Wednesday, June 30, 2010

(Hand) Writing It All Down

I've talked about my writing process and how I hand write my scenes. Usually this method works, I'll think about a scene, write it down (most often at night) and type it up the next morning. I like handwriting, it forces me to focus on what I'm doing (instead of playing on the Internet).

Handwriting my scenes is a method that has been successful for me.

Until now...

I was very busy at the end of the school year, so I started just writing down my scenes.

And writing and writing.

Now I have three notebooks full of scenes, and let me tell you, it's driving me nuts typing it all up! While I'm excited to revisit stuff I wrote two or three months ago, it's very tedious to type everything out when all I want to do is move forward and develop new scenes for me book.

But I'm working hard to type it all up....

And my outside writing area is making it all a lot better. I go out there in the afternoon when the sun has moved to the front of my condo. I love it out here, so at least it makes the endless typing a little better.

I plan to have everything typed up by the end of the weekend, let's hope I can get it done or I might just go crazy!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Keep On Trucking

If you read my blog on a regular basis, you'll notice that I'm posting again in the afternoon instead of the morning.

That's because I followed my writing advice again, and made myself write for twenty minutes before going to the Internet. While it's a process that's working for me, I can totally understand some of your comments. It's hard when life is in the way (especially kids), and it's an easy thing for me to say I'm going to do when I have the summer off. However, I think it's something that you can make happen all year long. I hope to get into this habit and potentially set my alarm a bit earlier so I can write before work.

Now, I'm not sure if this will happen, because I am not a morning person AT ALL. I am going to try to write my blog posts the night before, because I like having them ready to go in the morning.

Let's see if I can swing all of these new writing habits. Do you want to place bets on whether I can or not!?

Speaking of new habits, I heard another good one today. I walk for an hour every morning and listen to books on tape and podcasts. I was listening to The Writing Show today and the topic was the psychology of writing. The guest was talking about the different things writers face that may be different from what people in other jobs face. One thing he mentioned was self doubt. Oh boy, do I encounter self doubt. Especially now, with my book on submission, it's often hard to keep writing when you get rejections and hear about other writers who are selling, selling, selling.

The guest talked about how a lot of people will have a great idea and the momentum of this will keep them going for about a third of the story. Then...your self editor comes into play. You go back, read the story and start to edit. You start to make changes, think about potential problems and sometimes, you want to stop. You may have another good idea and think that will be better. You may read other books and think that your book will never measure up. You may edit, edit, edit and never move forward.

The guest on this show told the listeners to keep writing. He told them that almost every writer doubts themselves at different points of the writing process and those are the most important times in writing. Those are the times when you can't stop writing and need to push yourself through. He said that if we were to put this book aside to work on another idea (usually one we think is better), we'll probably get to the same point with that one and eventually, we'll end up with a computer of half finished book files.

This may be simple advice, but I heard what he was saying.

You need to keep going as a writer and survive that first draft.

After the first draft, you can put it aside for awhile, walk away from it, perhaps start another book, but you need to finish. If you don't finish, you might never finish, and a first draft isn't about being perfect.

This is good advice to hold on to, because I feel like I'm trying to survive my first draft right now. I'm moving forward and not going back to edit. That will be for when I'm done, and if I wait, I will get done.

Do you have this same problem? Do you have trouble turning off the self editor or self doubt? How do you get through it?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Twenty Minutes Internet Free

Usually I blog early in the morning. It's one of the first things I do when I wake up. An average day during my summer vacation starts with me waking up, checking my e-mail, checking Facebook, checking my bloglist and then blogging. It's a process that I've always enjoyed, but it usually takes about an hour of my morning. However, this morning I didn't get to my blogging until now (almost noon...gasp!). There's a reason for it, and it has to do with something I learned last week.

One of the best pieces of advice I learned at The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop is also one of the simplest. Ron Carlson, my workshop leader talking about the necessity of writing as soon as you get up. He told us that it didn't need to be a lot, twenty minutes or so, but kept stressing that the very first thing you should do in the morning is write.

He went on to explain his way of thinking by drawing in references to e-mails, Facebook, blogs, newspapers and google searches that one does in the morning. What do all of these things have in common? They are all OTHER people's thoughts. We are opening ourselves up to everyone else's views, ideas, successes, failures and way of thinking before we let ours come out. He stressed the importance of letting our ideas out through our writing before we begin to let the day creep in.

I couldn't agree more with him. I think I've mentioned that I use the night time (before I go to bed) to do a lot of my plotting and problem solving in my writing. I look forward to this time when I can think throw things in my book when I'm the most relaxed. I find often new ideas sneak in during this time, and I can then write them down in the morning. However, I do what Ron Carlson told us not to do. I get onto the Internet. I start looking at other's thoughts, and I lose my own.

It's a simple change...write for twenty minutes before you check your e-mail (and everything else that connects you to the world).

I started my day with this advice, writing for a bit and then checking e-mail, Facebook, going for my hour walk and then opening myself up to blogs and blogging.

It did allow me to keep my mind uncluttered. It stopped me from getting sucked into everyone else's world, before my own, and I don't have an excuse for not writing because I've already done it.

What do you think? Do you think you could make this change? I challenge you to try it...write twenty minutes every morning before going onto the Internet. I think you're going to like the new start to your day!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Must Read Article

This article was posted yesterday in Salon. It's important. It's good. And since I'm writing right now on the same college campus John Green wrote on, I wanted to post it.

Have you read Will Grayson, Will Grayson? What about other gay YA fiction? If you haven't read Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You by Peter Cameron. It's so beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Querying Story

I'm pretty sure I haven't told my querying story, so Christina at Write-Brain told it for me in an interview.

Feel free to comment or e-mail me questions about the querying process. I feel like an old veteran after all the months it took, and would have loved to have someone helping me out along the way.

Hopefully your querying experience is a bit shorter than mine!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

College Revisited

This week at The Kenyon Review Writers' Workshop I've regressed in time ten years, to the days when I was a student at Ohio University living in the dorms. I can't say that I'm glad to be reliving these days, but the atmosphere of college life definitely is a good motivation to want to write and create.

Please allow me to give you the grand tour of my home for a week...

I'm in a double so the desk area is very long, which is a great place for writing late at night. Please notice the Diet Mountain Dew above, which also helps the late night writing.

It kind of makes me depressed that the shelves are so empty, but ever since my freshman year at college during Christmas break when I took home the posters from the walls and my family made fun of me, I've learned the value of picking and choosing what items to bring somewhere.

I drove to the workshop because it's only about three hours for me (even though most people flew from all over the US...and world), so I didn't have to bring the "travel size" of anything. Can you tell!?

My bed is uncomfortable and the plastic matress makes a swishing noise when you move, but at least I have my own sheets and pillows.

The other bed is a great place to store all my clothes. I mean, come on, who can argue with the fact that it is very important to bring three pairs of jeans and six pairs of shoes?

My window looks out over the green, but I'm a bit creeped out by being on the ground floor. I always think people are going to bang on my window when I'm sleeping on the ground floor. I know, weird, right?

The lovely dorm bathroom...blah! Luckily, I'm at the end of the hall and it seems like only one or two other people use this bathroom.

This is perhaps the grossest part of living in a dorm. One of the stalls has a bathtub. Really? A bathtub? That's about as gross as taking a bath at a hotel.

My door announcing who I am...

And the random panda on the door next to me that I just love...

There you have digs for a week! Please feel free to send housewarming gifts...preferably sugar and caffeine!

Writing, Writing, Writing

I'm on my third full day of the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop and have been writing nonstop. My head is foggy from lack of sleep and I have about a million ideas jiggling around, but I'm loving it. This week is amazing because it gives me the opportunity to step away from everything in my life and just write. This isn't a workshop where you bring stuff you've already created, but one where we spend our days writing and sharing new work. When I leave on Saturday, I'll have a folder full of shorts stories, scenes and ideas. Material that will keep me writing for a long time after this ends.

I don't want to really talk a lot about the workshop, since I'm in the thick of things, but I'll share a piece that I wrote last year in one of my workshops...enjoy!

The four of us stayed inside our cabin; windows tight, screws not yet loosened to welcome in the first breaths of summer air. It is so quiet that you can hear our next door neighbors, the Sullivan’s, arguing about what movie to see in town that night. There were only two movies shown at the old theater, but the debate was heated, rising and falling in valleys.

My sister, brother, dad and I sat around the old oak table as our hands traced words in the wood, chronicling love affairs and hatreds, young and old, feeling forgotten in the past and some still carried, carved into the surface by fork prongs and ball point pens: Sara + Alex P Keaton = True Love Forever, Go Red Sox, Broccoli is the devil, My brother eats poop, Mom + Dad = Lovey Dovey, the last message covered and hidden by my sister’s hand. A trace line, angle of the letter "M" peeking out, the end of what followed covered.

We can see the rocky shore of the lake, full of families, through the hazy double windows behind us, it's panes stained by fall and winter, the months when we always left the house alone, and this year spring, the first time we didn't come to the cabin for the long stretch of spring break. Kids running backwards out of the water as it tickles their toes, mothers, endless mothers, waving bottles in their arms, trying to tell their children to come back to the bright colored beach towels for one more dose of sunscreen. And teenage girls shimmering in oil lying out on the dock suspended in the lake so you had to swim to it; a fortress to keep away unwanted visitors like parents and younger brothers. These are places the places we once ran to when we arrived at the cabin, dropping our bags in the living room, bathing suits under our clothes so all we need to do is run down the short path to dive into our lake.

Today, our suitcases sit on beds just visible in rooms past the kitchen, swimsuits, tank tops, flip flops still folded in neat piles. Our feet scrape against the cold smooth floor, usually rough and coarse from the grit of sand carried in from the beach.

The smell of the bleach from last year, its sterile twang similar to another we were too used to this year. Mom had splashed it all over the floors, shelves and counters declaring that we would not leave our cabin a pigsty, it's always nice to come back to a clean place after a full year away. We hadn't helped, we were busy holding onto one last day of the summer.

We sit gathered around this table, in this cabin, in this woods that we had all known so well. We sit gathered around a table where we now fit comfortably, four chairs instead of the five we had crammed together for over fourteen years when we called ourselves a family

Dad makes the move first, shifting his chair closer to my brother and then we are all moving our chairs together, close enough so that we were sitting shoulder to shoulder, bumping up against each other like the canoes tied up outside, empty and unstable on the unsettled waves of the lake.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Keeping Teens Reading

I'm answering another one of your questions today, and this one is from Mina (who is a future English teacher...yay!). She asks:

How do you get your students interested in learning about literature if they don't appear to care at all about what you're doing?

First of all, this is a crazy question because I've never met a student who wasn't interested in what I was teaching! Okay, I'm laughing about as hard as you are...we all know teenagers. There's three rules that I always try to follow in the classroom.

1) I make sure that the stuff I teach is what I love. I've taught some pretty awful stuff in the beginning (boo to The Red Badge of Courage and The Iliad). I didn't like the material and my students could tell that I didn't like it, so why should they bothering caring? I now try to pick literature that I love (such as The Crucible, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies). I have to teach these books 4-6 times a year, so I've learned how important it is to get excited and want to talk about the books. When I'm into a book, often my students will be too.

2) I get to know my students as individuals. I know it sounds simple, but there are teachers out there who just come to teach and don't really care about connecting to or learning about their students. I spend a lot of time at the start of the year discussing important issues, asking my students questions about what they're interested in and their lives. This lets my students know that I want them to do well. When my students know that I'm cheering for them and want them to do well, they seem to try harder in the classroom.

3) I try to connect everything we read to my students' lives. I think it's so important for my students to be able to relate to what we're reading and see pieces of themselves in the literature. This not only helps my students understand the relevancy in what they read but also allows them to place themselves in the characters' positions and gain empathy towards now situations.

Whew! I sound like I'm at a job interview. What about you? What do you think hooks a reader to "the classics?" What makes him/her want to keep reading books that they may feel removed from?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Reading Update

I have been reading like a fool, but I haven't been posting the books that I've read. Even though it's the weekend, I wanted to post my recent reading or I will never be able to keep track of it all.

Book Number 17:
Boys and Girls Like You and Me (Aryn Kyle) 225 pages
Aryn Kyle's first book, The God of Animals, is one of my favorite books, so I was so excited to read this. It's a collection of short stories and every single one of them is magnificent. If you haven't read anything by her yet, please do so...I think you may fall in love!

Book Number 18:
Love You, Hate You, Miss You (Elizabeth Scott) 288 pages
This is a dark gritty novel, but it has a lot of heart and you root for the main character. I passed it on to a bunch of students before the year ended and they all gave it a thumbs up.

Book Number 19:
A Summer to Die (Lois Lowry) 160 pages
I read this book back when I was a teen, but I came across a copy and it was a quick read. I'm not sure if I'd classify it as YA, but if it is, then teens were a lot more innocent in their reading back then!

Book Numer 20:
Dreamland (Sarah Dessen) 256 pages
I loved this book. In fact, I read it in a day and a half...I carried it everywhere with me because I couldn't put it down.

Book Number 21:
Liar (Justine Larbalestier) 384 pages
This was our book club book and sparked a lot of debate! I need to find more people who have read it, so I can hear their opinions also.

Book Number 22:
The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson) 288 pages
This book was beautiful. It took me a few tries to get into it, but once I got about 30 pages in, I couldn't put it down. I slowed down at the end because I didn't want it to end.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop!

Tomorrow I head off to The Kenyon Review Writing Workshop. I've mentioned it a few times in the last few weeks, because I'm so excited to go. This will be my second summer attending, so I know what to expect, but mentally I'm still preparing for "writing bootcamp."

The workshop is set is beautiful, beautiful Kenyon College (the college of John Green!!!), and involves about seventy writers from all over the world (last year we had writers from as far away as Ireland and Alaska). I'll be there from Saturday until the next Saturday, and I'll be writing nonstop. Last year I stayed in Taft Cottages, which was on the edge of campus, but this year I'm trying the dorms to be more in the middle of things. I haven't lived in a dorm since sophomore year in college, so that should be an adventure in and among itself!

The first night includes a dinner under the trees. It was right out of a movie or something...we ate under trees with branches as our ceiling and had goodies like strawberry shortcake. After dinner, we have an introduction meeting and everyone heads off to sleep to prepare for the start of the workshop the next day. Believe me, we need to get to bed early to prepare!

The program breaks us into groups of ten. This year 40 fiction writers were accepted (there are also two groups of poets and two of nonfiction) and I'll be working with author Ron Carlson. I'm beside myself to work with him, his craft with short stories is one I've admired for over a decade.

We get up every morning and workshop with our group for about four hours. We're expected to write a piece a night and share it the next morning. It's a lot of pressure to produce writing so fast, bit I came away from some great writing last year. After workshop, we break for lunch and have the afternoon to write our new assignment for the next day. The evening is full of readings from the authors who lead our workshops, their fellows (an assistant each of them chooses) and then from us. Yes, us! We have to read one of our pieces in front of everyone! Last year I was the last person to read in the entire conference, so I had to stress and worry the whole week. It wasn't bad, though, and I'm not too worried about reading this year.

I met some amazing people at the workshop last year, had lots of good late night talks about writing. I came home exhausted (both physically and mentally) but so motivated and excited to write. I can't wait to head off to the workshop again this year, and I plan to blog a lot about it (and if I can't, I've got questions from all of you to still answer). I must admit that I'm excited to be back writing in the same town/campus that John Green did. You all know that he's my writing crush, and I look forward to channeling some of his greatness while on campus to help with my own writing!

Okay, off to pack! :)

Call Me Gullible

So last night my main squeeze and I went out with some friends that were visiting from Arizona. We went to an amazing new restaurant that I highly recommend to my Cleveland readers (and future Cleveland visitors!) and then sat outside at one of my favorite bars in the area. This bar is amazing because they bake chocolate chip cookies all night! What's better than walking in somewhere and smelling cookies cooking!?

Anyways, we're sitting outside and there was a woman at another table telling fortunes.

Yep. That's where the gullible part comes in.

The couple we were with got their palms read, so I had to do it too.

I'm not supposed to repeat everything she said, but one of the things she told me was that I have two careers that are competing. One I do now, and the other is what I want to do. She said the second one involves using my hands and my brain. She I'm waiting on something with the second career. She assured me that it would all work out.

She also said that I have not been able to stop thinking about an idea for the second career and I need to work on the thoughts in my head, get them out and that is what will lead me to my second career.

Of course, I thought about my book on submission and the book that's thumping around in my head. That's totally what she meant, right!?

Okay, okay, I know that palm reading is all craziness and you can read into it, but I don't care. I'm going to go work on the story that's in my head and get it out!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Back from Boston

I'm back from Boston (boo!), and while this blog post might not be about writing, I have some good pictures from my trip. That works, right?

We arrived in Boston to welcome my cousin's third child Ellia. She came at 3:15 and we got in at is that for timing!? We went straight to the hospital where we were one of the first to meet her...

We then headed to my Aunt and Uncle's farm house that is over 300 years old! How crazy is that!? Seriously, I love their house. They restored it and it's a great mix of modern and old. It's on the historical registry and the rooms are painted in colors that were around in the 1700s. It's such a cool house. My cousin (who had baby Ellia) got married about eight years ago in the back yard under a tent...

Complete with a barn across the street where my Aunt boards horses...

I included some pictures because the house is awesome inside too.

This is where I slept. This blog today isn't about writing, but I actually got a lot of writing done in the evenings (over thirty pages). I think it had to do with the atmosphere of the house and the town of Boston where so many amazing old writers came from...Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and all those other transcendentalist writers I torture my students with!).

Another bedroom upstairs (almost every room has a fire place)...

The family room (it's crazy to think about people using that fire place 300 years ago to stay warm!)...

My bathroom (made modern but with the slanted roof and old construction)...

The narrow staircase upstairs...

My favorite room, the kitchen. I've always wanted a kitchen with a fireplace in it...

We tried to make it to Nantucket, but bad weather was rolling in too fast, so we just went up for a ride in my Uncle's plane instead. My Uncle has been flying for over twenty years. He owns this plane and also partially owns a stunt plane that does spins and dives. He has to wear a parachute in it in case something goes wrong! Yikes! A few years ago he learned to fly a helicopter, landed it in the field behind his house and took family up for rides in it!

The weather might have been bad for flying, but it was perfect atmosphere for Salem. I headed there with my mom and it was pretty cool to see some of the stuff that I've been reading about with my students for years.

I know my students are going to like this picture!

We wondered around an old graveyard that had headstones from the 1600s!

The next two days were spent visiting some of my favorite spots in Boston. I didn't take any pictures of Boston because I'd been there so many times and didn't want to lug around my big camera. We were busy, though. We headed to Cambridge, Boston University (where I stocked up on new college gear!) and Newbury Street where got the most wonderful shoes from love!

We got to see lots of family, explore the city and visit some new spots. I would have to say that the trip to Boston was a success!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beg, Borrow and Steal (From Another Blog)

I only have a few minutes before we leave for the airport, so I'm going to make this posting short. I had a long one written up (of course, me and my hand writing!), but I'll post it tomorrow. I don't have enough time today.

Instead, I'm going to "borrow and steal" from Christina's blog post about book club last Thursday. I met up with a great group of people, and Christina wrote about the club along with her thoughts about the book Liar. Check out her posting and the rest of her blog...she writes about some great stuff (writing, books, clothes, life musings).
Write-Brained Blog

I'll be back in Cleveland later today and promise to give you a better blog post tomorrow!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

It's Not You...It's Me

This post is going to be brief, as I thought I'd have more time on the computer in Boston than I do.

Boston is awesome...a bit soggy and rainy, but yesterday we were in Salem so it was perfect weather to investigate some witches! Tomorrow the sun is supposed to be out, which will be perfect for our second day venturing into Boston!

The question I'm looking at today is from BClement412...

Have you heard from any pubs that you're on submission with?

We have heard back from a few, and obviously since I haven't announced a publishing deal, it's not the news that I want. However, I still look at it as good news because none of the editors found faults with the book (one editor even wanted to buy it, but he couldn't get his entire acquisition team on board...blah!). They aren't telling me there are problems with plot, characters or something else in the book (which could have resulted in a summer of revising before the next round). The feedback that we're getting back is that the editors just don't feel like it's the right book for them.

I call what I have heard from the editors the "It's not you, it's me syndrome." Have you ever had that happen with an ex main squeeze? It's a line that stinks, stinks, stinks, but if they aren't finding faults in you, that means maybe someone else will love you for who you are! I look at the editors' responses to my book in the same way. It's not the book; it's something that they don't feel, which hopefully someone else will.

My main squeeze and I are shopping for a house right now, and I also think being on submission is a bit like house shopping. We've seen some great books (which I liken the editors' responses to mine...they like my book), but it's just not the right book for them.

My agent and I are still waiting to hear from editors from the first round and my agent sent out another round of submissions right before BEA. Cross your fingers; we may be hearing stuff soon! And if the universe remembers my should be good news! Ha!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Heading to Boston!

My flight to Boston leaves in five hours and I've yet to pack.

Apparently, painting my nails and blogging are much more important things to do!

Thanks for such great questions, everyone! I look forward to answering them in the next two weeks of travel!

I'm going to start with some of my Boston questions today...

Kara (who will also be in Boston this weekend!) asked...
Yankee fan or Red Sox fan?

Red Sox all the way! My stop for Boston University was Fenway, so when I had my Monday night Creative Writing class, I often got off among crowds of Red Sox fans. I learned fast to be a Red Sox fan because on one of my first nights they had a huge Sox poster (probably about ten feet by five feet) in the subway that a bunch of people were asking fans to sign. A guy asked me to sign it and I said, "No thanks, I'm an Indians fan." People started booing me to the point where I ran away and promised to never mention anything but the Red Sox in Boston!

Janet Johnson asked...
I've never been to Boston, so...if you only had one day to visit Boston, what would you go see?

This is the perfect questions because I'll only be in Boston for three full days. One day we're going to Salem, one day to Nantucket, and then one day in the city. So...what I want to do that day is go to Boston University, walk down Newbury Street (my favorite street with a mix of fancy expensive stores, funky boutiques, outdoor cafes and awesome electic bookstores), get ice-cream at J P Licks (oatmeal cookie dough ice-cream), get a Jamba Juice, visit the yarn store by my old apartment that I used to go to, see Trinity Church and hopefully (if we have time) go to Cambridge for a little more shopping.

Okay, I better go pack!

But first, I do believe I promised an autographed copy of 13 Reasons Why to a lucky winner who submitted questions.

I put all the names in my Kenyon mug (I couldn't find my BU one)...

I dug my hand in...

And pulled out Christina Lee's name!

Woo-hoo! And...I had the pleasure of meeting Christina (along with Lisa and Laura Roecker, Chelsea Swiggett, two YA Rebels and some other great writers) at our Cleveland Teen Book Club! It was a great night, and I can't wait for next month's meeting!

Christina...I'll bring your copy of the book to next month's book club! Congrats!

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Typewriter Vs. Computer...Bring It On

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I'm a New York Times junkie. I think their articles are some of the best, and I pour over the Arts section online every day. I use their articles in my classroom and I'm constantly trying to talk my main squeeze into getting a subscription delivered to our condo (although the 400 dollar + price tag is a bit of a deterant!).

Anyway, they published an article about a week ago that I've been thinking about.

First of all, before I even begin discussing the article... Why the heck wasn't I invited to this roof top party in Tribeca packed elbow to elbow with authors like Judy Blume? Uhm...heaven!

I know a lot of people have speculated about the world of publishing and what it would become.

The article mentions a world where a writer typed their manuscript, sent it off and received typed responses. When I was hanging out with Jay Asher (uhm...yeah, that sentence was pretty cool to write!), this idea also came up. We talked about publishing now verses publishing then. He brought up the point that if you wanted to publish fifteen years ago, you had to type everything out on a type writer. If you made a mistake, you couldn't go back and hit the delete button. You had to TYPE THE WHOLE PAGE OVER! If you wanted to edit, it may cause you to have to type the entire book over again. Writing fifteen years ago was a lot more work physically (please notice that I did say physically, not mentally). If you were going to write a book, you had to be in it for the long haul and create your book through a typewriter. I remember using my grandpa's old typewriter to create my third grade stories and pulling page after page out when I couldn't get it right. Often, these stories didn't get finished because I became too frustrated.

Although my early attempts at writing may have been on a type writer, I'm now a writer in the digital age. I didn't live in a world where the process to publish was through a typewriter. It has always been a word processor or a computer for me. I have always searched for agents and contacted most through the Internet. My agent and I usually talk through e-mails. The world that Garrison Keillor comments on (and somewhat against) in his article is my world. And in my world, I still believe that I can (and will!) be published. I don't see the end of publishing in site, and I don't plan to give up. I have been inspired by teachers too, I have been rejected by publishers and while I may not have struggled to type my manuscript, I'm still a part of this crazy ride to publication and I have faith in the process, even if it's different from that of the past.

What do you think about the article? What are your views?

And...don't forget to submit your questions (or refer a friend) for your chance to win a sign copy of Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why. I will pick a winner tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Mini-Contest For The Start Of Summer

School is out for the summer....well, almost. I have a teacher work day today, lots of grading and a closet full of books that is scary messy.

But my students are gone, so I say it's the official start of the summer!

I'm really looking forward to days of writing, writing and more writing. I have two notebooks full of my new book that I plan to type up. I'm excited to see how the story evolves once I start piecing it together.

I'm getting a three month pass for the yoga/pilates studio near me and plan to go in the mornings (to relax my mind) and spend the afternoons writing. Heaven!

I'm also doing a bit of traveling in between my writing.

This Friday (yes, Friday!) I'm heading to Boston with my mom. I'm not sure how much I've talked about Boston (or perhaps gushed), but I went to grad school at Boston University and I'm absolutely in love with the city. I have a lot of family there, so we'll be staying with them and taking trips to the city, Nantucket and Salem. I teach The Crucible, but I've never been to Salem, so I'm looking forward to that. I'm sure I'll have lots of pictures to share.

Here's the 23 year old version of me as a student in Boston...

My school (the School of Business at BU had a Starbucks in awesome is that!?)...

My apartment in Brookline...

I'll be home for three days from Boston and then head to The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. I will be talking more about the workshop next week.

Then, my main squeeze and I will be going to San Francisco and Napa at the end of July.

It's a lot of traveling, but I'm going to be making lots of time for writing too. That includes blogging, which leads me to my mini-contest....

I'm not sure how often I'll have access to Internet on these trips, so I want to set up some posts ahead of time. I thought I'd open this blog up to questions. What do you want to ask me? What do you want to know? It can be anything from writing, to finding an agent, to teaching, to the submission process, to MFA programs or even personal questions about my life, likes and dislikes (although I may lie about my weight if you ask!).

I want to thank you for these questions, so I will give away one of my signed copies of 13 Reasons Why. You'll have until this Friday morning at 9 a.m. to post your questions. For every question you post, I'll enter your name in the drawing to win the book.

Also...summer is a great time to start reading new blogs (well, at least for me becuase I have more time). If you refer a friend to start following my blog, I'll give you three (wow, three!) more entries into the book contest. Just let me know who your friend is when they start following me so I can give you the three entries!

Ask away...I promise to answer everything!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Have you heard of Emilia Plater?

Have you read her blog?

If you haven't, you must head over there because she's talented, hilarious and even more peppy than me!

A few weeks ago she ran a super awesome contest that I won! Woo-hoo!

I got a copy of Some Girls Are (which I preceded to share with all my students....Courtney Summers is taking over my school!) and...

A drawing of my main character!

How great is that!?

I sent her a description of Kate from CANARY:

She's average height, thin with brown hair that no matter how much she tries to flat iron it, it doesn't stay straight (she mentions how she envies girls with perfect hair). I don't have a ton of description about her, but she does catch the attention of a popular boy on the basketball team. She goes to a private school (Beacon) and wear a plaid uniform skirt with a blouse during the day and often wears jeans and her boyfriend's practice jersey (also Beacon) to his games. I mentioned she wears jeans, ballet flat, tank tops, sweaters...nothing too crazy. Beacon's colors are maroon and yellow if you do something with their jerseys. Oh, and on game day she'll wear a ribbon in her hair that is Beacon's colors.

And this is my first ever picture of Kate!

Uhm...I love love LOVE it!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Someone Was Sleeping In Today

Well, hello...blogger!

Nice to see you finally up and awake this Monday.

Was it just me, or was blogger sleeping in? I tried for hours (hours, I tell ya!) to get onto blogger and it kept telling me it was "having technical issues." Personally, I think blogger just had a rough weekend and needed to "sleep it off."

Now that blogger is finally up at 5:30 p.m., I kind of don't want to post what I had for today. It's kind of cool. Okay, it's really I'll wait for the unveiling tomorrow. You best be coming to visit (and let's hope blogger sets the alarm tomorrow!).

In the about trying to win some cool prizes (and I do mean cool prizes...these books rock!). While I'd really like to win them, we can make a deal to share if you win them!

YA Highway BEA Giveaway!

Friday, June 4, 2010

How About A Scene To End The Week?

I haven't shared any of my writing in awhile, so I thought I'd end the week with a passage that I wrote last year at The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. I'm heading back there in two weeks for my second summer attending the workshop, and I'm beside myself in excitement.

I'll write more about the actual conference next week, but for now, I'm posting an exercise we did on dialogue that helped influence a scene in my book CANARY (Remember CANARY? That book I have on submission? The waiting to hear back from editors is madness...madness, I tell ya!).

In this scene, my main character's brother is leaving for Iraq the next day. Kate hasn't been able to really talk to him about his decision, so this is the point where they open up (kind of)...

I had swum twenty-three laps when the lights flashed under the surface. They were built into the walls and lined the pool like round full moons, illuminating the dark water. The pool lit up four times, my brother’s signal to get my attention.

Brett was used to me swimming late at night before I went to bed. It was my version of a bubble bath or cup of warm milk. It calmed me. Jack, on the other hand, thought I was crazy to swim at night, and he always made me promise to call him when I got out so he knew I hadn’t drowned; an awful thing to joke about, I would tell him.

When I surfaced, Brett was sitting at the side of the pool, untying his shoes and socks.

“You could take a night off, you know,” he said.

“I do. October through May." I held onto the side of the pool as I talked, keeping my body under the water so I wouldn’t get cold from the night air. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be with Catherine?”

“I just dropped her off; she’s picking me up early in the morning.” He trailed off and I wondered about Catherine. How could she leave him alone tonight when she knew that in the morning, he would be gone. What in the world could be more important during these last hours, minutes, seconds that she had left to be with the person she loved?

“Are you ready to go?” I asked. “I mean, are you packed?”

“Yeah, everything is ready.”

Brett put his bare feet into the pool and pulled them out immediately. “God damn it, that’s freezing. How the hell do you stand swimming in here when it’s all dark and cold?”

“I can think of worst things than a cold pool at nighttime,” I said slowly, daring myself to look him straight in the eyes.

He turned away, avoiding, and then said, “Me, too, like the time you practiced cooking the breakfast casserole for class and dad I had to try it.”

“My casserole wasn’t bad. It was delicious.”

“Sure, if you like runny undercooked eggs.’

I splashed water up at him. “If you want scary, let me tell you about the time Mrs. Simmons babysat us and asked me for a back rub. Now that’s scary.”

“Oh, shit, that would suck. She was gross with all that cat fur stuck to her and white spit hanging out of the corners of her mouth.”

“Exactly,” I said. “My eggs were nothing compared to Mrs. Simmons.”

The two of us laughed softly, the sound of our voices fading until all you could hear was the lap of the water against the sides of the pool and crickets.

“But now," I said slowly. "Those things don't seem scary at all.”

“I know.

“Why are you doing this, Brett?”

He sighed and looked up into the trees that bordered the edge of our yard.

“I have to do this, Kate.”

“You don’t have to do anything.”

“Okay, then, I need to do this. There’s no way I can stay here.”

“Here isn’t so bad,” I told him, but we both knew I was lying.

“This isn’t my place.”

I wanted to tell him I knew what he meant. I knew what it was like to want to be somewhere where you felt important. I wanted to tell him I could understand.

But I didn’t, because I didn’t want what he was doing to be his important thing.

So instead, I pushed off the wall and swam to the deep end and back, playing a game with myself, holding my breath to see how far I could go without air. I pushed myself further and futher until I couldn’t take it anymore.

“I’m scared too,” Brett said when I surfaced, grabbing back onto the wall near him.

I nodded.

“I’ll be back, Kate.”


“I promise.”

I ducked my head back under the water before he could see my tears.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Don't Read This Post Unless You Want To Become Addicted

I'm a fan of blogs. I have about twenty blogs that I read every day. I recently found a new one that hooked me instantly, and I was on it for about two hours reading back posts.

It's called Jacket Whys and follows the trends in YA and Children's book covers. If you follow the publishing industry, you're going to love this site.

Go check it out, but don't say that I didn't warn you. Be prepared to spend a lot of time looking at all the covers for books from around the world!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When A Story Becomes A Liar

I have been reading the book Liar for about two weeks and can’t put it down. It’s one of those books that I’ll find in bed with me the next morning, because I fell asleep reading it. I knew the premise of it, but oh my gosh, you find out it’s nothing like what is on the jacket flap. Nothing! And I wonder how readers of the book have kept its secrets from other readers. The stuff that happens in it is a total surprise to me, I never saw it coming.

Part of the allure of Liar is the main character Micah. She states on the first pages that she’s a liar, but we can trust her. I soon learn that we can’t. Her stories keep coming and each time she gives us a truth, she reveals a lie (often one of omission) to the point where I don’t know if I can believe anything she says. But I want to, and I keep believing the new lies she spins.

Justine Larbalestier is a genius when it comes to story construction. I couldn’t do what she has done in a million years (although I’ll strive to!). She continues to fool the reader over and over, and I keep telling myself that I should have seen it coming. I’m not done with the book yet (about fifty more pages), and I have a feeling the ending is going to be nothing like I first thought from the beginning.

The book got me thinking about what I call The Sixth Sense syndrome. Have you seen the movie? If not, you’re about eight years behind and I’m going to spoil the ending (so cover your ears!). You watch the movie and unless you’re really smart and pick up on clues (which I wasn’t), you find out at the end the Bruce Willis' character was dead the entire movie. It’s one of those moments where you could totally see that, but you didn’t. The movie has fooled you.

What do you think about this syndrome? It’s what I’m seeing in Liar. Although Micah starts the story by stating she’s a liar, she continues to make me fall for her story. Do you like writing like this? How do you feel about a narrator who isn’t reliable? What if you don’t find out that things are being held back from you until the end? What if the story you have read is really a completely different story?

I’d loved to hear your thoughts on this. I know I’ve talked a few times about the story that is pushing to get out of my head, and part of this story is one of omission. As a reader, do you feel fooled? Does it make you mad? Or do you like not always knowing the story’s fact from fiction?