Friday, July 30, 2010

What To Expect...Revisited!

This post is cheating a little bit. It's a post I wrote about nine months ago when I first started my blog. But...on my defense, I only had about ten readers when I posted it!

I thought I would share it again because I would like your thoughts on the topic...what makes you a writer.

Read it (or reread if you were one of my early followers...thanks!) and then share your "writerly traits" with me!

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!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Overcoming Your Fears

Fellow Cleveland writer and bookcluber Christina Lee wrote a great blog the other day that I wanted to respond to.

She writes, "I received an interesting email from a reader. She asked how I dealt with the jealousy of hearing other writers succeed on Twitter and other blogs."

Christina's reply was that didn't feel jealousy, instead, she felt fear.

She wrote about her fear of not feeling good enough, not finding an agent and not realizing your dreams.

I'm hear to say that she isn't alone. I totally understood her post and also feel that fear. Unagented people aren't the only ones who have fears about their writing.

I was always one of those people who wished and hoped and prayed that I would find an agent. However, I now know it doesn't end there.

I still have fear, but it's a new kind of fear. My book is on submission and I fear that it won't sell. I fear I won't be able to finish my next book (which might be the book that sells instead). I fear that I've spent so many hours and so much time doing something that isn't good enough.

I venture to guess that even if (when!) my book sells, I will have a whole new set of fears. I'm not sure there would ever be a point where your fears end. I also think that's a good thing, because it's my fear that also keeps me going. I want to beat these fears, I want to show these fears who is boss, and because of that, I write and write and write.

Fear can be a terrible thing, but I also know how good it feels when I conquer my fears. So for now, I will keep writing and battling my fears.

What about about you? What do you fear about writing? How do you deal with this?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Outlining The New Novel

I've been working really hard on my new book. I now have over 150 pages and about 35,000 words. I kind of hit a wall the other day. I just kept writing and writing and then had the book, but knew there were a lot of holes in it.

I've never outlined before. I've tried many times and failed, but fellow agent sister Lisa Nowak encouraged me to try it. She has a great post on her site about outlining, and I encourage you to follow it.

I took Lisa's advice and started to outline my book.

First, I printed out the entire thing. I write in short scenes (I've never used chapters), so I spread them out and shifted them around until I got them into the form I wanted to. I spread these out all over my guest room bed.


My guest room is also where I blow dry my hair. In the summer it gets hot in the room, so I turn on the ceiling fan. Uhm, yeah...it took about ten seconds for me to realize that you don't turn the fan on when you have the scenes of your book all over!


A quick fix of grabbing some towels/scarves allowed me to dry my hair and then categorize my scenes.

After that I typed summaries up and printed them out. These summaries went onto index cards that were organized into plots/subplots (yay to Lisa for that idea!).


I have since written notes on the back of these summaries for things I wanted to change and added index cards for scenes I want to write. It's worked so well for me. I'm able to keep track of changes and work on plotting out new scenes. I figure once I actually write those scenes, I will summarize them, type them up and tape them onto a final note card to add to my pile. In the meantime, I look at everything hand written as work that needs to be done.

Not a bad method, huh?!

What about you? How do you organize your writing?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Heading To The West Coast

My main squeeze and I are going to California for a week...yay! We'll be in Napa for four days and then San Francisco for three. I'm super excited and still trying to figure out how to jam everything into my suitcase!

I have postings set up for the next few days. I think I have the automatic postings right, so I'll still be around. However, in case they don't and get messed up, I'll be back next Tuesday posting again.

In the meantime...for a good laugh...I'm going to share what I looked like yesterday after I got my spray tan. I'm a huge huge HUGE sun safety person, but I wanted a little color for California. The fake tan has calmed down after I showed, but yesterday I looked like Ross from Friends (remember that episode?!).

I promise I look normal now! Ba ha ha ha!

Hope you have a fabulous week!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Writing Advice And A Contest Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered my summer contest! You all provided great advice and encouragement to writers. I've listed the advice below, but I know you all want to get to the winner.

My main squeeze picked the winner...

Congratulations to...

JEN!!!!

Seriously, I think it must be a karma thing because she's the one who featured me on her blog the day I announced the contest.

Thanks for entering and here is all the great writing advice that you shared with me:

*Playlists! I write best when listening to music, especially if certain songs speak to my character.

*Don’t self-edit! Wait until later before you edit otherwise you’ll second guess yourself.

*If the juices aren’t flowing, don’t try and force yourself to write anything serious.

*Dance parties to celebrate victories and really motivating for finishing.

*Brainstorm with a buddy.

*Write what you know

*Research

*Give the who, what, where, when and why.

*Adopt a plain writing style

*When stressed out, eat a cookie.

*When editing, read the manuscript from back to front.

*When querying, make sure you’ve got your genre right.

*Grammar—live it, learn it, love it!

*In the time you just spent whining about how you don’t want to revise, you could have revised two pages.

*Spring House Balsam fir candles. If your story is set in a forest and you live in the city, these can take you straight to the woods as soon as you light one. I’m big on scents when I write and have different candles for each story.

*Don’t write what you know…but rather write about what you care about.

*Love your writing like you love your dog; unconditionally. It might not always be perfect, but at the end of the day, you can’t live without it and it makes your soul smile.

*Completely ignore the editor on your should while writing. The little demon isn’t there to improve your writing, he’s there to sidetrack you so you never finish.

*The biggest one is to just sit down and write. Everyone thinks they can write a book, but very few take the time to do it, and that makes all the difference (of course, if they had a pen that smell like watermelon, I think they might be more motivated).

*Go see something artistic and brilliant. I do my best thinking about movies, symphonies, art galleries….I always feel compelled to write after I’ve beheld something triumphant someone else has tossed out into the universe for us to enjoy.

*Write something everyday.

*Read everything (books, blogs, etc.) and apply what inspired you to your writing.

*Spring House candles, Ipod music that fits whatever work you are currently writing and homemade sugar free vanilla lattes!

*Don’t let anyone discourage you from writing. If you want to write, write.

*Read other books

*Finish your novel

*Keep you butt in your chair and write everyday

*Write what you want to read. Forget about everyone else's thoughts/opinions and tell the story you want to tell. Go with your gut.

*Always go for the highest stakes. What is the worse possible thing that could happen?

*Kill those babies (things you love in your writing)...the new ones will be better!

*Read Stephen King's On Writing

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Knitting Nerd

Thanks for all the good thoughts and encouragement yesterday.

I took your advice and didn't write today.

It was nice to have a break and I'm a lot more relaxed.

Instead of writing I knitted (yeah, yeah, I'm a knitting nerd! You probably forgot about that geeky habit I mentioned a few times in this blog!).

Knitting is so relaxing, though, and taking some time off from writing allowed me to finish the scarf I've been working on. The main squeeze and I are heading to Napa and San Francisco next week, so it's the perfect piece to bring for a trip to California!

My MacBook camera doesn't do it justice, but the colors are amazing!

Here's the scarf around my neck...


It's really big when it's not tied!


Here's an idea of all the colors in it, but you really need to see it in person to appreciate the colors. It's full of blues and purples and greens...I love it!


Now I'm about to head out to dinner with some of my friends....hope your day is going well!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One Of Those Days

Please tell me you've had days like I had today?

I was up last night until about two writing because I didn't want to lose my ideas.

I woke up early, went for a walk and sat down to type up my ideas.

But I just couldn't focus.

I stared at the computer for over two hours, getting up, walking away, coming back.

I wrote half a page.

I then went to sit on the couch for a minute and fell asleep for almost two hours.

Two hours, people! What the heck!?

I've come up with the conclusion that my brain is too full of writing.

I think I need a break!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Delirious For Delirium

Yeah, yeah, my blog is really late today. Partially because I've been sucking up, feverishly reading Delirium.

I just finished it about ten minutes ago, and I waited to post because I sat for about eight of those minutes just silently thinking about the ending.

Wow.

The end will blow you away.

Now, I don't want to say a lot about it, because I feel privileged to get a copy of it and I don't want to ruin anything. Perhaps when we get closer to the review date, I'll speak a few more words on it but for now, here are my first thoughts.

But...let me say that I think you'll be immensely satisfied as a follow up book to Before I Fall. It's a lot different from Before I Fall. If you're looking for a book similar to that, this isn't, but it's incredible in it's own way.

I would say that I loved it, but you see...in the main character Lena's world, you're not allowed to love or you'll be killed.

I had heard it was loosely based on Romeo and Juliet and I could see a lot of similarities, but none of them were in your face obvious so it felt like you were reading a re-telling of the play. I teach R and J with my 9th graders, and I think this would be a great book to pair with it. In fact, I may look into doing that with my second semester students!

How about three words to describe the book? Three words that might not make sense to you, and will keep you waiting until February 2011.

I'm mean, right!?!

Okay, so here's my review. I would say that Delirium is...
  • Terrifying
  • Beautiful
  • Gray
You have one more day to enter my contest. I'll be picking a winner tomorrow night!!! Spread the word to get more entries, just let me know through the commentor or form on the site.

Monday, July 19, 2010

There's A Whole Lot Of Screaming Going On

Remember how I raved and raved about Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall? I was so sad that Delirium wasn't coming out until February 2011.

If you check out Lauren Oliver's blog, you'll see that there are still 206 days, 12 hours, 26 minutes and ten seconds until it's released. Give or take a few hours once you read this blog!

But I'm sad no more. Look at what I have...


Fellow book club buddy and amazing blogger and author Chelsea Swiggett let me borrow her ARC that she got at BEA.

I mean, really? Really! How awesome is that!

Okay, okay, maybe this is how I felt when she handed the copy to me...


I'm taking good care of it, Chelsea! Thanks again!


Now, I really must go and read. I'm on page 232 and can't put the book down!

What about you? What books can't you wait for to be released?

P.S. Did you enter my contest yet??? You have until Wednesday to win some crazy good stuff!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Contest

Jen Daiker is featuring me on her blog today. Make sure you check out her blog; she's asked me just about anything you want to know about my writing and journey to publishing.

I thought this would be a great time for a contest to both celebrate the readers I already have and welcome any news ones who may come to visit after reading Jen's blog.

I call this my summer of fun blog pack and it's full of some random crazy stuff that kind of sort of has to do with writing!


Here is what you'll get if you win the prize pack:

Suzanne Young's book The Naughty List. The name alone sounds like a good beach read, and I think you'll love this book.


A handmade notebook. It's made out an Indian newspaper and has a fabric bird hand stitched on the cover. This is perfect to throw in your purse and carry around to jot down writing ideas.


A pen that looks and smells (yippee!) like watermelon! I have one and have to stop every few minutes while I'm writing to smell it. It's so good!


Princess shaped rubber bandzz to make your arm look beautiful while writing. Nothing says, "I'm writing the next great novel," than princess rubber bandzz. You can write that novel in style!

In case you want to take a break while writing, you'll win a pair of these awesome straw glasses. Your liquid travels around your face before you drink and apparently, they look pretty hot on a date when drinking milkshakes!


Writing is always hard work, and you'll need a sugar fix. You'll win a Hello Kitty Pez dispenser to fuel those late night ideas.


Procrastination is one of my biggest enemies while writing. What better way to procrastinate then to create some magnetic hair styles for this beautiful lady?!


I couldn't resist throwing this in. I bought two packs while in Boston and put one of them in my main squeeze's medicine cabinet. He loooooves bacon. I didn't tell him and he used it for a few days before figuring it out. The best part (or grossest) is that it tastes like bacon!


Let's see that rocking prize pack one more time...


If that's not a summer writing pack, I don't know what is!

Entering is easy. All you need to do is be a follower and give me your best writing advice/tip. It can be funny, earnest, heartfelt, off the wall...whatever you want. Just share some advice!

How to get entries:
1 point each piece of writing advice you share (you can enter as many times as you want)

3 points for each tweet, blog post and/or Facebook shout out you do.

You'll have until 9:00 p.m. Wednesday night (July 21) to enter. Share your advice and spread the word...you don't want to lose out on that bacon floss! I'll share your writing advice/tip in a post to all my readers.

Enter now!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Write Like

Have you heard of the site I WRITE LIKE? You enter a passage of your story, novel, blog, whatever and it will tell you what writer's style you are most like.

I entered a chapter of CANARY and got Lauren Conrad.

Okay, I'm kidding...ba ha ha! Good one, right!?!

Actually, the site told me I write like Vladimir Nabokov. His writing is beautiful and he's one of my favorite writers, but I do not dare to compare my writing to the level of his.

I then entered the new book I'm writing and it said I write like Chuck Palahniuk. Uhm, awesome!

Let's just pretend this thing works, okay? I'd love to write in similar styles to these authors!


Put a sample of your writing in and let me know who you write like. I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

CANARY On Kindle

My main squeeze just got a new toy this weekend...

He's OBSESSED with the Kindle and can't really figure out why I have no interest in one (uhm...it might have something to do with the actual physical act of reading a book and all the senses that are involved when you're not just reading uniform words on a computer screen, but who am I to judge!?).

Anyway, I e-mailed him my document of CANARY and it showed up like an actual book (okay, it is an actual book, but it now looks like a published book. You know, like one you can buy through Amazon.com!)...


And it reformatted it all (although there were random times it didn't want to indent throughout the book). If I wanted to, I could sit and read my entire book on the Kindle...


I may still be a skeptic of digital reading, but I have to admit, seeing my book on the Kindle is pretty cool!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Beverly Cleary, Beezus and Ramona

UC Berkeley has published a great piece about one of their most famous alumni (well, at least I think so!). Beverly Cleary (who is 94 now!) talks about the release of Ramona and Beezus, writing and YA literature.

Read the article here.

I grew up with Beverly Cleary. Her books were the first chapter books I remember reading (besides Charlotte's Web, which I didn't even know how to read but pretended to when I was in kindergarten. I made my mom pack it in my bag for summer camp and "made up" my version of the book, wanting to read it so bad).

I'm excited for the movie version based on Ramona. I remember the home movie series, and this one looks even better. Now, if only I knew a young reader to take to the theatre with me!

If you have time, read this article. It talks about Cleary's life, how she got into writing, her thoughts on writing (including the current YA market). The article sites YA columnist Lizzie Skurnick who states, "With Beverly Cleary, she presents the actual emotional danger and complexity in wanting a boy to like you." I think that's why I always loved her books. She gave us simple situations that we could all relate to, but they were situations that seemed major and life changing when you were young. I remember thinking that Beezus was so cool, and I wanted to be just like her.

Beverly Cleary is also quoted saying, "I would ignore all the trends...and I would not let money influence any decisions about my book." I think she's done just that and perhaps that's why people still love her books decades later.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rereading And Recommending Books

This weekend the little airport near us had an air show. It was close enough to walk to, so my main squeeze and I packed a cooler, grabbed some chairs and spent a few hours at it.

They had a lot of old way jets like the one behind me...



And planes were taking off every ten minutes or so (like this big one, which was LOUD)...


Anytime we go anywhere that might possibly involve sitting around, I make sure to pack heat (aka...a book).

I made my main squeeze take a picture of me with my latest read
Looking for Alaska.

It's been two summers since I've read the book, and I've put enough distance between it that there are surprises and parts I don't remember. I'm almost done with it and have been falling in love with it all over again.

One of the first things that made me fall for my main squeeze was when within our first month of dating, I mentioned how much I love Longfellow's poem "A Psalm of Life" and The Great Gatsby. He promptly got both and read them.

He's read a lot of other books I've recommended (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner, Cather in the Rye...), and after bugging him for years, he finally read Looking for Alaska. It looks like the book is getting a lot of use around our condo!


What about you? What books do you read over and over again? What books do you push on other people to read?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Best Writing Advice Of The Week

How is your Internet Free mornings going? Have you been able to try it? Keep up? I've been pretty good at it, I put off going to the Internet most mornings and I've liked the work that I've been getting done. There have been a few mornings that I cheat, but those are usually the mornings when I'm rushing already and don't have time to sit down and write (shoot! I almost erased this last sentence, but thought I should share my excuses with you. Yes, yes, I know I could make time if I want to).

I have some more good advice for you today from the great Ron Carlson.

He talked about the idea of procrastination. We all find ways to procrastinate. This summer my techniques seem to be doing morning chores, straightening things up, getting food or a snack, driving to Starbucks to write instead of staying at home. Ron said his main way of procrastinating is getting more coffee. He'll run out or it will get cold and he'll feel like he must go and get more.

This, he told us, is the moment when you push ahead. Instead of using one of these devices of procrastination, you need to stay in your seat twenty more minutes and write.

The times when you get up to do something are often when you're stuck with your writing and instead of trying to solve the problem, you walk away. Ron said does some of his best writing during these twenty minutes when he makes himself stay in the seat and write. You can still do the thing that you wanted to procrastinate with, but first, you must write.

I am the queen of procrastination, so I thought that this would be a hard change to try. However, I love it. I've found myself discovering things in my writing that I never would have if I got up from the table. I have also often continued to write past the twenty minutes because I am so excited about an idea.

Similar to the 20 minutes Internet free in the morning, this tip seems so simple. I think you'll see that if you force yourself to write instead of procrastinate, you'll surprise yourself with what you discover.

What do you think? Are you going to try it? Let me know your thoughts and if you take the challenge!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Printz Speeches

I watched Libba Bray's speech after receiving the Printz Award the other day for Going Bovine. I haven't read the book yet, although I own a copy and plan to.

Her speech is pretty funny; she's a great speaker and I'm jealous of the ease she seems to be showing. I become a crazy freaked out fool in front of an audience of people. Never mind, that I'm a teacher and a theatre minor....there's just something about talking in front a big group.

Anyways, check out her speech....it's awesome and worth watching. I mean, for crying out loud, she thanks Spanx in her speech! I love it!

It got me thinking of another Printz Award winner (okay, okay, this is where my regular readers start to groan and say, here she goes again...babbling on about John Green). But really, how can I help not think about Looking for Alaska when I think about the Printz.

Of course, I had to find his speech. How could I not!? How have I never seen it before!?

I couldn't find a good copy of him giving the speech, but he posts a written transcript of it on his website. You can read it here.

The two are completely different, but both amazing in their own ways. If you have a minute, check out the speeches.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Making Progress

My summer vacation is my time to write, and I've been writing for about 4-5 hours a day. It's a slow process and I've gotten frustrated a lot, because I know I still have so much more to go.

Eileen Wiedbrauk posted an article last week about progress for a writer. The author, David H. Hendricks discussed using something physical that you can measure your progress with. He suggested a cup for a penny. Now, David is a bit more ambitious (or perhaps motivated) than I in, because he is able to put a penny in his cup for every 10,000 words that he writes. 10,000 words is too much for me. That wouldn't look like progress.

Instead, I decided to put a penny in for every 1,000 words that I write.

It's simple, but for some reason it's worked these last few days. I actually find myself staying at the table and writing more just to get another penny.

It reminds me of my friends who potty train their kids for an M & M. Seriously? One M & M to go to the bathroom? I always thought it was crazy until I started to use pennies (in fact, now that I think about, M & Ms might be better but I'd eat all my progress!).

I chose a cup that has meaning to me (it's one of my grandpa's cups from the Yacht Club we belonged to growing up). The cup now sits next to my computer...


And I have almost 20 cents now! Hot diggity dog...I'm rich!


Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go earn another penny!

What about you? What do you use to motivate or writing or keep track of progress?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Experiences That Change You

This past week I devoured the book Sea by Heidi Kling (BOOK NUMBER 23, 336 pages). The book is about Sienna, who goes on a relief trip with her father to help victim of the tsunami. The book is set in Indonesia and Heidi Kling gives the reader a look into the country and their culture through Sienna's eyes. We witness it as an "American," but as you read, you grow the love the country and its people even if their ways seem different. It was a beautiful read and the ending shocked me. It was one of those books that you slow down as you near the end and I might have possibly gotten a little teary eyed when I finished it. If you haven't read it, you should get a copy!

I think a lot of my love for the book has to do with my love of traveling and early experiences of leaving the country (which reminded me a lot of Sienna).

I student taught abroad in college and spent a semester in Costa Rica. I had never traveled outside the country alone before this trip and was amazed at how much I grew and matured while there.

Reading
Sea inspired me to scan some pictures of my trip, so I could share the country with you through my 22 year old eyes. I traveled there a week after September 11, 2001 and it was a very weird feeling to be outside of your country at a time when it was coming together so closely. That experience alone is a story itself that I need to sit down and write someday.

Here's my host family's house outside of San Jose...

And my host family's kids!


My classroom (I taught English 10, 12 and Drama at an American International school, so they all spook English and used the US curriculum and books. Those are quotes from Macbeth on the wall. Teaching Shakespeare to kids who don't speak English as their native language was a challenge!)...


A hallway in the school (it was all open air...we had scorpions in our classroom!)...


My middle school drama class...


I directed a production of
Grease while there...


Our open air cafeteria with fellow student teacher (and weekend travel buddy) Jordan...


Jordan and I at my host family's house...


A night out at a Peruvian restaurant...


Getting ready to go dancing in San Jose...


I backpacked almost every weekend to a new beach town in the country. Here we are in a shady hotel...how did I survive staying somewhere like this!


Our favorite beach town Montezuma (we went there three different weekends!). The bar behind us opened up to the beach and you could dance there all night long...


Hanging in a tree at Manuel Antonio, a national park with a huge rain forest (the monkeys kept us up at night!)...


The beach that reminded me of
The Goonies....


A huge bug outside one of our shady hotel rooms...


Renting bikes and riding to the beach in Limon (my favorite weekend travel destination)...


In the Caribbean at Limon...


Costa Rica is full of stray dogs...I think I befriended every one of them!


Monkeys in the wild...


Tempting the monkeys in the wild...


Letting a wild monkey climb on me (yikes!)....

What about you? Have you ever been somewhere that's changed the way you view things?