Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Five

  1. My son and I volunteer at the local Humane Society. We clean cages, walk the dogs, and give as much attention to them as we can before they go to their 'forever homes'. When we stopped by this week, my son pointed out a flyer on the bulletin board. It was a call for 2-3 volunteers to each take a dog to the minor league ballpark in town for an outreach event. "Baseball and dogs, my two favorite things," he said. Guess what we'll be doing next week?
  2. In a few days, SCBWI-IL will announce the editor/agent line-up for Prairie Writer's Day in November. Can't wait to see who will be at this fabulous day-long event! Our chapter always outdoes themselves in planning this conference.  
  3. I'm tired of the heat and ready for fall.
  4. Last night, I bought ten pounds of blueberries at the store. The deal was too good to pass up, though I'll have trouble fitting them into the freezer. They'll last all winter long. Sucking on frozen blueberries helps with writer's block, too. But maybe that's just me.
  5. Come Monday morning, I'll be fast-drafting. I'm ready!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fresh-baked Memories

     When I was growing up, my mom delighted the family with her baked goods. Her chocolate chip cookies rivaled Mrs. Fields, her apple tarts never lasted a day, and her frosting....oh, the frosting. After the cake smells filled the house, the mixer would start to whine in the kitchen. If she was making vanilla frosting, I'd park myself on the kitchen counter and wait to lick the beater. The first taste of frosting was heaven. Soon my taste buds went numb in powdered sugary, Crisco goodness.

     Baking played a role in my first two MG manuscripts, especially the most recent one. My main character's family owns a bakery. When I wrote it, those memories of helping my mom measure ingredients, decorate cookies, and sneak batter fueled my writing. The smells and sounds of a Saturday afternoon with the oven heating the kitchen are still fresh, even after 30 years. Maybe that's why the food scenes were some of the most fun for me to write.

     Some memories have yet to make it into my writing, but I know they'll eventually show up somewhere. There's the Birthday Cake Fiasco of 1990 (think the Bumpus dogs/Christmas turkey scene in Christmas Story, only with cake). Or the time my best friend and I turned the mixer on high speed with over four cups of dry ingredients in the bowl. Flour dust coated every surface in the kitchen. Even the ceiling fixture needed a wipe-down. 

     These memories floated around me two days ago while I baked a cake for my dad's birthday. The cake itself came from a Pillsbury boxed mix (sshhh! - don't tell my mom), but I whipped up the frosting from scratch. It's taken some experimenting over the years to get it right. Mom never wrote it down, instead eyeing everything as she dumped it into the mixer ('just a dribble of vanilla, maybe a second's worth'). Anyway, I have finally mastered the frosting. And, unlike my mom, I wrote the recipe down. I'm a writer after all.

     What childhood memory has played a role in one of your stories?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Five

  1. An awesome charity auction is taking place over at It's to celebrate the publication of Carrie Harris's YA zombie book, BAD TASTE IN BOYS, and will benefit the Giving Library at Mott Children's Hospital. There are dozens of items up for bid - signed books, critiques, and ARCs! Go Carrie!
  2. Now that Borders is officially extinct, it's just one less place where book-loving peeps can hang out, skim the shelves, indulge their coffee addictions, and interact with live humans. My local Borders closed four months ago. With this week's news, I'm starting the grieving process all over again.
  3. I love summer fruit! Especially farmer's market-fresh stuff: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. It makes me want to write fruit stories.
  4. Had lunch with a writer friend/critique partner to plan a fall program and activities for the local SCBWI network. Excited about the possibilities!
  5. My WIP is slow-going. I did manage to make my word count goal last weekend, but this week...well, not so much. I blame the heat.  Did you accomplish your writing goals for the week?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Mini Challenge - Dialogue

      I love writing exercises. They're short and there's no commitment involved (kind of like a first date!). If you like writing exercises as well, show up each Monday and I'll have one for you. Let's devote the rest of July to dialogue, okay? I'll have an example of a middle grade novel to demonstrate technique along with the challenge. Sound good? Get your fingers warmed up because here we go:

     Dialogue can sometimes define a character better than straight narrative, and it can be especially revealing when conflict directly engages that character. Take, for example, the scene in Ingrid Law’s wonderful novel Savvy, when Mibs Beaumont’s teacher announces to the class that from that day forward, Mibs will be homeschooled. Mean girl Ashley Bing and her counterpart Emma Flint comment on Mibs’s predicament from the back of the classroom:

     “Missy-pissy’s going to stay home with her mommy,” Ashley said, as though she were talking to a baby – just quiet enough that the teacher couldn’t hear.
     “With her mommy,” Emma repeated.
     “She’s going to stay home so that no one can see what a friendless freak she is,” Ashley sneered.
     “What a freak she is,” mimicked Emma like a spiteful parrot. 

     In that exchange, two short sentences for each character, we can immediately see who’s the leader in Ashley and Emma’s relationship, and who is the follower.
     So here’s a Monday Mini Challenge for you:

     Write a conversation in which two young characters disagree about how they should tell a mutual friend some bad news. Are you ready?...Go!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Five

  1. The goal for this weekend is to get 1,000 words down on my WIP. That might seem low, but the calendar is packed and I NEED to get some writing time in.
  2.  I'm thinking I need a new writing space. I've been thinking this for awhile. Maybe a new writing table, new rug, and a chair that doesn't pitch me forward when I shift in my seat. It's cluttered in here, and it's making my thoughts cluttered. Or maybe this is just another procrastination tool surfacing. I have LOTS of those.
  3. I have three books going at the moment: PRINCESS FOR HIRE, by Lindsey Leavitt, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, by Carrie Ryan, and ROSE MADDER, by Stephen King. I picked up King's book at the library the other day even though I'm nowhere near finished with the other two. I haven't read him since I was a teen (the last book I remember reading was the clown one - can't remember that title). I went in looking for a YA book on my TBR list, and came across a shelf of his books. Nostalgia got the best of me, and I checked one out.  
  4. Speaking of procrastination tools, the garden is out of control even though we haven’t had a soaking rain in weeks. Must weed soon or I won't be able to find the zucchini and cucumbers beneath the blanket of morning glories. 
  5. I need to find a pottery class. My main character in the WIP takes a pottery class at her high school, and I know NOTHING about it. It's an important part of the story, an integral part of her character, so I'll have to delve a little deeper instead of just mentioning 'so-and-so makes bowls in Intro to Pottery class'. This will be a good excuse to get really dirty and play with fire. My boys will be proud.

                                                                                                              Happy Writing!

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