Friday, June 29, 2012

Looking on the Bright Side: A Friday Five

     The oppressive heat and Colorado fires this week have me feeling down, low on energy and anxious for the people affected out west. The temperature reading in my car this afternoon read 108 degrees (I'm in southern Illinois today)! If it weren't for a much-needed vacation in a few weeks, to a much cooler climate no less (see photo), I'm afraid I'd find myself wishing this summer away.
Northwoods, here I come! (photo courtesy kidscantravel.com)
     Still, there's plenty to be thankful for this week, writing-wise and everyday life-wise:
  1. I had a great conversation with my agent yesterday about the direction of revisions for my MG. I'm excited to get back to this and hope this version will be stronger in the end. It's a major rework, but I'm pretty confident. I think know I can...I know I can...I know I can...   
  2. I received word that my non-fiction article about an awesome group of conservation-minded kids is under consideration. More details to come if it sells.
  3. I'm finishing up The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. A fantastic book! If you're not familiar with the premise, the MC's town has been infected with a germ which allows every person to hear the 'Noise', or thoughts, of everyone else. Tricky writing to pull off technique-wise but Ness, of course, is a master. 
  4. Yesterday was a potentially expensive day. The day started with an appointment to get the vibrating steering wheel of our car fixed, followed by a trip to Verizon Wireless for a broken cell phone. Turns out the dealership was at fault for the steering wheel problem and the cell phone was replaced for free. LOVE when that happens!
  5. This blog's birthday is coming up in July. It's hard to believe I've been at this a year already. Stay tuned for the Blog Birthday Giveaway news next week.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Planting Seeds for Fruitful Writing

     After planting the garden last month, my son and I hovered over the fence everyday, waiting for the seedlings to poke through the soil. Then - viola! - there they were.
    Carrots, check
    Red-leaf lettuce, check
    Zucchini, check
    Sugar snap peas, nada.
    Uh oh.
    "Maybe we planted the seeds too deep," my son said to me as we dragged our trowels across the dirt, making another trough for the seeds.
    "Or too shallow and the birds ate them," I offered.
     Or maybe it had nothing to do with our planting skills at all. Maybe it was just another incident of Mystery Garden Fail. The pea trellis he built from metal stakes and wire the month before stood woefully bare. Now it had to wait another month to get any use.
    So we started over. We dropped the seeds into the trough. He brushed dirt over them and watered every night. On Day 13 of the Second Pea-Planting Venture, seedlings started popping through the dirt. Our relief was short-lived when, by the next morning, we found them chewed to nubs.
    Then last night I saw the culprit: a baby bunny hiding in the tiger lily patch slipped out from under the leaves and started chewing on the newest pea seedlings. Hmmm. So far he's content with those and the dandelion leaves along the border. We stuck a cheap wire fence around the lettuce and carrots. We've given up on the peas for now.
    Writing is like gardening. Sometimes we write and write and write, producing nothing more than words on a page. The sentences don't grow into paragraphs that grow into chapters that develop into a manuscript that tells a good story, no matter what we do. Or maybe we write a good story but it's not a marketable story. It languishes in slush piles. It collects rejections.
    Next spring we'll line the bottom of the garden fence with wire mesh to keep the rabbits from slipping under for their late-night snacks. We've learned from experience, and that sometimes we have to start over, reexamining our methods. But that's okay, right?
    Writing, even if it seems fruitless, is how we learn to be better writers.
    "All we can do is write dutifully and day after day, every day, giving our work the very best of what we are capable." - Madeleine L'Engle

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An Exercise in Crafting Characters

    'The room around you disappears, time alters shape, and you are transported by the spell of words on a page. We've all had that marvelous reading experience. And almost always, what makes it happen is intense, even passionate, interest in the fate of a character in that story.'
          - Nancy Kress, from Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint
                                                      (Writer's Digest Books, 2005)
     I bet you can name a character or two from a book in a blink who has made an indelible impression on you. Ready? Go!
     For me, it has always been Jo Marsh and Scarlett O'Hara. Maybe since I read both books in my early teens those characters made a mark on impressionable me. But I suspect it had more to do with the well-rounded characters which each of the authors crafted. More recently, I am in awe of John Green's Hazel and Augustus in The Fault in Our Stars.
     Today, I'm meeting with my writing group to draw from a hat the names of different places around town. Then we'll scatter to these locations and write for a specified amount of time, observing the people, activities, and setting in our assigned spots. I'm wondering about the characters I'll come up with from this activity: what they'll look like, what they're thinking about, who they love? I'm looking forward to meeting them.
     I'll let you know how it turns out.
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