)

Now, maybe because many of my best ideas start out sounding like picture books, I often seem to catch titles. That’s what happened with my upcoming picture book, WHERE DO DIGGERS SLEEP AT NIGHT?

I was talking to my almost-three-year-old about his favorite topic, trucks, when I heard myself saying, “Where do diggers sleep at night?”

“That sounds like a picture book!” I exclaimed, and I had my idea. Hurray!

But just because I had my idea didn’t mean I knew what to do with it. For me, that’s when the brainstorming really starts going in earnest. So I decided to go just a bit further with this post, to trace what happened to this idea after I caught it.

Should a book called “Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?” be a nonfiction book, factually explaining where a variety of trucks slept at night?

I definitely considered that possibility. After all, my truck-loving son had exposed me to many wonderful informational books. I eagerly began researching where trucks truly spent the night. Somehow, though, this direction didn’t feel right to me. Nonfiction is awesome, but the title I had caught felt more fanciful.

So, I went back to the drawing board. What else could I do with this title? I wondered. It should be a bedtime book, I thought, and I started to draft a rather sweet book about a bunch of trucks getting ready for bed.

Right direction, but this new version still had one major problem. It just wasn’t “truck-y” enough. The getting ready for bed story I was writing could have been about airplanes or clowns or elephants (or little boys).

The whole reason I was intrigued, and that I thought my young readers would be intrigued, was that this story would be about trucks. So I headed back to the drawing board once again. This time, I made sure that each stanza contain

11 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 21: Listen Like Brianna Caplan Sayres, last added: 11/21/2010
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12. Shaking it Up

Sometimes a piece gets stuck. I see it one way. I've always seen it that way. And I can't see it any other way.

But then an editor writes back and says she'd like to see it a different way.

First Reaction: Excitement!!! She'd like to see it!

Second Reaction: Terror! How can I change it??? It's been the first way so long, I just can't see how.

That's when a great critique group comes in handy!

They read my stuck words and see where action is needed. What scenes are critical? What scenes aren't? Where is the tension good? Where is the tension missing? Where do I need to shake things up?

After a round of feedback like that, I admit I can sometimes feel overwhelmed. But then the possibilities begin to percolate in my brain. What if I cut that character? What if I changed that ending?

And suddenly I'm scribbling away and I can't stop. I revise once. Then again and again. I'm unstuck and I can't stop! Hurray!

Thanks, guys!

So, how does your critique / revision process work?

5 Comments on Shaking it Up, last added: 12/12/2010
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13. My Word for 2011

On the CW yahoo group, Anastasia Suen challenged writers to come up with our "word" for 2011. What writer wouldn't love such a challenge?

But it has not been an easy challenge for me.

Should my word be "organize"? That's always something I need to work on.

Or should my word be "relax"? Life has been pretty overwhelming for the past two years, but things finally seems to be getting easier.

Or perhaps it should be "celebrate"? After all, last year was the year I got my very first picture book contract. And I'm super-lucky to be working with my fantastic agent and editor!

Yep. All these possibilities could be good choices, but, as I'm writing this post, I'm sitting in bed with a yucky head cold. I have spent three days exhausted and getting nothing done. And so I've decided that my word for 2011 is...


Yes, in 2011, I need to take care of myself and replenish my energy supply. Even when I'm not sick, I'm running on empty far too often.

And what's wonderful is that writing energizes me. So I've got to find more time to write. Yay!

I'm just thinking about it and I'm starting to feel a bit better already. :o)

So, what's your word for 2011?

8 Comments on My Word for 2011, last added: 1/13/2011
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14. Wrestling with Words

In writing, words matter. Finding the perfect words matters. Finding the exact words matter.

Right now, I'm wrestling with finding those perfect words.

My manuscript is near completion. (Hurray!)

But I am down to considering two phrases and I can't make up my mind which option makes me happier.

The second option is more clever. And it's definitely more fun and visual. Fantastic, right?

But I worry that using the second option could lead the reader astray. It could lead the reader to think that my character is angrier than he really is. (He is actually quite sweet and innocent.)

This is a picture book, I'm talking about, so I get very few words to make my point.

Yes, words matter. When I first set out to write for children, I just never realized how much they matter.

Back to wrestling I go.

So I'm curious, what writing quandaries make you wrestle?

7 Comments on Wrestling with Words, last added: 2/10/2011
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15. In Honor of Mother's Day

I am a children's writer. I am also a mom. Some people think those two facts are very related. I wonder...

First of all, I wrote for children long before I became a mom. And I know there are lots of fantastic children's writers who never had children.

In fact, I remember feeling a bit annoyed when somebody who knew I had just had my first baby assumed that I would suddenly have all these wonderful story ideas for babies because of my new bundle of joy. "I write stuff for older children, thank you very much," I thought to myself with a sniff.

But indeed my children have had a major influence on my writing. My first published picture book would never have come about without all I learned from a very truck-obsessed toddler. And without him I would never have heard myself asking the question, "Where Do Diggers Sleep At Night?" (which has turned into the title of my upcoming first picture book and is indeed dedicated to that now truck-obsessed preschooler).

And my nonfiction article about animal baths, "Squeaky Clean", that appeared in Highlights High Five this month (Hurray!) would never have been written had I not become a mommy and realized how very important bath time is to young children.

Of course, how could any regular interaction with children not influence me as a children's writer? My years as a teacher (and prior to that a camp counselor and babysitter) had already greatly influenced my writing. (Those as yet unpublished chapter books would never have been written without the daily inspiration of the wonderful second and third graders I taught for so many years.)

So, while the craziness that is being mother to two young children does keep me from writing as regularly as I would like, it can also provide a wonderful sense of inspiration.

I guess it's just important to me that I go in lots of different directions as a writer (and not just writing books for my kids). In some ways, many of the books I write are more for my own inner child than for the two children I take care of each day. I hope that I always have many sources of inspiration for my manuscripts.

So, how do you think being a parent can influence (or not influence) a writer?

And... Happy Mother's Day!

4 Comments on In Honor of Mother's Day, last added: 5/9/2011
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16. No Longer Alone

Once upon a time, I wrote alone.

With the help of a few books (including my trusty CWIM), I drafted picture books, chapter books and short stories. Eagerly I sent them off into the world.

They boomeranged back, rejections.

Then I found ways to join a community...

I joined SCBWI.
I attended conferences.
I learned from online children's writing board communities (including the awesome "Blueboards", fellow kidlit bloggers and Twitter).
And I found my awesome critique group!

This community helped me to understand so much more about how to write for children. Manuscripts no longer boomeranged back. There were "good rejections" and acceptances. My work was published in magazines. I signed with my awesome agent! I signed my first picture book contract!

I don't believe any of these successes would have happened without the wonderful, supportive community I have been blessed to find through the years.

To my fellow Paper Waiters, thank you!!! You have each helped me to grow so much! I will miss you so much as I move across the country. You are such a special group!!! (And I am so glad that I can remain in touch with each of you through the online community that is our blog!)

And for our awesome Paper Wait readers, what communities have helped you to grow as a writer?

6 Comments on No Longer Alone, last added: 8/11/2011
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17. What Writing Has in Common with a Cross Country Move

For the past several weeks, I have been overwhelmed with moving trucks and cardboard boxes. Our family's cross country move is very exciting, but it has also managed to turn my entire life upside down.

That got me thinking. Do moving and writing have anything in common?

And I managed to find several similarities...
Similarity #1-- That frustrating period when you feel you should be done, but you're not! There is still unpacking and setting up and finding doctors to do. Or, in the case of writing, revising and revising and revising to do. (Oh how I want the manuscript-- or the move-- to be done, but it's not!)

Similarity #2-- Both are more work than anybody can possibly understand who isn't doing it or hasn't done it before. I would never have imagined how insane it would be to pack up the lives and possessions of four people and move them to the other side of the country. Not until I started doing it. Similarly, people who don't write have no understanding of how challenging, frustrating and exciting the process can be.

Similarity #3-- Finally, I realized that making a move is all about making a really big change. And, whenever I make a change, my writing travels in exciting new directions. When I started to learn the cello, I didn't become a great musician, but I did end up writing a collection of poems about a girl who played the cello. And when I made my biggest change-- having children-- I learned all about trucks and ended up writing what will be my first published book, "Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?".

So in the midst of my remaining bits of chaos, I wonder: What new interests might come from this cross country move? And what writing projects might emerge from these new interests?

4 Comments on What Writing Has in Common with a Cross Country Move, last added: 10/10/2011
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18. A Time to Celebrate!

There are the blog posts where I question and the blog posts where I wonder. There are the blog posts where I doubt and the blog posts where I discover.

And then there are the blog posts where I... celebrate!

I love to celebrate!!!!

My book, "Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?", has a cover! An adorable cover by the fabulous Christian Slade! I am so excited!!!! (I know, exclamation points are my weakness. I should use less of them, but I really am sooooo excited!!!!!)

It is amazing to see my words illustrated so beautifully. And, somehow, seeing my book's fantastic cover makes this whole "getting published" thing feel a bit more real.

Before I know it, it will be May 2012 and I will be holding an actual book in my hands.

Eek! I've got a website and some business cards to make before then!

So, thanks for celebrating with me! And now, back to work. It's time to revise another manuscript...

9 Comments on A Time to Celebrate!, last added: 11/10/2011
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19. No Longer Dreaming

For many years, I have dreamed of having a published book. I dreamed of the author bio, and I dreamed of the dedication. I dreamed of my author website, and I dreamed of my author visits.

But, for many years, I told myself that these dreams had to be put aside. Otherwise, I would never actually get a book published.

But now, that first book is just months away, and many of the things I used to just dream about have become real items on my writer's to do list.

Months ago, I wrote my author bio and dedication. Now it is a pleasure to see both in the incredible F&G's my editor recently shared with me (and my 5-year-old truck enthusiast loves having a book dedicated to him!).

A few weeks ago, I printed up a business card with my book cover on it, and it feels awesome to have a business card with my book cover on it. But...

the website I listed on the business card was a mere place holder page. Nothing like the site I had envisioned in my mind.

So, I have been hard at work designing that website www.briannacaplansayres.com (still very much a work in progress- but I couldn't write this blog post without sharing what I've done so far!). And on that site, I get to describe those school visits I have imagined doing for so long.

It is very exciting to work on these things, but stressful too at times. I hope everything comes out right. And I hope I manage to balance my time correctly, so I still get to keep writing and, hopefully sometime soon, get to celebrate a book #2.

8 Comments on No Longer Dreaming, last added: 12/11/2011
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20. Finding My Flow

Sometimes writing is hard. Very hard.

I stare at a blank page and try to eke out some half decent words.

Then there are those times when ideas just seem to flow.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those wonderful flowing times.

I wish I could identify exactly what went right. How did I get to a place where I was so productive and having so much fun?

Feedback from my awesome agent definitely helped. (Thanks, Teresa!) She found a manuscript I had nearly forgotten and suggested a major revision that made it so much fun to revise. And then she suggested a new topic, one I had never considered writing about, and got my creative juices flowing.

Once I got into that creative mode, it was so fun to write and revise, write and revise.

Ah, how I love that flow! Writing is just so much fun when it goes like that.

Of course, life continues to be a bit crazy, and that wonderful flow did not last forever. So I'm curious, how do you find your flow? (And how much of your writing is just plain old hard work? :o) )

9 Comments on Finding My Flow, last added: 2/12/2012
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21. Getting Ready!

When I started writing, I thought it would be really cool to do author visits. As a teacher, I loved teaching writing and wouldn't it be even more exciting to get to teach writing as a guest author? And in between writing, I daydreamed about the day those school visits would happen.

Now, those visits are no longer daydream. I've got my first one booked for just after DIGGERS releases (the elementary school I attended as a child has invited me to speak. Yay!), and I really need to plan for it!

I am still excited to be a visiting author, but now I'm feeling a bit nervous too. Will the visit go well or will it be a flop? What can I do to make it as successful as possible?

So I am asking you for advice? What tips and tricks have you used to make a school visit go well? What great strategies have you seen other visiting authors put into action?

Can't wait to read your ideas!

8 Comments on Getting Ready!, last added: 3/12/2012
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22. Rebel Without an Eraser?

Here's something you should know about me. I like to follow rules. Some family members insist I like to follow rules too much.

In writing, of course, there are A LOT of rules. And you would think someone like me would happily follow all of them.

Well, I don't!

Now there are many writing rules I do follow. The ones that make sense like, "Never ambush an editor to pitch your manuscript while she is taking a bathroom break at a conference" and "Don't type your cover letter in a funky font on bright pink paper and add sparkly glitter to the envelope".

But there are other writing "rules" (or at least commonly offered advice that has taken on the near sanctified status as “rule”) that I haven’t followed as strictly.

“Don’t write a picture book in rhyme,” we are told. “Just don’t”. And I understand why. My beginning attempts at writing in rhyme were awful! I had no idea what it meant for my lines to scan perfectly and I sometimes threw in a line just for the sake of the rhyme (a huge no-no!). But I just had a rhyming picture book accepted for publication. So perhaps that "rule" should read, "Don't write a picture book in rhyme unless you're willing to take forever to study how to write rhyme well." This is incredibly frustrating to do and I completely understand why the typical advice is just don't do it. It is only worth it to break this rule if you are willing to put in a lot of hard work. (And those who think writing in rhyme comes easy for them, might just not realize how much work it is.)

"Don't write about anthropomorphic animals," we are told. "And especially don't write about anthropomorphic objects." And again I understand why. "Timmy the Toaster" and "Tommy the Toothbrush" stories must drive readers of slush piles insane. But this again is a rule I have broken in manuscripts that have been well received by editors. I have heard this rule modified to say something along the lines of, "I have no problem with talking animals. It all depends on what they say." This makes more sense to me, but the strict "Don't do it," definitely serves it's purpose. The beginning writer is warned that these types of stories are a lot harder to write than they might first appear."

With both these examples (and there are many others I can think of), I think that first we need to learn the "rules" of writing enough so that we understand the why's behind them. Once we do, we as writers can make conscious choices. We need to know when we are breaking a rule that was put in place to keep us from doing something stupid. Only then we can decide if we are breaking that rule stupidly or breaking it well.

So, do you break any writing rules? If you don't, why not? If you do, what makes you think breaking that rule works for you?

11 Comments on Rebel Without an Eraser?, last added: 3/10/2010
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23. What's Going Right?

So often, my blog posts seem to revolve around writing challenges. Things that aren't working for me as a writer.

But for the past two weeks things have been going pretty well. As I write this, I'm up to page 28 of my current work-in-progress, the middle grade novel I was so uncertain about how to start in my blog post of two months ago.

It's actually flowing!

So for today, I thought I'd write a different sort of a blog post. I thought I'd try to analyze what's going right:

The first thing that's going write is that I decided that I would write for 15 minutes a day. (Thanks, Tricia!)

Finding time to write with two young children has often seemed impossible. But the first day that I had promised myself to write for 15 minutes, I sat down after my oldest went to bed and started writing. And, when my 15 minutes was up, I had no desire to stop. In fact, I have kept on writing in every spare moment I can find for the past two weeks.

I discovered that even in what sometimes seems a crazy busy life there are free moments. It's up to me to choose what to do with them. Do I turn on the t.v. and watch something I could care less about to relax after a hard day or do I curl up with my computer and work on my novel? The choice is up to me (and lately I've been making the right choice most of the time :o) ).

And then there are chores. Endless chores. Sometimes it seems like I shouldn't work on my writing because many items on my "to do list" remain undone. But, no matter how hard I work, there will always be items left to do. If I want to be a writer (and I want to be a writer!) I've got to write. I can't make my writing dependent on getting everything else done first or I will never have time to write (which felt like what was happening for a while).

But most of all, what seems to be going right for the past few weeks is that I'm having so much fun. There are times when I'm writing and it feels like tough, hard work and there are times when it feels like play. Right now, it feels like play. I'm not letting myself stress about how perfect it is, I'm just having fun telling a story.

So, the next time I'm having trouble getting into a flow, I'll try to remind myself some of the things that worked for me now. And, if I get too stressed to remind myself, please chime in and remind me.

So, what's going right for you? (And, if things aren't going right for you right now, what worked for you in the past that might work again? :o) )

10 Comments on What's Going Right?, last added: 7/11/2010
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24. Through the Muddle of a Middle

First things first-- The Paper Wait readers are incredible!

A few blog posts ago, when I was sitting there intimidated by the very idea of starting a novel, people gave me the most amazing encouragement. And it worked! I got started and I had a great time writing my novel's opening chapters.

But then life intervened and I lost some of that wonderfully inspiring momentum. Now I'm staring ahead to my muddle of a middle and I'm getting nervous again. It feels like I'm a sprinter trying to run a marathon.

With a picture book, I would be revising by now. With a novel, I'm barely started.

I'm trying to remember to take it in small chunks. To aim for fifteen minutes a day (and I'll usually end up writing more). And, most importantly, not to think about the enormity of it all.

But maintaining momentum through the many, many twists and turns that are needed to make up a novel is still a challenge. So, I'm asking for advice again. How do those of you who write novels keep your momentum going through the muddle of a middle?

10 Comments on Through the Muddle of a Middle, last added: 8/11/2010
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25. How I Read

Ever since I got serious about my writing, I have found myself differently. At first, I made a conscious effort to read like a writer, but now I can't help it. I just do.

I recently realized though that there are two main ways that I do this.

The first way is really purposeful "writer reading". This type of reading happens when I'm faced with a challenge and I don't know how to solve it.

My favorite example of this type of reading was when I was first starting to write rhyming poetry and all my poetry fell into an ABAB rhyming pattern. I knew my poetry needed more variety, but I didn't know how to do anything other than what I was doing.

So I scoured the pages of Cricket and Spider and Highlights for wonderful poems. Then I figured out how they varied their rhyme, and I imitated their rhyming patterns.

After a few of these, I must have internalized how to vary my rhyme. After that intense reading and purposeful writing, my rhyming poetry no longer felt so similar. Hurray!

But not all my reading like a writer is quite so focused. A lot of times I'm just reading. Often something that has seemingly nothing to do with the kind of writing I tend to do.

For example, right now I'm immersed in "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society". It is pretty far from the wacky picture books and sweet easy readers I tend to write. But I still read it like a writer.

As I read, I can't help thinking that I want to write a book in letters someday. That I love a book that plants clues so slowly in the beginning that I have to really work to figure out what's happening. I wonder how much I could challenge my much younger readers like this before they would give up reading in frustration. (After all, I went through several false starts before I could get past page 5.)

Maybe these ideas are just that, ideas. Maybe they'll never become part of my writing. But maybe they will.

After all, for years, I read all sorts of poetry-- rhyming and non-rhyming. I loved how subtle some of it felt and wished I could write that way. But I didn't know how. Then one day, I started a poetry collection that had a very different feel. I'll never know exactly where my new voice came from, but I was very excited to find it in me. Somehow, it must have come from all that wonderful "purposeless" reading.

So, I read like a writer no matter how I read. Please share, how do you read like a writer?

5 Comments on How I Read, last added: 9/11/2010
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