Do you ever just feel like hopping aboard a plane and leaving for destinations unknown to explore? Want to get a feel for the atmosphere of an Irish pub or a Buddhist temple, but can’t afford the air fare? Maybe you should close your eyes and take a sound journey instead.

I heard this really cool thing on NPR today that could be such a great inspiration spring board for writers, musicians, artists of all kinds really, that I just had to share it. Sound Transit is an audio experience where you travel the world through sound. You book a trip, with up to five stops, and it randomly selects your route and the sounds you’ll hear along the way. With over two thousands sounds in its catalog, your trip will be different every time.

You can also use their search feature to look up individual sounds or search for sounds by country. It’s just fascinating.

Here’s a trip I booked:

I departed from Skaftafell, Iceland, and was greeted by the sounds of  “A simple mountain stream, nothing more, which flows down a moss-covered hillside, falls into a small rocky hollow and continues on its way to the sea.”

Grey Lines by antgirl courtesy of cc via Flickr

Grey Lines by antgirl courtesy of cc via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

next, via Cabo Ortegal, Galicia, Spain, I experienced a “storm in ‘Cabo Ortegal’, Galicia, Spain. november 2003″.

Nubes amenzantes by David Cornejo courtesy of cc via Flickr

Nubes amenzantes by David Cornejo courtesy of cc via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilburg, Netherlands, was next with some urban sounds described only as, “This recording is a part of my Tunnelproject. A noise investigation.”

Tilburg Netherlands by  Victhor Viking courtesy cc via Flickr

Tilburg Netherlands by Victhor Viking courtesy of cc via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On to Baracoa, Cuba, where I heard this “insane gathering of crows near a small river, in Alexandro Humbold park on
the lush eastern coast of Cuba, not far from where Cristopher Colombus is
said to have landed in the new world.”

(I love the details given in some of the descriptions. That alone set my imagination wild with ideas.)

A cloud of crows by Vladimir Agafonkin courtesy of cc via Flicker

A cloud of crows by Vladimir Agafonkin courtesy of cc via Flicker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At my next stop, halfway around the world in Kefalonia, Greece, there were different birds singing, “A treeful of finches chirp and flap early one morning.”

Assos by PapaPiper courtesy of cc via Flickr

Assos by PapaPiper courtesy of cc via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I arrived in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, to the sounds of a bustling metropolis, “subway journey underneath copacabana. train drones, whistles, brakes, high pitch, speaker information, automatic doors, ambience. M-Audio microtrack -16bit – 48khz.”

P1000943 by Ed Johnson courtesy of cc via Flickr

P1000943 by Ed Johnson courtesy of cc via Flickr

I played around with this for most of the morning and had many different experiences. One was even unsettling, with bomb sounds in Lebanon. Every trip was unique.

You can listen to my journey described above for yourself here or book your own here.

Have fun with it! Be inspired!

 

While on vacation in Santa Fe and Los Alamos, New Mexico, I took an unintentional, but much needed and extended vacation from my blog. The company was too engaging, the scenery too inspiring, the WIFI too sporadic.

I took it as a sign.

I needed a break.

Then when I came home last week, I found the desire to write had not yet been rekindled. My muse was still lounging in her pjs, dreaming of southwestern skies. To add to my procrastination vacation, my modem died…or so I thought. It was actually playing possum until the repairman showed up to debunk its fakery. (I guess my modem also needed an extended vacation.) With just a few tweaks of some knobs or some such magic, the mighty repairman had my modem working, again.

Now, after a wonderful visit with some writer friends last weekend, all is back normal; writing fire rekindled and modem functioning properly. (My muse is still wearing her pjs, but frankly, most of the time so am I.)

Before we return to our regularly scheduled programming, I thought I’d share some of the beautiful sights from my vacation that inspired me.

Enjoy.

My daughter outside our hotel in Los Alamos one morning.

My daughter outside our hotel in Los Alamos one morning. (Yes, she’s was reading ALLEGIANT.)

 

 

Daughter and husband walking around in a park in Los Alamos.

Daughter and husband walking around in a park in Los Alamos.

 

 

Son greeting an elephant statue in the park.

Son greeting an elephant statue in the park.

 

 

Daughter with Dr. Oppenheimer statue.

Daughter with Dr. Oppenheimer’s statue. They love him in Atomic City.

 

 

Wildflowers on a morning walk.

Wildflowers on a morning walk with the husband. We snuck out while the kids were sleeping and even had breakfast together. That rarely ever happens.

 

 

My husband standing past the barrier to take a picture. Me documenting his possible demise. (He did survive, thankfully.)

My husband, Tim, standing past the barrier to take a picture of the spectacular view just outside of Los Alamos on the stretch of road I came to call Suicide Hill, with me documenting his possible demise. (He did survive, thankfully.)

 

 

Coming into Santa Fe where there are pueblos as far as the eye can see.

Coming into Santa Fe where everything is pueblos as far as the eye can see.

 

 

Walking through the Railyard district of Santa Fe with my best friend since childhood.

Daughter walking with her godfather and my best friend since childhood. We walked through the Railyard arts district of Santa Fe and spent the day there seeing the sights. We had lunch at a new local place run by a friend of David’s called Shake Foundation. The Adobe Mud shakes were excellent. Later Tim took the kids to see a movie so David and I could talk without distraction. It’s always good to catch up with him.

 

 

My son and David playing on the slides at the playground in the Railyard.

My son and David playing on the slides at the playground in the Railyard.

 

 

David preparing for his turn down the slide. (You can see why we're friends right here.)

David preparing for his turn down the slide. (You can see why we’re friends right here.)

 

 

Me and my bestie at lunch.

Me and my bestie at lunch.

 

 

Russian sage is everywhere.

Russian sage is everywhere in New Mexico.

 

 

The Plaza district has a mixture of old world culture like this...

The Plaza district has a mixture of old world culture like this, the Santuario de Guadalupe…

 

 

...and fantastic displays of art, like this gallery with, yes, a dragon on the roof.

…and fantastic displays of art, like this gallery with, yes, a dragon on the roof.

 

Art was everywhere in Santa Fe. It was beautiful to see and inspiring to the mind.

Another great thing about the long drive there and back, I had plenty of leisure time to read. I tore through four books in a little over one week, which was such a pleasure.

So tell me about your vacation plans. Have you been anywhere exciting? Read any great books this summer?

My summer traveling isn’t quite over. I leave for the SCBWI LA conference in one week. So much to do before then! And when I get back there will be loads to share. (Maybe even some signed books!)

 

SCBWI OK Logo

Our SCBWI Oklahoma fall events keep getting more exciting every year. Just when you thought we couldn’t top last year’s Agents’ Day, along comes this year’s Fall Retreat. You pay one fee and attend as much or as little as you’d like, but trust me, this will be so packed full of literary goodness, you’ll want to be there for the whole thing.

OKLAHOMA 2014 FALL RETREAT
Three Days of Workshops and Speakers
September 26-28, 2014
Friday: 9:00 am – 8:30 pm
Saturday 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
Sunday 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Best Western Motor Lodge, Stroud, Oklahoma
Exactly between Oklahoma City and Tulsa

LIMITED TO 90 Participants (AND ALREADY HALF-FULL!!!)


REGISTER NOW

The Speakers
Brett Duquette – Editor, Sterling Publishing

Brett Duquette

 

Tracy Daniels – Founder of Media Masters

 Tracy Daniels

 

Minju Chang – Agent, BookStop Literary Agency

 minju_chang

 

Christa Heschke – Agent, McIntosh and Otis, Inc.

Christa Heschke

 

The Workshop begins on Friday with the basics.

Want to brush up on core skills? Getting started on your writing  journey? Not sure where to begin? This will cover everything you need. You’ll get to choose from several sessions and pick the ones that are just right for you. Here are some of the topics for the Friday craft sessions:

        • Creating Graphic Novels
        • Picture Books that Sell
        • Romance/Friendship in MG and YA
        • Query Letters
        • Writing Nonfiction
        • Creating Easy Readers
        • Successful School Visits
        • Unusual Techniques for Developing Character
        • The Real Difference in First and Third Person POV
        • More than Pronoun Use
        • Plotting That Works
        • Digging Deeply Enough for Story Ideas
        • Using Acting Techniques in Writing
        • World Building Elements for All Genres
        • Showing Character
        • Proportion Issues
        • Lessons for Beginners

- PLUS: A Creative Coach will give tips for conquering
procrastination and self-sabotage.

Doesn’t that look great?

Saturday and Sunday the guest speakers will give in-depth talks on various subjects like voice, publicity and promotion, and much more.

There will be manuscript critiques and editor/agent pitches available as well.

For details – and to register for the workshop – head on over to the SCBWI OK website.

UPDATE: On July 24, 2014, NewsOK wrote an excellent article on our conference which really gives a complete picture of what to expect. Great information.

 

Questions and Contacts:

- Anna Myers: amyers_author@yahoo.com
– Helen Newton: helennewton@cox.nt

 

The very first person I met through SCBWI was Barbara Lowell. She epitomizes the spirit of our SCBWI Oklahoma group – open and generous and willing to help anyone who asks. I am so grateful that she was the first to make a permanent impression on me. We met at one of the fall conferences, my first ever to attend. How lucky was I that she also soon became one of my very first critique partners, as well? I’m happy to say that she is still my critique partner to this day. We’ve both learned so much from when we started out as newbie writers, making typical mistakes and writing awful stories. Our whole group has grown and we have all come a long way from those stumbling beginnings. Barbara has fantastic suggestions that help me take my stories in much better directions, and even though she swears she could never write something so long herself, I’m not so sure she couldn’t if that’s where her passion led her. Fortunately for us, she loves writing dynamic and intriguing picture book biographies. I adore Barbara’s writing and have felt it a privilege to be a part of so many of her great stories. I’m so happy that the first of these has finally found its way to publication.

GEORGE FERRIS WHAT A WHEEL
Grosset & Dunlap. June 26, 2014.

 

George Ferris Book

 

George Ferris, ever confident, didn’t know that the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair would make him famous, but when engineers were challenged to build something unique and original, he knew he was the person to create it. George had to convince the fair officials, find the money and design and build an amusement wheel that could hold 2,160 people at the same time, something no one had ever done before.

 The Interview

 

Barbara was kind enough to stop by my blog to answer a few questions about her writing process and how she came to be the writer she is today. And she’s also donated not one, but two of her books for a fantastic giveaway! (I told you she was generous.) More details on that later. First, the questions!

Barbara Author PhotoValerie Lawson: What was the inspiration for this story? What made you want to tell it?

Barbara Lowell: My husband was reading Devil in the White City by Erik Larson about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. What amazed him most was that George Ferris had built an amusement wheel with train-sized cars that could hold 2,160 people at the same time.

As soon as he finished the book, I read it. Those two details and George’s confidence that despite overwhelming odds, he could and would build his wheel inspired me to write his story as a nonfiction picture book.

I also loved how Mrs. Ferris absolutely believed in George. She rode in one of the six cars mounted on the wheel for a second trial trip. The glass for the windows hadn’t been installed. When the car she was riding in reached the top of the wheel, 264 feet, she stood on her chair and cheered.

 

VL: I loved those details about the story. What devotion his wife had to test such a contraption. Mrs. Ferris must have been quite a character herself.

I was surprised by the sheer size of this first Ferris Wheel – so big that each car could hold a 40-piece marching band. Would you ever ride in a Ferris Wheel that big?

BL: I might try the new High Roller in Las Vegas. It is twice the height of George Ferris’s wheel, but holds 1,120 passengers verses George Ferris’s 2,160. 

 

VL: A book of this type requires an extensive amount of research. What is your writing process? How do you start a project like this?

BL: I love history, especially American history and researching is fun. There are many interesting stories to find that are not well-known. I try to research the person or story I am writing about as thoroughly as I can. Since I learned about George Ferris’s wheel in Devil in the White City, I first looked at Erik Larson’s sources. His sources that I couldn’t find in the Tulsa library system, I either found at the University of Tulsa or bought online.

One that I consulted over and over is Norman Anderson’s impeccably researched book Ferris Wheels. I researched the sources used for every book I read and dug deeper and deeper. I was able to find at the NOAA website that the lowest recorded temperature in Chicago in January 1893 was -16. I look for as many primary sources as I can – books written by and interviews conducted with the subject of my book, original documents and artifacts. I found an interview with George Ferris from 1893 – that was a great find. When I was unable to locate the answer to a question I had about George Ferris, I contacted the Chicago Historical Society.

 

VL: That is very diligent researching. It must have been amazing to read George Ferris’s own words and then incorporate that into your story.

Who were your childhood heroes and role models? What drew you to them?

BL: From the time I was in third grade, I loved reading biographies, especially about people I could learn from. My favorite autobiography was Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life. I read many books about Eleanor Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt. All three subjects faced enormous challenges with great courage. I still read lots of biographies and nonfiction history.

 

VL: I have such a strong memory of learning about Helen Keller, too. I thought she was amazing. 

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? When did you start pursuing that seriously?

BL: I knew when I was a child that I wanted to be a writer, but I never tried seriously to become one until my daughter started high school. I thought, now I have the time to work on this and it maybe now or never.

I tried on my own, but I was going nowhere until the wonderful Oklahoma writer, Anna Myers started the SCBWI Oklahoma Schmoozes (writers and illustrators meetings.) I attended the meetings and conferences, took online classes and joined a critique group. I began to learn how to write for children and continue every day to learn and improve. This is a tough business and the support of my fellow writers has given me the strength to pursue my writing goals.

 

VL: You are so right! The need for support cannot be emphasized enough. I may have given up long ago if not for my SCBWI family.

Tell me about the most memorable adventures you had with your friends outside of school.

BL: I loved the summer. I lived in a neighborhood with lots of children. We spent our summers dreaming up adventures and then acted them out. A friend’s father helped build sets for a local theater group and one day he brought home a full-size Conestoga wagon. We had a great time traveling out west in our imaginations. One summer we set up our own outdoor laundry and went around the neighborhood asking for things to wash. We played all kinds of outdoor games. There was so much to do that every day seemed to last forever. I loved being a kid and that’s why I like writing for them.

 

VL: Wow! A real Conestoga wagon? You kids must have had a field day with that. I think I would have wanted to camp out in it. Maybe sleep under the stars like a cowboy. I loved being a kid, too. I think you may have something there. 

What are you currently working on?

BL: I finished researching a picture book biography, and I am working on the first draft. I have also recently worked on the first picture book I ever wrote and have rewritten it, not just revised it, for about the sixth time. I think I have finally made it work – but I have thought that before. I also have a new idea for a picture book biography and will start my research by reading the subject’s autobiography. I hope I can find a great story arc there.

 

VL: I can’t wait to take a peek at it. :)

What are some of your favorite books for kids?

BL: I think I can agree with almost every fan of YA – The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I also love his book An Abundance of Katherines. I recently read Kathi Appelt’s latest middle grade novel The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp and her book The Underneath is one of my favorites. Karen Cushman, Laurie Halse Anderson and Anna Myers write some of my favorite historical fiction novels.

My favorite book period is To Kill a Mockingbird. I have a huge collection of picture book biographies and historical fiction picture books. My two favorites are Deborah Hopkinson’s Apples to Oregon and Patrick McDonnell’s Me…Jane (Jane Goodall.) I think his is the best picture book biography written. I also like all of Barbara Kerley’s biographies and one of my new favorites is On a Beam of Light (Albert Einstein) by Jennifer Berne.

 

VL: There were some favorites of mine there and some new ones I need to read. Great suggestions.

What has been the best part of being a writer?

BL: Becoming friends with children’s writers. I absolutely love spending time with them and being part of this close community.

Thank you for inviting me to your blog!

Thank you so much for being here, Barbara. And I hope to have you back very soon!

Learn more about Barbara Lowell here.

BUY THE BOOK:

indiebound

 bn-24h-80amazon

 

The Giveaway

 

And now for the fabulous giveaway!

Barbara has generously donated two hardback editions of her new book GEORGE FERRIS WHAT A WHEEL. So there will be TWO WINNERS! This contest is open to everyone. The contest will run through July 18th and you can enter once a day. Good Luck! The winners can now been seen when you click on the giveaway site. Congratulations!

 

ENTER HERE!!!  ➤➤➤ Barbara Lowell Rafflecopter giveaway

writemotivation_header1

Hmm, we seem to have skipped through a few weeks, didn’t we?

I’ve been very bad about checking in with my goals and that’s probably because I’m not so happy about my progress. Also because the middle of the month was a bit of a struggle all around. I’m making up for it with a fabulous finish and a knock out interview ready to post tomorrow.

(Stay tuned! You won’t want to miss it!)

Let’s get to the goals and see the damage/progress done, shall we?

My #writemotivation goals for this month:

  1. Work on suggested revisions for INSTITUTIONALIZED. Oh, boy. No beating about the proverbial bush. This hasn’t gone well. I’m moving so painfully slow on this. I maybe have a fourth of this done. I’m not very happy with the speed of my progress. However, I am making some pretty radical changes, especially to the front half. It might pick up once I get past that point. 
  2. If complete revisions, submit to interested parties/begin submission process. Not even on the table, yet. But I have promised myself I WILL have the revisions done before I leave for the SCBWI LA conference at the end of July. How’s that for a seriously solid deadline? I must have a singular focus to get through July – setting daily revision goals may help push myself where I need to be. This means less time for other distractions, but I think I’m ready to do this.
  3. Read 5 books. Surprisingly I’ve actually read 4 books and made a good dent in a 5th. I’m not sure if I’ll finish the 5th before the end of the month, but that’s okay. We’ll call this goal close enough accomplished. Even though I feel like I’ve been such a slow reader this month. Probably because I still haven’t finished wonder 2ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s not that I’m struggling with it, it’s just one of those books that begs you to take your time. I’m really enjoying the story and the language – everything about it, honestly. I’m not even going to worry about how long it takes me to. I may actually finish WONDER by RJ Palacio first. I’ve had it sitting by my bedside for months and I finally cracked it open this week. It’s off to a promising start.
  4. Plan out summer blog ideas/giveaways, etc. Done! Wow. One goal accomplished. I finally have my idea box refilled and ready to go. I have several book giveaways planned, starting with the first one tomorrow!
  5. Exercise 4 times a week. We are all doing really well with this at the homestead. Between walking and swimming and now the new gym membership, my muscles will never stop aching that (almost) happy pain of overuse ever again. Whee! And I’m spending so much time outside that for the first time in years, I am not ghostly pale. Yes, I have a (slight) tan. Friends who’ve known me for years will be totally shocked by this.

I hope you have all had a productive or at least motivating June. As I have some actual vacation plans coming up, (woohoo!) I won’t be participating in #writemotivation for July, but I will be active on this blog. We’ll be taking a break over at the TGNA blog for a couple of months, which will help me focus more over here and on my revisions. I’ll join back up in August and I’ll still be following everyone on Twitter.

Keep Writing! (And Stay Tuned Tomorrow!)

Image courtesy of Henry Söderlund via Flickr

Image courtesy of Henry Söderlund via Flickr

As a writer, I know how important it is to let go of those pretty words that no longer serve my story. They may have helped me get through the muddy middle of my first draft or even find a way to begin, but when it’s time to revise, the death blows need to fall. Sometimes excising these beautiful ones can be harder than you think.

I’ve heard the phrase “Kill your darlings” more than once when at conferences and workshops. One editor even said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “If you must keep them, print them out and tuck them safely under your pillow, but get them out of your manuscript.” (I really wish I could remember who said that, because I think that’s just brilliant.)

Point made. They don’t belong in your story.

Usually I don’t have a problem with the slash and burn. The delete button and I are well acquainted. However, during my latest revision I came across a major blind spot that caused quite an upheaval in my first chapter. While I thought I had done my usual slashing without mercy, leaving a wake of dead darlings bathed in red ink, once I presented the freshly cleaned chapter to my critique group, I received a surprise. The comments?

“This doesn’t work.”

“This flashback scene is confusing.”

Why was there a flashback scene in the first chapter, you may ask?

Ugh.

I know, I know. Total amateur move. Bad writer.

So what happened?

I changed my opening line. And then…I couldn’t let go of the old one. In fact, I worked so hard to keep it, this little darling of mine, that there was no rule I wouldn’t break. I went so far out of my way to write badly, knowing I was writing badly and still unable to stop, just to force the line in and to make it fit. The gymnastic maneuverings it took to twist the story broke the laws of physics and the rules of writing. Even as I was writing the horrible flashback scene, which was the only way I could work it into the story, I knew it was crap, but I still couldn’t quit.

Why?

Maybe because I thought it was humorous, a running gag I could use through the whole story. Maybe I thought I couldn’t write something better. I don’t know, exactly. Deep down I did know that this bit of writing I was trying so desperately to save didn’t move the story along and it didn’t really add to the main character – something that should have brought on an immediate death sentence.

In the end, I needed my CPs to help me euthanize this one. They took one look at the mess and said unanimously:

“This doesn’t work.”

Have I mentioned only a few dozen times how much I love my critique group? They are always so good for me. I can hide nothing from them. Once they pointed it out, I just had to laugh at the ridiculousness. Of course it didn’t work. I could see it, then.

But it was hard to say good bye. Maybe because I didn’t always think it was so bad. That darling helped me out of a bind, once upon a time, when I was struggling for a beginning hook. It may not have been the best opening, but it did help me stop worrying about the perfect beginning and move on to write the story while I had that placeholder. I knew the time would come when I’d have to change it. But when the time came, I thought I still needed it.

Now I know I can let it go. I can write something better. I am finally ready to kill this darling.

tgnalogorevampToday is my day to post over at The Great Noveling Adventure, so I took the opportunity to give thanks to some of the most inspiring dads in literature. I find that dads can often be under-appreciated in novels and take a back seat to moms many times, but as I had a fantastic dad who had to go it solo in the parenting department for most of my childhood, I want to give a shout-out to all the great dads and other father-figures in our lives who helped shape us from the nebulous blobs of mess we started from into the creative amazing people we became.

Thank you, Amazing Dads, everywhere!

If you know of some great stories with phenomenal dad characters or want to see which books I selected, hop on over to the Great Noveling Adventure blog and join the conversation.