Sunday, February 28, 2010

Awesome Contest for Agented Authors

Do you ever check blogs on weekends even when you know the author of the blog doesn't post? I do! I guess I have some sort of separation anxiety with my favorite blogs.

Well...if you're one of those people and happened to click on over to my blog, I have an awesome contests for you.

This contest is only open to agented authors...

Vania at is giving away a photo shoot for your book complete with the digital file.

Uhm...I want to win this!

So check it out, it's worth the visit and her work is amazing!

If you do start following her blog or enter, will you please let her know I referred you...that's more points for me! Thanks!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blogging In My Pajamas

This post is a little later than usual because I didn't wake up until almost ten! We have a snow day!

It's a white out outside and I'm still in my pajamas!

Snow days are my favorite because I can lounge around and b
e lazy without feeling guilty. A snow day on a Thursday also means a three day weekend and the chance to watch my favorite reality show (okay, who am I kidding...I have about a million favorite reality shows!):

I should be fed up with the snow by now, but it doesn't bother me too much because four weeks from tomorrow my main squeeze, mom and I will be leaving for nine (yes, nine!) glorious days in Florida! I CAN'T WAIT!

We'll be staying with my Aunt in the house that I've been visiting for thirty-one years now...

Look how cute the front door is. When we were little,
tree frogs would stick to the windows at night and it sound like they were singing...

Here is the pool. Our schedule in Florida is simple...
1) Sleep in
2) Lay out by the pool reading and knitting
3) Jump in the pool when it gets too hot
4) Shower
5) Go to dinner
6) Watch TV or sit outside by the pool or in the hot tub and listen to the night sounds.

Ahhh....this is the life!

Here's the view from the side of the causeway on the way to the beach...

Last year we discovered a botanical garden nearby (posing with my mom)...

I recreate "The Christmas Story" with a prickly plant!...

We always take a trip to our favorite restaurant Benihana. We've been going to the same one since I was a baby. It's on the water. Here I am in their outdoor garden with my Aunt...

We try to make it to a Spring Training game. This is from two years ago when the Indians were still in Florida. They were playing the Yankees and I made my main squeeze sit with me on the Yankees side so I could be near my crush Johnny Damon! I also ran into two students at this game if you can believe it!

We search for alligators. This is a bridge right down the street from my Aunt's house...yikes!

And here I am pretending I see one of the gators who live under the bridge (uhm...why would we get out of the car to even look?).

So let it snow, I don't care...I have a snow day and will be in the sun very soon! I hope the rest of you stay warm!

P.S. Am I nuts to also like all this snow because New York's been hitting with it. In my mind I imagine the editors with my book holed up at home reading. Here's my secret equation:

New York + Tons of Snow = Editors staying inside and reading my book!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Contest Winner!

Thanks so much for all the positive thoughts and well wishes for my book during the submission process! It'll be two weeks tomorrow for the last of the editors we sent my book to. My computer and I have grown very close as I check my mail just about every...single...minute.

Last night I went through all my comments and created a spreadsheet of boxes for each point all of you got.

I put them all in a cup....

I shook it up...

I shook it up some more...

I had my main squeeze pull out a winner...

And he picked...Karla!

Woo-hoo! Karla, please contact me ( with your address!

Thanks again for all the positive thoughts, everyone! Let's hope they work!

In other news, the wonderful and fabulous Krista awarded me the Sunshine Award again! Check out her blog. She's a fellow English teacher and submission buddy!

Words To Inspire Writing

I've never been able to get into poetry. I teach it, I read it, I've tried to write it, but it doesn't grab me the way a short story or novel does.

I received a theatre minor in college, so I was able to avoid poetry classes by taking theatre critique instead. I thought it was a great setup, until I realized how little I had read in poetry. I then made it a point to seek out poetry classes in graduate school. I wanted to read more of it and become good at reading it, so by the time I graduated from Boston University, almost half of my masters degree was focused on poetry.

I try to embrace poetry now, but I have to admit that I'd rather grab some prose. However, there is a poem that I carry around in my purse and copy into each new writer's journal. Lee Martin introduced it to me this summer at the Kenyon Writers Workshop. He read it to our workshop group on the last day, and now I go back to it over and over again for inspiration. I love the poem. It's beautiful, inspiring and true. I'm hoping that it may also speak to some of you the way it does to me..

The Writer
Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:I
wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,A
nd then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

*I will post the winner of my contest tomorrow...I just need to add up all the points from all my great readers!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

See You Later, Vampires...I Want My Demons To Be Real

Every semester I start my new classes by giving my students independent reading books. We ease into reading by selecting something they enjoy (before I give them a whole bunch of books/stories that I pick!).

We're nearing the end of our independent book unit right now, and I'm sorry to put an end to it, because my second semester students are racing through their young adult books right now. I can't get them to put the books down and many of them are finishing multiple books (instead of the required one book). There are times in class where I have to take away their books, so they can get other classwork done. I've also had other teachers comment that all their students are doing is reading books.


What's my secret?

I think it's the secret that's been in bookstores for the last year or two. My librarian extraordinaire and I have been keeping them fed with an endless supply of honest, raw and sometimes heart breaking young adult literature. Books that aren't full of rainbows and butterflies, but instead, mimic real life show some truths about what it means to be a teenager.

The favorites I have been passing on are Wintergirls/Speak (Anderson), If I Stay (Forman), Break (Moskowitz), Some Girls Are/Cracked Up to Be (Summers), The Hate List (Brown), 13 Reasons Why (Asher) The Secret Year (Hubbard) andThe Hunger Games (Collins), among others. My students are loving these books and some are getting their parents to take them to the bookstore to buy more books to read (yay!).

The Wall Street Journal published a great article last spring about the rise of these novels (which they classify as edgy), which is great news on my part because Canary deals with some tough situations. If you have a minute to read it, please check it out. I think the author does a good job trying to explain the allure of books like this.

Kids want the truth. They want books about life, mistakes and redemption. They don't always want an author to sugar coat things, and as a writer, I make sure I am always honest with my readers. While I love a good fantasy, I'm ecstatic that books like this are pushing their way forward and into the hands of my readers.

What about you? Do you like these novels? What are some of your favorites? Any good recommendations? Please share! is the last day for my contest! You have until midnight to enter! I'll choose a winner tomorrow...woo-hoo!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dear Diary...The Elementary Years

I always loved to write, even from an early age. My mom has a picture I drew in first grade that says "When I grow up I want to be a writer." I'm standing at a table surrounding by books with my name on the cover.

I started writing when I was young. I still remember scribbling in notebooks when I was four or five pretending I was writing.

My skills didn't really pick up until I got the infamous teddy bear diary. If you are in my family or are a friend, you may have heard the legends of what lies inside. Believe me, readers, you're about to get a glimpse into genius...comic genius, that is!

Here is it...the infamous teddy bear journal...

Wait... something looks wrong with it, right?

Yep, your eyes are deceiving you. The lock has been cut off and stapled/taped back together. My sister broke in and thought I wouldn't notice when she pieced it back together!

Seriously? Someone wouldn't notice this?

I thought it would be cool to write notes to my future children in the journal. The first thing I did was let myself know that it was okay to pass this on when I thought my kids were old enough. I guess I had an age and then I used white out and decided my kids could read the journal when "the time was right." I was so kind back then, giving my future self permission to share my writing!

One of my entries is before my first ever boy girl party. I have over ten pages of questions/worries that I had before going to the party (it looks like I was twelve by the date). After the party, I went back and filled in the answers. Some of them are so can't stop laughing about what worried my twelve year old self!

Here I am hoping that the party goes okay and philosophizing on the changes in my life (ha!)...

Here are some of the questions I wrote before the party...good thing I didn't fart! I was such a dork!

I also have a bunch of stories in the journal too. Here's the title page for a story about summer camp...
The writing might not have been good, but the content is priceless! Stay tuned these next few weeks...this diary isn't going anywhere, I believe it's my duty to share the laughs with the world!

And...don't forget my have two more days to follow me, comment and spread the word to get points! ENTER NOW!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Get Your Scarf On!

I'm obsessed with scarves. Crazy obsessed. I own about a million (okay, maybe that an exaggeration, but it's a lot) and I wear one pretty much every day. Right now I'm wearing a purple one.

I think my obsession started with my duel obsession with Lauren Conrad's wardrobe. I can't pull off half the things she does, but I love her style which includes lots o'scarves....

Since I've been on submission I've been knitting like a fool. It's one of the only things that calms me. Seriously, I can't seem to stop but it does keep me off the Internet and away from refreshing my e-mail EVERY THREE SECONDS!

This is the scarf that I've been working on (it'll drape like the scarf Lauren has on in the first picture):

I have a feeling this scarf will be done by the end of the weekend...I guess that's an upside to being on submission...I get a new wardrobe!

Don't forget to ENTER MY CONTEST!!! You only have a few days left! CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sister's Say the Darndest Things...

So my mom's work place is having a contest where if you finish this Sunday's NYTimes crossword puzzle and submit it, you will be entered to win a Kindle.

Uhm, yeah...sign me up!

My sister, mom and I spent the last three nights working on the puzzle, talking over the phone and eventually finishing it...woo-hoo!

We were celebrating finishing the crossword puzzle last night (don't laugh that it took three of us to complete it!), and I started to imagine how great life would be if we won the Kindle.

This is how the conversation went...

My sister (who is awesome and amazing, by the way) asked, "Why are you so excited to win a heater?"

"A what?" I asked confused.

"A space heater. Why do you want a Kindle so bad?"

I could hear my mom laughing in the background and it turns out that my sister thought a Kindle was some kind of heater!

We all started cracking up and I was kind of proud of my sister for putting so much effort into finishing something to win what she thought was a space heater. But maybe that says something about the heat in her house???

My family is the best, and I can always count on them for a good laugh (although I must admit that I'm often the one being laughed at! ).

I told my sister if we win the Kindle, I'll buy her a space heater in return for the Kindle!

Also...don't forget about my contest. You have a little less than a week to enter. Any comment, tweet, Facebook/blog mention gets you points! CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT IT!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Submitting and the Single Girl

Okay, so I’ve been on submission for a week now. My manuscript is on the desks of editors and now my life if full of waiting, hoping and wishing.

I’ve thought long and hard about my behavior this last week as I’ve waited for my agent to give me some news, any news, and I know what’s wrong with me. The symptoms are familiar, and I think it’s time I admit that I have the Single Girl Giddiness.

You know the feeling, right? You meet a guy out, you talk, you laugh, you exchange numbers and then…you wait. And wait. And wait. And start to obsess…

Let me compare the two….

The Single Girl Giddiness:

*You check your text messages constantly

*You charge your phone even if you just used it for a minute

*You call yourself from other phones to make sure your phone is still working

*You wake up each morning with a smile thinking today is going to be the day he calls

*You Google his name and try to find out all the information you can about him

*If he’s on Facebook, you look at his pictures

*If he’s on Twitter, you read his tweets

*You talk about him constantly to your friends

*You make up excuses for why he hasn’t called and they are always noble excuses (he’s cleaning his grandma’s house, he’s camping with his little brother’s Boy Scout troop, he’s on some mission trip)

*A week passes, two week passes and you still hold out hope

The Submission Girl Blues:

*You check your e-mails constantly

*You make sure you are always around a computer (even if it means paying extra on your cell phone plan to get the mobile web...not that I did that....okay, maybe I did!)

*You send test e-mails to yourself to make sure it still works

*You wake up each morning with a smile thinking today is going to be the day your agent e-mails with good news

*You Google the agents’ names and try to find out all the information you can about them

*If the agents have a blog, you read it

*If the agent is on Twitter, you read his/her tweets

*You talk about potential agents constantly with your friends

*You make up excuses for why he/she hasn’t gotten back to you about your manuscript yet and they are always noble excuses (they loved it so much they haven’t stopped talking about it enough to contact your agent, they are building a shrine around the amazing find of your book, they are too busy taking out a full page ad in the New York Times to tell the world about the discovery of your book)

*A week passes, and the second week starts and you still have lots of hope

I’m lucky enough to have a glorious super fabulous main squeeze, so I’m done with the single girl blues, but I’m living it all over again as I wait for an editor to “ask me out.”

Also...don't forget about my contest. You have a little less than a week to enter. Any comment, tweet, Facebook/blog mention gets you points! CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT IT!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Submission Postive Vibe Contest!!!

I promised you a contest, so here we go!

My main squeeze got me two "writing" gifts for Valentine's Day. Since I am on submission, both of these gifts have the potential to help me a lot.

The first some lucky bamboo. I put it next to my bed, so I can get lucky vibes before I go to bed and when I wake up. Here's to hoping some of these lucky vibes find their ways to the editors who have my manuscript!

The second thing he got me was an hour and a half (yes, an hour and a half!) massage at my favorite salon. This will definitely help me relieve some of the stress I have while waiting to hear back during the submission process. I can't wait to use this!

Now, I'd like to send out some of my own positive thoughts to my readers. You all have been great and supportive (especially since my book has gone on submission), and I love reading all your comments.

To thank you for all your positive thoughts, I've created a "Writer's Care Package" for you to win.

Check it out....

Want the low down on all the goods you win? Okay!

The first item is a mug cozy. You know how you get the styrofoam holders at coffee shops? Well, this one is loving to the environment. It's a fabric cozy telling you to "Write." My mom (super craft woman of the year) made me one and one to give away.

You can wrap it around your coffee or tea while writing to inspire you to "Write!"

The next item in my care package is something I picked up the weekend at the Cleveland Bazaar Bizarre. It's a unique craft fair that's help every year (it kind of reminds me of a craft version of Urban Outfitters). I picked up a pair of bobby pins because one had a canary on it!

I picked up a couple packs of these cards when I was at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop last summer. They're great because you can put them on a key chain or strap of your bag and you have a spot to write notes down whenever they come to you. You can take the cards out and move them around for brainstorming.

I've mentioned how addicted I am to gel pens and how it's essential that I write with them, so I got a fun and colorful pack for you to use while writing.

I know this book has been out for awhile, but it's often shelved with adult books. Sloppy Firsts is one of my favorite books written from a young adult perspective. Jessica Darling made me laugh out loud the entire time I was reading this book, and I'm hoping to introduce some new readers to her (there are four more in the series if you like it!).

And you know that I can't write without some gummy candies, so I through in a bag of some of the sugary stuff there is. These are guaranteed to keep you fueled through some late night writing sprees!

Okay, here's how to enter:

2 points if you are already a follower
1 point if you become a follower
2 points for each comment you leave on my blog
5 points for each time you tweet, blog, Facebook or MySpace about my contest*

*Please let me know through my comments each time you tweet, blog, Facebook or MySpace so I can give you the points.

I'll pick a winner on Tuesday night (February 23) at midnight, so you have eight days to get the word out about my contest and blog! Spread the word, each time you do, you get more points!

Good luck and thanks so much for being such wonderful readers!

Books, Books and One More Book!

Okay, okay, I know I promised you a super duper contest today, but I need one more day to announce it. I have to run to Target and get some last minute goodies for the prize package. I want to make sure I can show you everything, so you know how super awesome this contest is. Can you wait one more day? Please? Pretty please?

In the meantime, I have been slacking on keeping track of the books I’ve finished in 2010. I have three more I need to list.

Book Number Five:

River of Heaven (Lee Martin) 288 pages

I had the honor of working with Lee Martin this past summer at the Kenyon Review Writers Conference. Lee Martin is an amazing writer and his Pulitzer Prize nominated book The Bright Forever is one of my top ten favorite books I’ve ever read. This book followed the same format of simple lyric prose and the desires of individuals to find connection with people. Martin’s writing is just beautiful to me, and I was sad to reach the end of this book.

Book Number Six:

When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead) 208 pages

Okay, if I could write about this books in all caps (without annoying all my readers!), I would because this book is just that good! Oh my gosh, I loved loved loved it (can you tell that I like this book?). I grew up reading Newbury Award winning books and this book reminded of me of what I used to love so much reading books in fifth and sixth grade. Please read this book and buy it for every middle school reader you know. Okay, I promise this is the last time, but I must tell you one more time how much I love this book.

Book Number Seven:

The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind (Kristen Cronn-Mills) 281 pages

Flux is one of the publishing houses with a copy of my manuscript and I had this book in my bookshelf, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to read the book. This is a very voice driven book. Morgan (the main character) is strong but confused, and I really like that dynamic. Cronn-Mills doesn’t sugar coat things and this book reads very authentic to a teenager’s life.

I promise to post my contest tomorrow. In fact, I’m heading out to Target right about …!

Friday, February 12, 2010

My First Blogging Award!

Breaking news, folks...I've been awarded the Sunshine Award from the Slushbusters! Woo-hoo! How great it is to know that someone enjoys my blog.

Now, I must share the love with ten other blogs that I enjoy. I've decided to nominate writing blogs that (like mine) are still growing. A lot of these writers have books coming out (or are on submission), and I can't wait to read them. If you haven't checked any of these blogs out, please do so. They all offer great information that keeps me coming back again and again.

My Choices (in no particular order):

The Insanity of Writerhood (She's only 18 and her super awesome book is coming out this Fall)

Punk Writer Kid (Emilia's book sounds so good, I can't wait for her to start querying agents so we can get this book into the stores!)

Lisa and Laura Write (Uhm, can I just say that I look forward to these two sister's posts every day? They love reality TV, live only a short drive away from me and crack me up on a daily basis)

Wandergirl (I love to travel, but I haven't been able to do a lot of it lately. However, Kirsten goes on some amazing adventures and writes about it on her blog. She has some great thoughts about YA literature, and her book sounds amazing!)

YA Highway (This is a collective blog, but a lot of the girls are my writing buddies. They have some great advice/ideas for writers)

Invincible Summer (Hannah's blunt, honest and a genius at dishing writing advice! I love her writing and my students can't get enough of her book Break)

Kristan Hoffman (Kristan is a fellow Kenyon Review Writers Workshop participant. She mixes writing and life on her blog)

Kiersten Writers (Kiersten is super cute and her first book is going to be a great paranormal book that I don't think I'll be able to put down. She blogs every day, so you can always find something new)

Speak Coffee to Me (Eileen is another fellow Kenyon Review Writers Workshop participant. She's also a MFA student, so I love to read her thoughts on going through a MFA program)

My Sphere of Domesticity (Kate's blog is full of writing goodies and a lot of other cool stuff...check it out, but you may spend a bit of time looking through it!)

Okay, here are the rules for those of you I nominated if you want to accept:

Put the logo on your blog in your post.
Pass the award onto 12 bloggers.
Link the nominees within your post.
Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blogs.
Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

Thanks for the award!

Check back on Monday because I'm going to pay it forward with a contest of my own (with prizes!!!!).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sealed With A Kiss

YA Highway asked for its readers to comment on their favorite “display of affection” in YA literature. It got me thinking about affection and what my definition of it would be. Affection to me seems to be letting someone else know that you care about them. If you’re a lover of romance, affection could be a first kiss, the holding of a hand or even admitting to someone that you do have feelings for them. However, I’m not big on romance. Affection to me isn’t always butterflies and rainbows in books. In fact, I usually avoid reading sappy love stories (or any book promoted as a love story).

The scenes that make the biggest impact on me in literature are the scenes of affection when a character reaches out to another character. The scenes that really get me are those moments in writing when a character lets another character know they are not alone. For example, I love the last scene of 13 Reasons Why (Jay Asher) when Clay reaches out to Skye (I won’t go into any more detail in case you have read the book, but if you haven’t, shame on you!). Or in Some Girls Are (Courtney Summers) when Michael doesn’t turn away from Regina, but starts to connect with her.

I do love almost kisses. Those scenes in books where a character is so close to kisses someone, but it doesn’t happen. It’s especially tragic if the character never gets another chance to kiss the character like Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold). The antsy suspense that I’m sharing with the characters drives me through a story and makes me cheer if they finally do kiss.

If I had to pick my favorite display of actual kissing in a book, it would have to be the first time Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan kiss in The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald). Gatsby knows that when he finally kisses Daisy, nothing will ever equate anything close to the anticipation of kissing Daisy for the first time, “He knew that when he kissed this girl and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God.” He waits and holds this kiss for a few seconds, because it’s the kiss he has been picturing his whole life. I love the moment the two of them finally kiss, although for Gatsby, it’s the moment that seals his love to her forever.

Affection, however it’s depicted in literature, has to be realistic. It has to be honest and true, or I’m not going to believe it. There’s often an awkwardness in affection, it’s not always perfect, but it doesn’t have to be.

My Valentine gift to you is an early draft of the first kiss Kate and Jack share in my book. Kate is at a party and left her friends to look for a bathroom. She finds Jack instead. Their meeting isn’t perfect, but definitely worth it:

The path to the house was more crowded than when Ali and I had first walked down it. The steps leading up to the deck had two or three people on each level, and I didn't think it would be easy to elbow my way through. Instead, I elbowed my way to the side of the house where concrete blocks on the side formed a path. I pushed my way through the bushes and low hanging branches, following a sort of tunnel, feeling the branches grab onto the sides of my shirt. I broke free, and stumbled onto the driveway where I ran into the back of a guy leaning all alone against the garage.

“Whoa, sorry,” I apologized stumbling back and nearly tripping over my own feet. “There sure are a lot of people here,” I said more to myself than to him.

The guy turned to face me, and his eyes fixed on mine he said, “Where else would we be tonight?”

I felt my face heat up when I realized who it was.

“So we meet again.” Jack Blane said slowly.

My stomach flipped. The one person who I’d wished to see here, the one person I was afraid to see here, had seemingly appeared out of nowhere, out of thin air.

Why was he alone on the driveway?

He didn’t seem like the type of person who would hang out alone on the driveway at a party. He was the type of person who should be surrounded by girls at a party. Pretty girls who wore tiny swishy skirts with flip-flops. Girls who painted their toe nails bubble gum pink and had long shiny hair; the kind without kinks of frizz. Girls who screeched as boys chased them through the hallways trying to tickle them.

Girls who weren’t like me.

Girls I had no idea how to be like.

I looked around, trying to figure out what to say. “I meant there are a lot of cars here, parked all over. The neighbors must notice what’s going on.”

He laughed and touched my arm.

I started sweating and prayed it didn’t soak through and show on my shirt.

“I don’t think most of the people here will care if the neighbors notice. Now Joe might, when his parents come back home, but as for us…” He grinned. “We’ll be long gone. You don’t have to worry.”

I didn’t know what to make of his comments. Was he making fun of me? Why did I have to say such stupid stuff? I looked down at the ground.

“Don’t worry, it’s okay, Kate. I was joking. You don’t have to look so serious,” he said. “I wondered when you were going to show up.”

My head snapped back up. “You were looking for me?” The words tumbled out before I could stop them.

“Of course I was looking for you. Why do you think I mentioned the party? After all, we have some history. We spent the night together.”

“We did, didn’t we? I wanted to see you here too,” I said quietly, unexpected courage surging in me. I thought back to the night of the fire drill, waiting outside with Jack as the sun came up.

“We did.” His hand found mine and then, the two of us were moving towards each other, and suddenly like the night outside our hotel, talking to Jack became nothing.

The memory of the first time we talked, the cold bench, his warm sweatshirt, the early morning, were erased.

The conversation we had outside the hotel wasn’t important.

The feel of his hand on my back when he had caught me from falling off the wall was just slight pressure, brushed away from memory.

The solidness in his hand when he helped me up from the wall erased.

Because nothing came close, not an inch or an ounce to what it felt like when Jack kissed me.

Smokey breath met sour heat.

Chapped lips met glossy moist.

Exploring curious tongue met smooth white teeth.

Rough firm hands met sweaty moist palms.

Bristly itchy cheek met red-flamed blush.

Jack met Kate.

Kate met Jack.

We broke apart. We stood still. It didn’t matter that we were separated. Because it felt like we were together. A truck screeched up next to us, before we could say or do anything.

Someone laid on the horn.

“Where the hell have you been, Jack? Get in the car,” a passenger yelled out the window.

Jack started to say something, but the driver laid on the horn again. He turned and climbed into the truck, which peeled out of the driveway, kicking up dust in my face.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Am Such A Tease

I talked about location in my stories yesterday.

I'm going to show you location in my story today.

Here's a little teaser of a paragraph in my new WIP progress focusing on the fields behind my main character's house. This is the field inspired by the one in Japan. You'll see through the passage that this field is a lot different from a field in Japan, but I can hear the echoes of that field in this piece.

Late at night when my house is locked down and the only noise is the furnace kicking on and off, I stare out my window and watch our field.

The freeze of winter has turned our field to ice, the ground a fragile bed of snow that crackles when you step on it, but does not break. The moon shines bright illuminating a world of fresh earth trapped beneath.

I sit and watch the snow blow over our field. Thick foggy wisps like ghost touch down for a brief moment and then swirl up again. It does this dance over and over, rising and falling until it is blown out of my sight, into the parts of the fields where the moon’s light doesn't touch.

I watch the snow and think about Amelia and the way she ran across these fields; smooth and fast so if you squinted, you could almost pretend she was flying.

She let the wind push her faster and faster until she too was picked up and blown away forever into the dark parts of the world you were not allowed to see.

Monday, February 8, 2010

There Are Places I Remember...

I get ideas from my writing all over the place, but perhaps one of the most important resources I draw upon is location. I have experienced some very special places in my life through family memories (our garden plot in a community garden, the woods surrounding my house and the Yacht Club I swam at every summer), fourteen years of summer camp (Camp Christopher), international travels (especially Japan and Costa Rica) and times with friends (Nick’s basement where we used to push his couches together and watch The Princess Bride). Place is important to me and I can still close my eyes and picture every corner in the house I grew up in or the community theatre I practically lived at during high school. There are so many places that are special to me, and I often draw from them for inspiration in my writing.

For example, in Canary Kate recalls early days spent sitting with her mom and brother watching her dad coach basketball. I grew up watching my dad coach his teams, playing with my My Little Ponies on the bleachers and shooting tennis balls into the nets just like Kate does. Kate watches her mom slip away at a hospice similar to the Hospice of the Western Reserve, where I volunteered with students from my school. My places are vivid and full of the emotion I felt when I was a part of that location. I feel like my characters become a part of my experience when I invite them into the same world I inhabited.

In my new book, Circles Within Circles, much of the action takes place in fields behind my main character Karen’s house. These fields are the same fields I ran through when I was in Japan staying in a little city called Katsuyama.

(This is the view of the mountains above to fields I ran through every day for a week. If you look up at the top on the left and right, you can see Japanese shrines. It was one of the most amazing places I've ever been in my life).

I remember running in these fields and thinking that this may be a place I would never return to. It was a little remote town that my group stayed at for a week during my Fulbright trip. It wasn’t a major city, it wasn’t easy to get to and the idea that I was in a place that I probably would never ever be again overwhelmed me. However, I was able to make these fields alive again in my story and much like I did, Karen and her sister race through these fields, fields that become the central point to the story.

Location to me is vivid and real. My characters walk in paths that I have entered before, and it feels incredible when I can view the world in a whole new way through my character’s eyes.

What about you? Do you use personal locations in your story? Tell me about them!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

We Are Family

I've talked about writing betas and how invaluable they are with feedback, but I haven't mentioned sharing my writing with another group of Writing can be a very personal thing, so often it's hard to share with those who you care about the most.

I've been reluctant to share my writing with my family and friends, but my main squeeze talked me into letting him read my book. He started it during Christmas break and had an older draft (which changed significantly since my agent revisions). I tried to get him to switch to the new draft, but he wanted to read the original version I gave him.

He was my first male reader and was pretty excited to finish it Saturday night. He marked the occasion by signing the cover and deeming it an artifact now to save. of my first fans!

Family can be pretty bias, but sometimes it's nice to hear only good things! Do you share your writing with family?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Writing Motivations

There is a huge snow storm that’s expected to hit tonight and continue until tomorrow afternoon. My main squeeze is excited about the fresh snow for cross country skiing, but I’m looking forward to being forced to stay inside because of the weather. We already plan to fight the snow and go to our favorite sushi restaurant (a little eight table place that’s amazing and only a few blocks from the condo), and then I plan to not leave the house until the roads are cleared and all is safe.

I’m looking forward to the storm, because it creates the perfect environment to write. I love sitting at my kitchen table with the windows open so I can watch the snow fall. I love the quiet a good snowfall brings and the warmth I feel inside with a warm cup of tea next to my computer. I hope this weather motivates me to write, because I’m looking forward to putting a dent in my new novel.

However, I have to admit that writing isn’t always easy for me. I always want to do it, I always look forward to doing it, but when it comes to sitting down and actually writing, I procrastinate. Do you ever get that way? Does it ever seem like you have a million things that you should be doing instead of writing? Or do you pretend there is a million different things to not write? I won’t lie, this happens to me sometimes. It’s not writer’s block, perhaps it’s motivation block!

The up side is that when I’m in the mood to write, I can write and write and write. Some of the things (beside a good snowfall and airplane ride) that motivates me to write are:

*Finishing a book I loved

*Getting full/partial requests (when I was querying)

*Hearing from my agent

*Getting feedback from my betas

*Hearing when someone I know signs with an agent or gets a book deal

*Nights where I’m able to stay up late writing and then sleep in (I’m a night owl!)

*School vacations (summer, Christmas, Easter…)

*A really good play list of songs for inspiration

*Being in an environment where there are other writers/readers (a conference, bookstore, library)

*Deadlines (ha!)

What about you? What motivates you to write? Do you have any good ideas to kick my writing butt into gear?!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ready, Set, Write!

My book is now on submission, which is a lot like querying an agent (at least in my mind). My agent prepared a list of publishing houses with specific editors to target. She writes a letter (again, which is a bit like a query letter) and sends it to the editors. If they are interested in my book, they'll ask to see the manuscript. If they like my manuscript, well...we won't think about that yet!

There isn't really anything I can do while my book is on submission. I just wait and wait and wait. I'm sure I'll get nervous, anxious and obsessively check my e-mail. What I need to do is start writing my next book.

I have an idea.

I even have the short story that I want to extend (it's a 32 page piece I wrote in my MFA program).

I got this awesome new writing journal from a good friend for my birthday....

And this amazing new pen from my main squeeze....

(You can't really tell by the picture, but the white part is shiny mother or pearl and it has a jewel on the top. He had my name engraved into it. I love this pen already!)

I have no excuse to not write. I need to jump into this new project, so I don't focus on my manuscript that is out there looking for a home.

Here's a sneak peek of the first scene I have written of the shiny new draft in my writing journal (I'll share more on my idea during this next week)....

My first drafts of pieces are scenes that stand alone. It usually isn't until the second draft that I start to piece them together and look to see what is missing in between. I don't think I've ever plotted anything, although I have an idea of my story in my head (especially themes and major ideas). I like being surprised and seeing where a story can take me.

What about you? How do you start writing a story? Do you jump right into it like I do? Do you outline or plot out your structure? Do you focus on character first?