Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye, 2009...

Today is "Random Fact Thursday," so I figured it would be fitting to have my random facts relate to 2009. Here is a list of 10 firsts from 2009:

*I've been to New York City a number of times, but I participated in two firsts while I was there this summer.

First, I saw a play on Broadway. You would think with a Theatre Minor, I'd have seen a bunch of shows, but I never went to one when I was in NYC before. This summer we saw West Side Story in third row loge seats, and I loved every minute of it.

(Times Square after show)

Second, we went to see the Statue of Liberty. I not only saw the statue, but I got to climb up to the crown. I highly recommend buying the crown tickets, because we got the VIP treatment and were ushered past hundreds of people waiting in the heat to go to the base of the statue.

(Walking down the spiral staircase in the crown)

*I attended the Kenyon Review Writers Conference. This was one of the best weeks of the year. I got to live among 60+ other writers for eight days doing nothing but supporting each other and the work we were producing. I just submitted my confirmation that I will be going back this summer, and I can’t wait!

*I saw Coldplay live. I see a lot of concerts. I love going to concerts (in fact, I have four coming up during the next three months), but there’s a list of performers I want to see and Coldplay was at the top of the list. Their show was awesome (even if they sang one of my favorite songs “The Scientist” acoustic in the crowd and they were right above me, so I could only see it on the jumbotron). This year I need to figure out how to see U2, Van Morrison and The Shins (which is especially hard since U2 is done performing their last tour…boo!).

*I was a godmother for the first time. I'm godmother to my cousin's adorable daughter Kate. My mom, main squeeze and I made the eight hour drive to Pennsylvania for the christening. It was also my cousin's birthday that weekend, so she rented sumo suits and my family wrestled sumo style in her back yard!

(My family sumo wrestling!)

*I went to Arizona. It was just a short weekend trip, but we got to go hiking up in the canyons and it was simply beautiful. I think I’d be in amazing shape if I had scenery like that to walk through every day.

(The canyon we hiked through)

*I turned 30, and while I had grand ideas to stay “29 Forever,” I’ve liked my first year in the new decade. My main squeeze threw a surprise party that really did surprise me, and I got to celebrate with a lot of great friends and family.

*My mom returned to Florida with my main squeeze and I. We used to go every year, but she hadn’t gone since my grandparents passed away. My Aunt owns the house now, and the four of us spent spring break knitting by the pool during the day (well, not my main squeeze, he just relaxed) and eating our way through the city by night! We already have tickets to go back this April.

(The deep end of the glorious pool at my Aunt's house)

(My mom and I at the Botanical Gardens in Stuart, Florida)

*My good friend Jen got married, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the wedding party. It was an amazing wedding and she was a beautiful bride! I also got to witness the marriage of two other good friends this year (they were both beautiful brides too!)

*I’ve started house hunting. This might not seem like a big deal because I’m still looking, but it is HUGE because once I have a house, I’ll be able to have a dog. And if you haven’t caught on yet through comments I’ve made in my blog, I’m obsessed with dogs. I can’t have one in my condo, but here’s to hoping 2010 brings a house where I can have as many dogs as I want (okay, I’ll just get one, but the thought that I can get one hundred when I own a house is pretty exciting!).

*Oh yes, and we can’t forget that I got an AGENT for my book! This has been a long year of writing, revising and wishing. It’s all paid off, because I’m now represented by Lina Sion from Global Literary Management. Here’s to hoping at the end of 2010, I’ll be able to say that I have an editor for my book!

What about you? What are some of the firsts that happened for you in 2009????

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How About a Chance to Win Another Pair of Writer's Gloves???

This past week has been spent writing all day and watching movies at night. So far, my main squeeze and I have gone to seen Avatar and have rented Angels and Demons, 500 Days of Summer, Julie and Julia, The Hangover, Star Trek and The Christmas Story (which we watched from about half way through and then started at the beginning because it was playing nonstop for 24 hours!). I’m not sure what movie we have planned for tonight (we’ve got a few), but I do know that I’ll be doing a bit of knitting while I watch.

What does this post have to do with writing or with my readers? Well, I’m glad you asked! I’ve been watching so many movies and doing so much knitting, that I’m almost done with another pair of writer’s gloves! So…I’ve decided that if I can get up to 50 followers by the end of the contest (tomorrow at midnight), I’ll give away two pairs! This means to tweet, Facebook, MySpace and spread the word about my blog. Remember, telling others about my blog gets you four points, so talk away!

Here’s the new pair of gloves that you could win!

Sorry my blogging is so short today, but I have a dentist appointment....woo-wee!

I’ll leave you with this picture. It’s a mug I got from my sister for Christmas. I kind of a have a mustache obsession! How awesome is it!?!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow....

I’ve always been bad with goodbyes. I hate the hugs, the walking away, the promises to keep in touch. I’m the type of person who will try to slip away discreetly rather than face saying goodbye. I’m just not good at it. Can a person ever be good at leaving someone else?

I think my aversion towards goodbyes might have started when I was young and my grandparents would leave for Florida. They lived with my mom, sister and I in Ohio during the summer and would drive down to Florida when the weather started to turn cold. My mom would wake us up early in the morning, and we’d watch them pack their final items into the car and eventually drive away. It always made me sad, saying goodbye and knowing that I wouldn’t see them for months. I never knew what to say, because what I always wanted to say was for them to stay.

My dislike of goodbyes has carried over to books too. I hate nearing the end of a good book. In fact, I can confidently state that I deplore it…it’s right up there with getting shots, driving long distances and having to dust around the house! I find myself slowing down when I near the end of a book just so I won’t have to finish it. I savor the last few pages, often stopping and putting the book down for a little bit just so it’s not done. There have even been times where I’ll put the book aside, and start another one just so I don’t have to finish it just yet (I know, nuts, right!?!).

I think it’s the idea that I need to say goodbye to characters who have I have gotten to know so well that makes ending a book hard. I get sad at the end of books thinking that when I am done reading the book, I won’t ever come in contact with the characters and their world again. There have been many books that I’ve had to part ways with, however unwillingly. A few books I can think of off the top of my head are The Bright Forever (Lee Martin), The God of Animals (Aryn Kyle), Looking for Alaska (John Green), Middlesex (Eugenides) and White Oleander (Fitch). I remember finishing these books and just staring at the last few words, wishing for more.

I think that’s a sign of a true writer, when your reader doesn’t want to leave your work. I want to be able to create a book where my readers will slow down and stop after reading those last few words, wishing for more.

So what about you? What books have you had a hard time saying goodbye to? What “friends” did you not want to leave behind in those last few pages?

And don't have three more days to enter my contest!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Writing Supplies...Check

Santa must have known that I planned to do some heavy duty revising this week. He brought me a stocking full of gummy candy!!!

I hope your holidays were just as sweet!

Don't forget...there are only 4 more days to enter my contest!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock....

I have been thinking a lot about time these past few weeks. More specifically, about how fast time has been speeding by, how I don’t seem to have enough of it and how much time my book should span. My agent revisions have gotten my mind turning, and time seems to be a topic that comes up a lot.

First, there’s the major issue of finding time. My agent is hoping to start subbing my book in January. This is great, but it places a lot of pressure on me to get my book into perfect shape. I signed with her at the end of November and December has been a crazy month. The first week of December was finals for Cleveland State University, where I’m working on completing the MFA program, December is full of holiday festivities (which I’m a huge fan of), we are house hunting (and went through 16 houses in December during two Saturdays) and my school didn’t go on Christmas break until the Tuesday before Christmas. Phew! I have to admit that I was freaking out a little bit the first few weeks. I would come home, trying to get grading done and then write until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Now, however, life has slowed down a bit and I’m able to spend this next week writing, writing, writing.

The other aspect of time that I’ve been dealing with has to do with my book and how much time it spans. I write episodically, so I do sections of a scene during an isolated moment in a character’s life. The scene may be a ten-minute sequence or an event (like a basketball game or party). However, I rarely create a scene that takes place during a whole day, and I don’t think I’ve ever written a scene that spans a few days. I’m not sure why I write this way, but perhaps it’s because I feel like my writing becomes mundane and I start to focus on too many details to move time along. Writing episodically creates an immediacy in the moment for me. I like to think of my writing as snapshots, pictures from different parts of my characters’ lives.

So…the draft of my novel that I have now spans two school year. It starts at the beginning of Kate’s sophomore year and ends during the winter of her junior year. I needed the length to accomplish what happens with her brother, however I feel like I sped through some things (like the summer). I’ve been reworking the manuscript and trying to condense time. I would really like a book that only spans one school year, to keep it moving at a quick pace. In a perfect world, I’d be able to do that, but right now, I’m having a hard time figuring out how to make everything happen if the book is only one year.

I’ve looked at a lot of books I like to see how they deal with time. I feel like most YA books take place during one school year (or less). A few use flashbacks to show a past year or event, but I couldn’t really think of any that span more than a year. The only adolescent book that came to mind was Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, which isn’t classified as YA. What about you? Can you think of books that take place for more than one school year? What do you think the benefits are if your book covers a short amount of time? What do you think the benefits may be to a book that shows a year or two progression for the character?

Luckily for me, time has slowed down for the next week. I have pretty much an open schedule with nothing to do but write, write, write. After a month that has flown by too quickly, I’m going to relax and enjoy the slow motion of the next week.

And...speaking of have one more week to enter my contest for the writer's gloves. Remember, you get points every time you leave a comment/post/Facebook/tweet/MySpace about the contest and/or my blog. Those points can add up and give you a lot of entries! Keep the comments coming!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CONTEST TIME! Win Some Writer's Gloves!

I’m the type of person who cannot sit still. This is good for a writer, because my mind is constantly going and plotting and coming up with ideas. I even think about book ideas when I’m trying to get to sleep. I always have some kind of paper and a pen near me so I can jot down ideas (even if I can’t figure out all my thoughts when I go back to look at them later!).

My family and boyfriend always tell me to relax and just lay around, but I can’t. I need to be doing something, especially when I’m watching TV or a movie. Since it’s difficult to write while watching TV, I have a secret habit. It’s a dorky habit. You m

ay laugh when I reveal it.

Promise you won’t laugh?

Are you sure?

Okay, here goes….

I love to knit!

Stop laughing! I know you are! But you’re only laughing because you’ve never tried it. It’s very addictive, and is an awesome way to get some stress out (the repetition of the needles always seem to calm my nerves). My mom taught me a few years ago. She’s an amazing knitter, she can make sweaters and do all this crazy fancy stitch work that I can’t do. I’ve made a few sweaters, but I like wintery outdoor items more. Things like socks, hats, gloves, scarves, and the totally awesome fingerless gloves that I gave all my coworkers for Christmas. These gloves are my favorite project, because I can knit and read at the same time (okay, you’re laughing again!). They are awesome because you can wear them when you’re writing and your hands stay warm.

Take a look…

I made them all year long and stock piled a huge collection. My mom and I had planned to sell them on Etsy, but we never got around to setting up an account. Our procrastination is good for you, because I’m having my very first contest! Woo-hoo! You can have a chance to win some super marvelous writing gloves that I made!

The contest is simple…here’s how you get points:

1 entry slip for each comment you make from now until the end of the contest

2 entry slips if you’re following my

blog or start following it

3 entry slips if someone new to my blog posts in the comments that you told them about the site and they’re reading it because of you

5 entry slips for each time you Tweet about my contest, post the information on your blog, FaceBook or MySpace.

*Please post a link in my comments each time you spread the word, so I can give you the 5 entry slips!

So spread the word! I’ll put all these entries in a hat

and draw he winner on January 1, 2010…what a way to start the new year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Under the Misletoe....

It’s Christmas time, which means lots of mistletoe hanging around. And lots of mistletoe hanging around has got me thinking about crushes…literary crushes!

Okay, I admit that’s not really what I think about when I see mistletoe, but it’s still a great transition into today’s post topic…literary crushes! Because I mean, come on, who doesn’t have them! And before you go thinking that my crush is Edward or Jacob or someone who could kill me if I they let their guard down (gasp!), you may be surprised to find out that everyone I’ve been crushing on is human. Whoa!

Without further ado…here are my top three literary crushes….

Jay Gatsby:
I think he gets the number one spot of my list, and I don’t even know why. He’s corrupt, a wimp and covered up for a murder, but I love the man. There’s something vulnerable about him, and every time Daisy is cruel to him, I want to tell him that she’s not worth it.

I think I like him so much because he’s a man who fell in love (forget the fact that the girl was a superficial bitch), and he never let go of the dream of being with this one woman. The man came from nothing and worked for years to make himself into a better person (again, nevermind that he did it illegally and then threw his money around to entice the superficial bitch). I think I just like the idea of how much he cared for something, and how he never let go of the dream. And yes, I’m well aware that he helped cover up a murder and try to steal away a married woman, but I can’t get that image of him standing at the end of the dock staring at Daisy’s green light (okay, maybe he was a stalker!).

Logan Bruno:
Let me start off by saying that I adored The Babysitters Club growing up. I would make my mom take me to the bookstore the day the new book came out, and I still have the complete set of the series up in my attic. Logan Bruno was my dream man when I was younger. Sure, boy crazy Stacey (the title of one of my favorite books in the series!) had a lot of cute boyfriends, but Logan was always there for Mary Anne. He held her hand, carried her books and walked her to babysitting jobs. What more could a girl ask for!?!

Atticus Fitch:
I guess Atticus would be my older man crush. Atticus is one of the most upright, strong and pure characters in literature. I love everything about the man. He’s humble, instills fairness and justice in his kids, he fights for equal rights, and he’ll always do what is right, even if it’s hard. The courtroom scene in the book always gives me chills, and I love the part where Rev. Skyes tells Scout to stand up because her father’s passing by. What a great character!

And just as a side not...I'm obsessed with dogs. Literally, obsessed. I'm not allowed to have one in my condo, but as soon as I can, I totally want to name it either Atticus, Gatsby or Buchanan.

Those are my top three literary crushes, although I can probably think of a few others. What about you? Who are your literary crushes?

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Write Stuff

This is an early blog post for me. I guess I’m starting my Monday off nice and productive!

Speaking of productive…I wrote up a storm this weekend! It might have helped that there was an actual snowstorm this weekend, so I had a good excuse to stay inside and write. I was able to spend Friday night and most of Saturday writing. It was glorious!

I have to admit that I’ve been stressing a little bit about my revising, because I’ve been so busy with work, school and holiday stuff, but this weekend has renewed me. I was able to start revamping a major part of my novel, and the changes are exciting me. It’s the type of writing that makes me want to stay up late, skip eating and spend all my time working on these new scenes. The best part is that I’ll be able to do that after Tuesday, because I’ll have almost two weeks off for break. I cannot wait!

I plan to do my writing in two different places.

1) Coffee Shops:

I’m a huge fan of coffee shop writing. I stake out the perfect table (The perfect table is very important! I’ve been known to walk into a coffee shop and walk out if there isn’t a table that works for me.) and spread my stuff out all over it. I get my drink (Extra Hot Venti Chai Tea Latte No Fat No Foam No Water, please), turn on my Itouch and start typing away. I love writing when there are other people around me. The movement, smells and conversations put me in such a productive mood. I love the energy of coffee shops. I’m house shopping right now, and one of the specifications is that the house has to be within ten minutes of really good coffee shop!

2) My Kitchen Table:

I usually write at the kitchen table late at night or early in the morning. It’s usually stocked with coffee or Diet Mountain Dew and lots of gummy peaches. I’ll often have the TV on, but not loud enough to really hear it. I need the background noise. Now that the Christmas tree is up, it’s a great place to work!

Below are some shots of my kitchen writing spot.

Where do you write? Do you need to have a special spot to write, or can you write anywhere? Share your favorite writing spots!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Shutter Saturday

How about some actions shots?

These were taken about three weeks ago, when my friends and I rented out a whirlyball court. Whirlyball is a crazy mix of bumper cars, lacrosse and basketball. I wasn't too good, but it sure was fun!

What are you up to this weekend? Besides lots of editing (my revisions are making my book so much better), I'll be hitting up two different Christmas parties.

What I won't be doing is going near a mall or grocery store! I finished my shopping yesterday and stocked up on groceries to last me for at least a week.

I plan to stay away until after Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Random Fact Thursday!

I’ve decided to make my last Thursday post, “Random Facts about Rachele” a regular Thursday post. Woo-hoo! Cue the game show music and confetti falling from the ceiling!

However, I think 30 random facts a week is way too much. How about 10? Okay?


This week’s focus will be ten random facts about myself related to writing:

1) I wrote a story in elementary school about the origin of sherbet ice-cream.

Basically, a man (named Bert) was looking for a snack and wanted to throw some ingredients together. He asked his friend if the ingredients would taste good, and his friend commented, “Sure, Bert.” Well, sure enough, it did taste good! The man decided to name the new treat after his friend.

Uhm, yeah, I thought this was a great story. I thought it would make me famous.

2) I write everything out on notebook paper first. I can’t sit down and start typing.

3) I took a writing class in fifth grade (with Miss Radcowski, who I loved as a teacher!), and I seemed to always include the following line in all my stories, “the feeling slowly crept back into his/her arm.” I thought it was really cool and all my stories should have it.

4) My best friend and I created a magazine about dogs and horses (our two interests) when we were young. All we did was copy articles out of books and other magazines. We sold the magazine to our parents for twenty-five cents. Awesome, way to rock plagiarism at an early age!

5) My cousin and I used to play author (no lie!). We used to fight over who got to be Ann M. Martin. The loser usually got to be Judy Blume.

6) Gummi peaches from Malley’s Chocolates are my favorite snack to have next to me when I’m writing.

7) I revise with gel pens. I can only revise with gel pens.

8) I took a creative writing class my freshman year at Ohio University. However, I use the word “took” lightly. I went to the first three classes and then dropped the class. My teacher handed back my first piece of writing with the words, “this is not writing,” scrawled across the top. I never took a creative writing class at OU again.

But now, I have a masters from Boston University (where I took numerous writing classes), I’m working on my MFA in Creative Writing at Cleveland State and have an agent. Sounds like I know what writing is!

9) I get super excited when I think about where my book will sit on the shelves of a bookstore if all works out well….right next to Laurie Halse Anderson, Jay Asher and Avi. How awesome is that!?!

10) I need noise when I write. If it’s dead silent, I can’t concentrate. I’ll often write with the TV on in the background.

What about you? What is one random fact you can share related to writing?

And just because it’s the holiday season, here’s a bonus fact…it doesn’t have to do with writing, but it does have to do with my blog. It’s the reason I call my blog “Freckle Head.”

This is my Boston University student i.d. picture, and as you can see, I’m a true freckle head!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can You Handle The Truth?

I have a confession to make.

It’s not a pretty one. You may even wrinkle your nose and shake your head at me as you’re reading this. But it’s okay, you can judge me. I certainly deserve it.

Okay, here it is…the truth…

The current manuscript of Canary that landed me an agent is nothing like the version I started to submit to agents. I sent out what I like to call my PG version of my story last year. It was full of the stuff that Disney movies are made of. It was something you’d see on the Family Channel.

My new version, however, is entirely different. It might not be shown on network TV before ten p.m., it may require a parent’s permission at the theater if you’re under the age of thirteen, and it may even stir up a little controversy and make parent groups angry (well, hopefully just the groups that don’t open the book and give it a chance).

And you know what, this is the version that I love.

You see, when I started writing the book about two years ago, I thought too much about what adults who read the book might say. I held back with my writing and the story. I restrained my character and wasn’t true to my vision or her actions. That’s a dangerous path to walk on, because in a sense, I was censoring my story. I was cheating my characters, my voice and most importantly, my readers.

I was lucky, though. I had an awesome reader who realized that the story I was telling was deeper than what was on the paper. She saw that there was more going on with Kate, and she pushed me to explore what it was. I worked all summer long on revising the book (yay for being a teacher and having the summer!). Those weeks were hard because my main character Kate took me to some dark places. I stuck right beside her, though, and worked through her pain so she was able to triumph in the end.

What I need to realize was that I wasn’t writing my book for the critics, I was writing my book for the teen readers, and I’m embarrassed to think about how I was one of those potential “critics” who may not believe my readers could handle the truth.

There’s something to be said for telling the truth in writing and not shying away from tough topics. Bad things happen in life. It’s pointless to create a world where everything is butterflies and rainbows (although if there’s a unicorn in this world, I may love it!). Some of my favorite books deal with very tough issues, and I love the books because they do show life.

I may end up with critics or people who don’t like how truthful I may be, but I don’t care, because I want to tell Kate’s story best story that you can. I may have been silent about a lot of things in my first draft, but now I can say with confidence that Kate is truly getting her story told now in Canary.

What do you think? Is it important to be truthful? What are some downfalls to this type of writing? What books do you feel follow this philosophy?

Monday, December 14, 2009

What Were You Doing This Weekend?

I had a busy busy weekend. The type of weekend were you are doing so much that you don't even feel like you had a weekend.

What did I do? Well....

I continued my quest to find a house (this Saturday we only went through six houses, which was a lot more manageable than the twelve our agent had us through last Saturday), I worked on my manuscript revisions (a snow day this week would be glorious, so I could spend a whole day on it), went to a fancy swanky Christmas party downtown, and saw the Cleveland Orchestra's Christmas show followed by a glorious meal in Little Italy.

Whew! What a weekend!

But that's not all. I did one more thing. One more awesome thing....

I got to hear Jay Asher talk at Joseph Beth Booksellers Friday night!

He talked for a little bit, took questions and then signed books. I went all shy fan girl on him and just slipped him my book, saying nothing but my name. Seriously, what was that all about?

Regardless of how lame I was, it was still cool to hear him speak and get a signed book. It made newly agented me excited to hear someone talk about how he got started writing Thirteen Reasons Why. He was once in the same position I was, about to sub his book. And maybe one day my book will hang out near know, us "A's" have to stick together...nothing like being at the start of the alphabet!

So what about you? What author would you want to meet?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shutter Saturday

I work full time and go to school in the evening, so the weekend is my writing time. Having said that, I will be taking blog vacations each weekend.

But I won't leave you hanging. How could I do something so cruel?! So instead of writing, I plan to post pictures so interesting that you'll have to visit my blog on the weekend!

Here's the Shutter Saturday....

This is my pup Mcgee (well, my mom's pup because I can't have dogs at my condo). Isn't he the cutest?!

And my other pup Libby (who again lives at my mom' day, I'll have a house where I can have dogs!)...

And here is my birthday cake with the two of them on it because I love dogs that much (and Dairy Queen...ha!)...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Agent Day!

Today is Agent Day...woo hoo!

Super writer Kody invented this well deserved day and Lisa and Laura are listing all the shout outs to agents.

I still have two hours and nineteen minutes to get in my shout of for my agent brand sparkly new agent Lina Sion from Global Literary Management. Officially, she's only been my agent for eleven days, but these eleven days have been amazing (and intense, since I've already started to work on her book edits).

So why does Lina rock?

The first reason is her enthusiasm for my book. Lina is super excited about my book, which makes me excited to work on making it better and better.

She gets what I'm trying to say with my book. She understands my characters and my writing style.

We've had some great brainstorming sessions over the phone, and I always hang up with great new sparks and paths to follow.

She e-mails me back quickly and lets me bounce ideas off of her (even if I ramble about my ideas in my e-mails and my thoughts get ahead of me).

I'm so happy to have signed with Lina, and I look forward to the next step in my journey with her.

Happy agent day!

R.I.P. Deleted Scenes

My book is a mix of blogs and narrative. Most of the blog entries are poetry (similar to Ellen Hopkins’ writing). I love poetry, especially American poets from the 20th century. One of my favorite poems is called “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop. She talks about loss and how it affects a person. The first line states, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.” Bishop goes on to say how you “lose something everyday” and learn to “accept” these loses. She states that losing things “isn’t hard to master.”

I agree that losing little things is easy to do. After all, my mind is constantly jumbled and I often forget where I put things (I once found missing a bag of tomatoes in the freezer and a book sitting soggy outside under the cushion of a lawn chair.).

But if you read further in the poem, you’ll understand that there are big things that are lost also (for her it was her country, essentially her identify). These things can impact a person; they are major loses.

I wonder if Elizabeth’s view on loss holds true to writers too. When a writer starts to revise, do they get used to the loss of their words? What happens when you have to lose something in your writing? How do you cope with cutting out major passages, characters or conflicts? Do you ever learn to “accept” losing these parts?

There’s no denying that writing is a long long long process. I’ve done countless revisions to my work, and a large part of the completed manuscript right now is significantly different from the first drafts. I know my book is a lot stronger now. I know the story is better, the plot tighter, the pace quicker. All of my revisions have only helped my book, but that doesn’t mean it was easy.

There are lots of things I’ve cut out of Canary that I miss. I’ve realized now, though, that a lot of it was back story, and while it was important for me as a way to develop my story, my message comes out just as easily without the information. Still, breaking up is hard to do! Even now, as I go through the revision process with my agent, I find it difficult to revise some of the areas that she has pointed out. You spend so much time working on you book and grow attach to it, it becomes hard to throw that hard work away.

What do you think? Is it hard for you to let go of pieces of your book? Or are you a heart breaker and attack your book with a blood red pen? What about those passages that got away? Are there any you can share either as a passage or in summary?

So to celebrate the art of losing, here is my old beginning to Canary. I admit it, it had too much exposition. My new beginning is awesome now. It's so much better. It starts in the middle of the action and conflict. I like it more, but I think it’s also important to mourn those lines that we lost…right?!

R.I.P. Canary Beginning:

MY EARLY life was measured in basketballs. From the day I was born, when I was placed in a yellow, black and white Pacers uniform to fit my itty bitty baby body, I was surrounded by the sport. My older brother was the opposite of what my father had expected from a son. Brett was weak and jaundiced as a baby, quiet and reserved as a toddler, choosing to sit in a corner and color instead of swinging a wiffle ball bat in the backyard, squirming and uninterested in the basketball games my father took him to, crying when he tried to get him to sit still and watch playoff games on the television. My mom, almost enthusiastic of my brother’s lack of interest in the sport, took my brother to be hers, coddling him and taking him on trips to the aquarium or zoo, quiet activities in which he reveled, probably glad to get away from the noise and racket my father and I made together.

On the other hand, I seemed destined to fulfill the void my brother had left.

My father turned to me as his next basketball phenom, regardless of the fact that I was a girl. It seemed almost as if to make up for his loss with Brett, that he had willed me to be a basketball player from the day I was born. He bragged about my length. I grew rapidly, surpassing both the average height for boys and girls in my age group on the growth charts at the doctor’s office. He told everyone around us that I would be a future basketball star. Photo albums traced birthdays where cakes in the shape of big orange balls were placed in front of me, and my dad would tell the story over and over again of when I spilled trying to drink from my sippy cup, joking that I was “dribbling.” A mobile of basketballs over my bed spun me to sleep every night and vacations did not consist of humid days getting covered in sand on the beach or donning Mickey Mouse ears and running around the Magic Kingdom. Instead, vacations were scheduled around the games my dad coached so he could work to accomplish his goal of seeing every NBA team play in their home arena, toting me along with him, building my collection of team tee-shirts.

Whether we liked it or not, Brett and I grew up surrounded by basketball. My mom took me, and dragged my brother, to all the basketball games my dad coached, home and away if they weren’t too far. She would sit knitting, keeping one eye on the game and one on me, my brother curled next to my mom playing on his Game Boy or stuffing his mouth full of candy, uninterested, complaining about when we could leave. I’d sit on the bleachers shaking the pom-poms my dad had given me or making my Barbies prance around to the chants of the high school football students who surrounded us. My dad would come over during half time to quickly planting kisses on our heads, reminding me of the future when I would be playing for the high school girls’ team.

My father’s self-fulfilling prophecies started to come true as I grew taller and taller. I seemed to sprout inches overnight as I slept, always claiming the front of the line when we had to line up by height for school pictures. I bypassed girls by a whole foot and towered over most of the boys too. Along with my height came natural athletic skills. I was chosen first for kickball games and pegged a tomboy. I ruled the basketball court and my dad would slap me on the back smiling and letting everyone know that I was his daughter. I practiced basketball alongside my dad every night in the driveway. The two of us played until the sun went down and my mom would yell at us to stop making a racket with the ball, the neighbors were trying to sleep. The relationship between my dad and me grew with each basket I made.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

30 Random Facts....

Since my last post had to do with using your life as inspiration for your work, I thought it would make sense to reveal a little about my life in this post (which, by the way, is nothing like Kate’s life, although I did grow up around basketball).

I’ve come up with thirty random facts about me. Why thirty facts? Well, read on and when you get to number thirty, you’ll understand!

Thirty Random Facts About Me:

1) My name is pronounced “Rachel.” It’s just spelled with an extra “e.” My parents put it there. It hangs out at the end of my name and doesn’t do much but confuse people on the pronunciation!

2) I have an abnormal talent of keeping my tennis shoes clean. I try to get them dirty, but they refuse. I even had a pair that I wore when I taught in Costa Rica (through the rain forests), and they still looked brand new!

3) I hate eggs. No, scratch that, I despise them. I hate the smell, the look, the feel…everything! I won’t even eat yellow cake because it reminds me of eggs.

4) I have an ironing obsession. I iron everything. I’ll iron my pajama pants, my jeans, even a scarf. If I go on a long car ride, I’ll hang my shirt up and put it on when I get there so it doesn’t get wrinkled.

5) I hit the ceiling of my car every time I see a pididdle.

6) I have never seen any of the Star Wars movie. I saw a picture Jaba the Hut when I was little, and I was so scared that I refused to watch the movies.

7) Santa Claus scared me when I was little. I used to hide under my covers on Christmas Eve because I was terrified of this man who was going to sneak into my house.

8) I have a super weird memory for random items. For example, I can remember things people wore or ate at certain events years later.

9) My mind goes faster than my fingers do when I write and I stink at proofreading...forgive my errors on this blog! Luckily, I have great beta readers who catch it all! ;)

10) When I was little, I had a crush on Simon from Alvin and the Chipmunks.

11) I’ve only tried chicken wings three times in my life. I hate eating meat off the bone.

12) I summer camped for nine years and then was a counselor for four years.

13) I hardly ever wear socks. I don’t like the feel of them.

14) I had to go to speech therapy for eight years, but now I have a theatre minor. Somehow I learned how to talk clearly!

15) I used to think that a unicorn lived in the woods by my house. I would stare out the window at night waiting for it to come into my backyard. Big surprise, it never did!

16) I hate to drive. I drove eighty-eight miles a day to and from work for six years. Now I try to get other people to drive.

17) I sleep with my bedroom door locked. I’m not sure who I think is going to creep in, but I freak out if it’s unlocked.

18) I had a Michael Jackson Barbie doll. He had a red leather jacket and a glove.

19) I've played on an adult kickball team.

20) David Spade makes me mad. I don’t know why. When I see him on TV, I have to turn the channel and I get in a bad mood.

21) My face is covered in freckles. When I was little, I used to pour over the ones on my arms and legs, hoping it would be in the shape of something. I desperately wanted a freckle in the shape of a heart.

22) I got in trouble when I was little because I used to steal flowers form people’s gardens, wrap them in ribbon and leave them on other people’s doorsteps.

23) I’m legally blind in one eye, but my vision is so good in my other eye that I don’t need glasses (although I often wear a pair because I think it looks cool and intellectual!).

24) I had a pet rat when I was younger that I named Bastian Balthazar Bux (after a character from my favorite movie, The Neverending Story). I had to keep him in the basement, and I used to be scared to go down there alone.

25) My sister and I weren’t allowed to have sugar cereals, but Santa allowed us a box every year on Christmas. It would be under the tree wrapped up. It was the first gift I would open.

26) I have a phrase that I say whenever I travel and the plane is taking off. I feel like if I don’t say the phrase over and over, the plane will crash.

27) Speaking of planes, I was supposed to fly to Costa Rica two days after September 11. I went eight days later, and I was out of the country for three months. It was a strange time to be in a different country.

28) I could eat sushi for every meal. If I don’t have it at least once a week, I go through sushi withdrawal. I've been to Japan and ate my weight in sushi there, but nothing is as good as the little hole in the wall about ten minutes from my condo.

29) Sometimes I’ll drive past my development to keep listening to a song I like on the radio.

30) I made a goal with myself when I was young that I would be published by the time I was 30. I may not make that goal (my 31st birthday is February 2), but this goal is what got my querying my novel. Thank god for goals!

Whew! That’s a lot of random facts! What about you? What is a really good random fact about you? For every random fact you share, I’ll share another about me (and I got a ton!).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You Are What You Write...

When I was young (and pleasingly plump, a term my family lovingly used to refer to my baby fat), my mom tried to watch what I ate religiously. Fast food was usually forbidden, soda was allowed once a week and dessert was often a fresh piece of fruit. I didn’t accept these food restrictions easily, asking again and again why I couldn’t have Doritos or some cookies. My mom always came back with the same reply, “You are what you eat, honey. You need to watch what you become.”

Watch what I become? To a young (and pleasingly plump) girl, what I wanted to watch was a piece of chocolate cake going into my mouth.

My mom’s old claim, “You are what you eat,” resurfaced last week when I was teaching my high school Creative Writing class. During our class, we kept coming back to the idea that writing stems from your own life experiences. One could look at writing in the same way my mom had looked at food, believing, “You are what you write.”

I have always believed that my writing comes from my past experiences; I put a piece of myself into all my writing. But what piece do I put into it? How do other readers connect to those aspects from my personal life that I slip in? A writer should be able to balance real life experiences and made up events, making both believable to readers.

I will admit that when I first began writing for an audience, it was hard for me to go deeper into certain topics, even if it was necessary to get my ideas across, because I wondered how people would perceive my writing. Revealing yourself in writing is hard, regardless of what parts of it are factual because I believe that all writing reveals some kind of truths.

I think the root of these fears to reveal myself came during my first year of teaching Creative Writing at a high school level. I wanted my students to write a scene placing themselves as a character in third person to get a specific point of view across. I thought it was a great idea to give them a piece of my writing, but not tell them it was about me. “Okay,” I told the class after they silently read the piece I passed out, “What can you tell me about this character from the third person observation I’ve provided? ”

One of my students raised her hand starting a conversation that sounded similar to this, “She’s clueless. She’s walking around at night in jean shorts, a tank top and no shoes. And why is she all sweaty and dirty? She sounds like she’s homeless.”

“Yeah, who hides their money in a bra strap? It sounds to me like she’s on the run from some crime.”

“Well, actually,” I said putting a stop to their debating about whether or not I was in fact a homeless criminal, “The character is overseas in Costa Rica. She’s been outside in the hot sun all day, so she’s not wearing a lot of clothes and she’s carrying her money in her bra because she doesn’t want anyone to steal it as she tries to catch a bus to meet her other friends.”

“Wait,” a student countered, “You mean, she’s not being chased down by some thugs?"

It took me awhile to share some of my writing again, because the situation made me think about how people respond to your writing. The reader may not know that what they’re reading is about you, but there is still that piece of yourself that you put out there in your writing.

Instead of avoiding becoming what I ate, as my mom had instructed, I try not to think about how people view these personal elements that I add to my story. I look at what I contribute to the story choices that will make it stronger. After all, I’ve lived through these events, and now, I am proud to say, “I am what I write,” because somewhere in that writing is a piece of me and my experiences.

So my questions for you are…

Do you draw from personal experiences in your writing?

Is it hard for you to share your writing with others?

If you’re brave enough, what are some of the personal experiences you’ve included in your writing?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What to Expect....

When my old roommate started law school, the school had a special night to prepare the new students for the three years that lay ahead. My roommate came home with a bunch of pamphlets that reminded me of an abridged version of the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting that you give to newly pregnant mothers.

After I started working on my manuscript, I realized that pregnancy and law school weren’t the only places that needed information pamphlets. I decided to create my own list of what to expect when starting a manuscript:

*You will protect your external drive like it’s your first born child. In fact, your hard drive may become even more important than your first born child

*You will find the strangest places to write down story ideas: receipts, napkins, parking passes and maybe even texting lines to yourself from your cell phone

*You will act out parts of your story in the car, laughing at something a character may say, and stop when you turn and see the person in the lane next to you staring at you

*You will also find people asking you if you’re okay when you’re deep inside an emotional part of your story. You’ll have to assure them that nothing is wrong with you, but your characters may be another story.

*You will get to know the first names of all the workers at your local office supply store, as you buy mass quantities of printer ink and paper to perfect one single manuscript.

*You will hear somewhere that showers cause positive ionic charges in your brain, and suddenly feel the most creative in the shower. You will start to take long showers just to try to get ideas out.

*You will find yourself scowling at people who have the same name as an antagonist in your story

*You will develop rituals in order to procrastinate about writing. Your writing may depend on that one special pen, the right table in a coffee shop or song on your ipod.

*You will find yourself with a new obsessive compulsive disorder causing you to hit the save button on your computer hundreds of times while you are writing after you lose a piece of your writing for the first time

*You’ll convince yourself that the piece of work you lost was the piece that was going to win you the Printz, Pulitzer or National Book Award

These are just the start of the examples I’d include in my pamphlet. I’m sure you can add more…what else would you add to the list!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Don't Judge a Book by It's Title

I had a hard time deciding on the title of my book, and I know an editor may change it again, but the title was important to me.

I went through a few different ideas before I decided on CANARY. First, I titled my book PRIVILEGE, but then there was a television show with the same name. I also called it UNTIL SOMEONE HEARS YOU, which I still kind of like, but I don’t think captures the message of the book. The name I stuck with the longest was LETTERS TO MY FORMER SELF. I mentioned in a previous post that the book is episodic. Instead of chapters, the book is a mix of narrative and blog postings. Kate blogs letters to her former self. She writes in the present, but tells her past self advice that she wish she would have had. Her blog is titled: www.letterstomyformerself.

It was in one of these blog postings to herself that I came up with the title CANARY. The blog post comes after Kate has been dealing with being raped by another player on the basketball team. She has mentioned the event to her friends, boyfriend (now ex) and finally her dad. No one believes her because she had been drinking, and her father wants her to stay silent. She is dealing with the issue of whether to remain silent, or if she should tell everyone the truth.

I don’t plan to post a lot from the book, but a lot of people have asked me about the title. So I think a little peek at one of her blog postings wouldn’t hurt. After all, aren’t blogs meant to be public?!

EXCERPT from Canary:

You can only keep things inside for so long before they start to destroy you.

IN HISTORY class we learned how canaries were used in coalmines to warn miners of dangerous gases.

A canary was lowered down into the deep dark bowels of the mines.

If a bird was pulled back up alive, then the miners knew it was safe to go down.

If it died, the bird was sacrificed, an early warning saving the lives of the miners.

The miners also brought the birds down with them. A canary sang and sang and if the bird stopped singing, the miners would evacuate. The bird was more sensitive to the harmful gases and the miners would have enough time to get out safely. The birds, however, usually didn’t.

I imagined the birds doing what was natural to them, and having that used against them. Their tiny lungs that sang was what ultimately destroyed them.

I thought about the canaries and how their purpose for miners was to breathe in the air until it got too toxic, until it killed them.

I thought about this as I replayed Dad’s words in my head.

I had been silent like Dad demanded for over a week now.

Each night before I went to bed, I thought about Dad’s warnings, his doubt and anger. I thought about what Luke had done to me and his whispered threats if I spoke out loud. I thought about how Jack hadn’t cared; how he moved on without looking back at me. I thought about all of these things, and I stayed quiet. I pushed it deep down inside, and for the time, I was still alive.

But I wondered how many dirty fumes I’d continue to ingest before I sang my last song, before I couldn’t go down any deeper with the secrets I knew.

So...this blog post got me thinking about titles. What book (or movie) titles do you like? Which ones don't seem to work? Share your thoughts!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Recipe for Inspiration

During one of the first conversations with my agent, she asked me what inspired my book. When a book is submitted to editors, it is often referenced as a cross between specific books and movies. She wanted to know what I had in mind while writing my book and shared her ideas.

So I started thinking about my book recipe. What books mixed with what book inspired the perfect read. Here is it, the recipe for Canary! Once the recipe is completed, I hope you will over indulge!

Canary’s Book Inspiration:
• Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)
I love Anderson’s writing style. My book is episodic instead of having chapters (blog entries separate episodes), and I love the voice of Melinda. Her sarcasm, wit and pain work so well together.

• I am Charlotte Simmons (Tom Wolfe)
This book deals with college level athletes and the corrupt system the fictional ivy league school subscribes to.

• Prep (Curtis Sittenfeld)
This book is one of my top ten favorite books of all time (which is a big statement coming from an English teacher).
If you haven’t read it, read it. I read it once or twice a year, and it never gets old.
It’s about a middle class girl who spends four years at a private boarding school.

Canary’s Movie/Television Inspiration:
• Varsity Blues
• Cruel Intentions
• 90201 (don’t laugh, I love that show!)

I also had play list of songs that I used while I was writing that I named MELLOW SONGS TO WRITE TO.

Here’s the line up:
• Mad World (R.E.M.)
• Wake me When September Comes (Green Day)
• Run (Snow Patrol)
• Rootless Tree (Damien Rice)
• 9 Crimes (Damien Rice)
• Sleep Don’t Weep (Damien Rice)
• Fake Empire (The National)
• Slow Show (The National)
• Start a War (The National)
• Racing Like a Pro (The National)
• How to Save a Life (The Fray)
• You Found Me (The Fray)
• Falling Slowly (The Swell Season)
• When Your Minds Made Up (the Swell Season)
• The Scientist (Coldplay)
• Society (Eddie Vedder)
• Apologize (One Republic)
• Flowers in December (Mazzy Star)
• Colorblind (Counting Crows)
• A Long December (Counting Crows)
• Bittersweet Symphony (The Verve)
• New Slang (The Shins)
• One (U2)
• Everytime (Britney Spears)
• Beautiful People (Rusted Root)
• Brick (Ben Folds Five)
• How’s it Going to Be (Third Eye Blind)

Those are my inspirations! Lina also thought my book was a little bit of the Gossip Girls series (uhm, can we talk about how that series is my secret pleasure…or more specifically Chuck Bass) and the movie Mean Girls. I could see how my book would remind the readers of elements from both.

What about you? What inspires your writing? Are there specific books, movies or music? Share them with me!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let's Talk About Plot...

So I have a finished manuscript and an agent…I bet you’re wondering what the book is about!

Here’s the summary paragraph I used in my query letter:

Kate Franklin’s dad is good at coaching basketball; what he isn’t good at is communicating with Kate and her brother Brett. When her mother dies, he shuts down, throwing himself into basketball as a way to cope with his grief, leaving Kate alone in silence. When he lands a job at Beacon, Kate finds it easy to fit in when she starts dating a player on the team, while her brother, shy and weak, is rejected by the school. Kate quickly learns to overlook the perks given to the athletes who openly disgrace her brother for not being one of them. However, the players take their power too far one night at a party and Kate is raped. Kate doesn’t stay silent about the rape, but her accusations aren’t accepted by the Beacon community. The school rallies with the team and lashes out at her. Ugly rumors are created to destroy Kate and her credibility. She’s not praised for her decision to be truthful, but instead, it brings terrible consequences. The final blow comes when her dad tries to silence her in order to protect the team. The world that Kate believed was safe is now her worst enemy, and Kate must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.

Sound good? I hope so!

When I started writing this book, I was really fascinated with pro athletes and stars who seem to be “above the law” in our society. There are people who get perks for who they are, and I wanted to play around with that idea in high school. Where does this worship start and what happens when a town puts their faith in these heroes? How much do these heroes owe the town, and often, and what happens when they start to feel the town owes them?

I’ve grown to love these characters and the journey they’ve taken me on. I’m excited to be revisiting them as I start to make edits. Kate has surprised me many times, and I think as I start to extend the ending (the main edit my agent wants me to focus on at the moment), Kate will surprise me even more.

Thanks to all my new readers who have already left comments. I’m happy to have you along on this journey with me!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The First Post as an Agented Writer!

I have wanted a MacBook for so long, but I've resisted the urge to buy one for a few years. I have a perfectly good desktop computer and a work laptop. I didn't need a Mac, but oh how much I wanted a Mac.

I made myself a deal...I would buy a Mac when I got an agent for my YA novel CANARY.

Well, guess what????

I have a Mac...which means...

I have an agent!

I'm represented by Lina Sion from Global Literary Management...woo-hoo!

Here's to some wonderful revisions on my new Mac that will hopefully help my book sell when we start subbing to editors in January!