Archive for the ‘Writing Inspiration’ Category

Hi All!

Today is my turn to post over on The Great Noveling Adventure. I share a list of five suggestions for How to Prevent Frostbite on Your Creativity during the longest tgnalogorevampmonth of winter, even though it has the shortest amount of days. Stop by if you’re in need of a spark in the creative department or share your own ideas if you have some. We’d all love to hear them.

As I gear up for the ultimate writing challenge next month, NaNoWriMo, not unlike a marathon runner prepping for that insanely long distance race, I find my brain filled with a haunting tune from the prolific rappers of the 80’s. Those poets in gold chains, sporting Adidas with style and grace.

Yes, Run DMC.

Photo Credit: from Wikipedia
Photo Credit: from Wikipedia

♫♪This speech is my recital, I think it’s very vital
To rock a rhyme, that’s right on time
It’s tricky is the title, here we go

It’s tricky to rock a rhyme
To rock a rhyme that’s right on time
It’s tricky, it’s tricky, tricky tricky tricky ♪♫

.

Those of you who write in rhyme know that it can indeed be tricky to rock well.

I myself have never conquered NaNo. I’ve never reached the 50,000 word goal. I’ve never been focused enough. In the past, I’ve done more lip service to NaNo than actually participating and I’ve let anything bright and shiny distract me from reaching my goal.

But this year, I vow to make it all the way.

The number one thing I’m doing to make that happen is participating; making time to park my butt in the chair. That means I’ve had to clear my schedule ahead of time by preparing blog posts and arranging for childcare so I can attend write-ins.

Did you know that you can prepare blog posts ahead of time and schedule when they release? So convenient! How did I not know about this a year ago? (It pays to read all of the directions.) I’ve been prepping posts for the first half of the month to get me started on the right foot. I even have my premier post scheduled for The Great Noveling Adventure blog already in the queue, ready to go. Now I don’t have to sweat that. I can be nervous about something completely different.

Like what the heck I’m going to write about for 50,000 words.

I do have a beginning idea, but after that, who knows where this thing will go. Thankfully, if I get stumped, I can hit the NaNo Forums to find ideas for character names, adopt plot ideas, get help developing characters, etc. I’ve never really taken advantage of all NaNo has to offer.

I also plan on hitting a lot more of my local write-in events this year, including the kick-off event set for Halloween night. My costume?  A dedicated freakin’ writer.

Another way I prepared for Nano was by organizing my workspace.

My office has slowly been creeping up on me, with ever growing towers of papers – notes from conferences, critiques of chapters, books on craft to read, etc. Things were getting way out of hand. And that was just on my side. My husband and I took about a week to tackle the clutter – midway through, I wasn’t sure we’d survive the disaster we’d created trying to organize our lives. Mass quantities of beer consumed settled my frayed nerves. Then an open space in the carpet appeared, the mountain of debris dissipated. My husband redesigned and built from scratch two fantastic desks that opened up the room and made me eager to get back to work. He more than earned his Xbox time at the end of each work day.

My side.

new office pic 1

My husband’s side.

new office pic 2

My desk is clutter-free and ready to see some serious action. My husband also helped me set up a studio microphone so I can pace around the office and do some hands-free writing to encourage me to write with less editing – which is what this NaNo exercise is really supposed to be about for me. I need more practice letting myself write that messy first draft without editing the crap out of it.

So how do you prepare for NaNo?

Are you participating?

If you are and you need another buddy, I’m litbeing. Add me and we’ll rock NaNo together.

And don’t forget, for all you picture book writers,you’re not off the hook! There’s a fabulous program for you during the month of November called PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) started by the lovely Tara Lazar. You should definitely check it out!

I may have lost some time from losing consciousness when coughing my brains out and then during the drug induced haze that followed, but I’m very much back in top form as we head toward the end of the month. I love it when a deadline approaches; it means it’s time to really get to work.

Here are my  #writemotivation goals:

1. Participate, post, push, and praise much better this month, especially where #writemotivation is concerned. I did a fair job with this goal. I visited my #writemovitation friends’ blogs and hopped on Twitter from time to time, but there’s room for improvement, for sure.
2. Revise, revise, revise! I worked revising on my middle grade novel this week and it is going very well. Some of the major changes I’ve had to make turned out great and actually increased the tension and added to the mystery element perfectly. I should have made those changes so much earlier.

Why are we so resistant to the changes that are the best for us? Hmmm.

For extra credit, I made some headway on critiquing my friend’s manuscript that I’ve put off forever. I hope to have that done by the end of the month, even though that wasn’t an official goal. It’s just way overdue.
3. Keep on freaking exercising. I actually picked this up again and did well this week. I’m feeling so much better as a result.

4. Read, read, read. I’m almost done with my second book for the week. Matt de la Peña’s Mexican WhiteBoy. It also fits into Banned Book mexwb_tp_cvrWeek as it was challenged by an Arizona school for its racial issues, which I find so ironic. This book is about struggling to find your way in the world when your biracial. I didn’t see it as racist in the least. It’s a very important book for a huge section of the population; kids who can identify with the main character and understand the struggle of straddling two worlds and know what it means to feel the guilt of striving for success, of trying for a better life while leaving your parents and relatives behind. It’s also about baseball. It’s a heavy book.

I had the pleasure of seeing Matt speak again this week here in Tulsa. One of the things I took away from this talk was how a single book can change a person’s life. He talked about how the right book at the right time can do that; change lives. For him, it was Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. A professor at college gave it to him because she thought he would get something out of it. He did. It was the first time he really connected with the characters of a story. He thought his life, his childhood, had been awful.  This story opened his eyes. This book changed his course and he became a writer.

Then, while he was in his MFA program, his dad was laid off from his job at the San Diego zoo, where he’d worked ever since dropping out of school when Matt was born. It was a devastating blow to his sense of identity and he was depressed for a long time. One day, when Matt was visiting, he asked what Matt was reading. It was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His dad asked him if he could read it. Matt had never seen his father read a book in his life, but he said of course. His dad read it and then asked for more books. Eventually, his dad started checking out his own books from the library, then secretly got his GED, went to college and is now a third grade teacher.

Wow. I love that story.

Books change lives. That’s why I’m a writer.

We’re taking a break from #writemotivation in October and will return in November, just in time for NaNoWriMo. I’ll probably have one more update for September. Meanwhile, some exciting things are coming up soon on the blog, so stay tuned!

scbwi2013

I have a confession to make.

I came away from the SCBWI LA Summer conference with a brand new author crush.

 

Matt de la Peña.

-Resources-Image-1Matt de la penaH175W175A1

And not just because he is ruggedly handsome. Or because he took the time to notice where I was from when I was in line to get my book signed and then asked me where exactly Broken Arrow was. He even talked to me about an upcoming author event he had scheduled in my area. Very nice.

And it wasn’t because he said it was great to meet me. See?

MAtt Autograph

Or because he took the time to stand up to take a picture with me. Not many authors do that. So thoughtful.

Me and Matt de la Pena. The flash went off and I froze like a deer waiting to be shot.

Me and Matt de la Peña. The flash went off and I froze like a deer waiting to be shot.

Or because he gave me a copy of his short story, Passing Each Other in Halls,  por nada. So awesome of him, wasn’t it?

Matt Books

Okay, okay. Ma-ybe he did that for all of his quasi-mental, yet adoring fans. Still, not all authors take this kind of time with their readers/stalkers/fans, believe me. Better than any fabulous swag I may have gained from the conference was the knowledge he imparted during his keynote speech and break out sessions. For that, I will be eternally grateful and a forever devoted stalker reader.

During his break out session on exercising patience, one of the first things he said was:

The first page is important but don’t mistake this for EVERYTHING has to happen on the first page.

You don’t have to cram all the major drama – the break up, the car crash, the gun shot – in that first page to make your story great and to keep readers interested. Allow your characters to tell the story; let it unfold naturally. Sometimes you have to get out of your own way and let your readers come to their own conclusions.

Which brings me to de la Peña’s next nugget of wisdom:

Not every reader has to get every thing.

He shared the opening pages from Denis Johnson‘s Tree of Smoke with us as an example of writing that allows the story to unfold without tree of smokeprejudice or narrator comment. The opening line is “Last night at 3:00am President Kennedy had been killed.” Within this passage, as the young soldier stalks through the jungle, there is a 2nd assassination with the death of a monkey, but the narrator doesn’t draw attention to it. If the reader gets the parallel, great. It adds another layer, a deeper connection to the story, but the reader doesn’t need to understand this connection to follow the plot.

De la Peña does the same with his own writing as well. In Ball Don’t Lie, a story about a foster kid who’s only constant in life is basketball, you don’t have to understand the game of basketball to appreciate it. In Mexican WhiteBoy, there are tons of Spanish passages that he doesn’t translate. You don’t have to know what’s being said to appreciate the story, but it enhances the experience. De la Peña says that when a kid who isn’t a big reader can translate a passage for a teacher who’s reading aloud to the class, he takes ownership of the story, which is what you want.

When reading a book, you are doing half the work; you take ownership of it. You picture the action in your mind.

 I love that.

When de la Peña returned to the discussion of how we as writers can show patience in our work, he talked about his experience in his MFA program. At one point, he was trying to show off, be a real stylist by throwing everything he’d learned into his current writing project. His advisor told him the story was suffering because of it. She told him to slow the f*ck down.

Just slow down.

She was so right.

This advice has followed him throughout his career.

Sometimes the slow build is the best build.

 When something big is about to happen in your story, slow that moment down. Car crashes, gun shots, even break ups can take seconds. You can slow it down in a book with many different strategies. Do you go with hypersensitivity? Backstory? Try different ways and see what works.

Sit there with the audience in the palm of your hand and make them suffer.

 Ooh hoo hoo! Gives you chills doesn’t it? I’ve heard of hurting your characters, of torturing them until it hurts, but your reader? I’d never thought of their suffering while I write, have you?

But he does make an excellent point. Some of my favorite books have those delicious scenes that have kept me on that edge, prolonging the moment. It’s almost an agony, suffering the pain of the moment along with the character, but I find myself rereading these passages again and again, soaking up every bit, until I’m satisfied enough to move on.

If you are lucky enough to live in the Tulsa area, come see this dynamic author for yourself. Matt will be speaking on September 24th at the Martin Regional Library.

Learn more about Matt de la Peña here.

Follow Matt on Twitter here.

Follow Matt on Facebook here.

scbwi2013I love being a part of the SCBWI tribe.

And not just because I get to run away every summer and play with my fellow writers in a celebration of children’s books. I don’t think I could make it through this grueling struggle towards publication without such a crazy-supportive community.

As Lin Oliver stated in her opening address of the SCBWI Summer conference, “Let’s admit that we’re all kind of weirdos”. That’s probably why I feel so at home when I’m there; the place is chock full of kindred spirits.

I always enjoy the parade of the faculty that follows her opening speech. This is when each speaker marches across the stage, introduces themselves and sums up life, the universe, and everything in one word. (Strangely, I have never heard someone use the word forty-two.) As usual, not all writers follow the rules.

Here are some of my favorites from this year:

David Weisner  “Plastics”

Richard Peck  “Surveillance”

Jay Asher  “Subtlety”

Then Jay spoke for his writing partner who couldn’t attend the faculty parade: (in high-pitched voice)”Hi, I’m Carolyn Mackler and my word is Asparagus”.

Matt de la Peña “Honesty” and “Tequila” (I think the tequila helps with the honesty.)

Kristin Clark Venuti “Brain fart”

Ari Lewin “Bacon”

Laurie Halse Anderson made up a word, “Frenergy” which she described as frenzy and energy.

After wracking her brain all night trying to think of a word, Alyn Johnston was inspired by the talking elevator in the hotel : “L-lobby!” (Did I mention that the elevator has a very laid back Californian accent?)

LiveImage.ashxAfter several other inspiring words, the conference got rolling with a great keynote from Laurie Halse Anderson that just made me love her forever. (Okay, I was already a fan of her work, but now it’s permanently carved into my heart: me + LHA = reader love forever and ever.)

I’ve felt an emotional disconnect with my writing lately. It’s all tied up in agent-submission fatigue and self-doubt. Anderson shot straight to the heart of that when she discussed her early writing struggles. At one point she said:

“Your fear is that you are a fraud with no talent.”

I wondered how she could see into my soul from eight rows back. I almost cried. She told us that there was a reason that we could hear dialogue and see in pictures. We have the gift of magic, of ‘Once upon a Time’.

“Books are proof humans can do magic.”

Amen! and Hell, yeah! I almost screamed out. She said that we are NOT like the other grownups; that we defend, protect, and celebrate childhood. We write books with integrity and honesty. In short, she said all of the things that recharged my writer’s heart and reminded me why I loved writing. She reminded me to forget about trends and to write what I love. It was the best way for me to start the conference – letting go of the negative crap and embracing the creative. Throughout the conference, this was the focus for me. I didn’t care this time about how to best market myself or which agents to pursue or what editors were wanting; I looked for things that inspired me.

I spent some quality time with my writing friends and sampled the local cuisine.

Me and most of the Oklahoma gang

Me and most of the Oklahoma gang

Eating at Toscanova with the whole gang.

Eating at Toscanova with the whole gang.

Bavette Alle Capesante (OMG! so good!)

Bavette Alle Capesante (OMG! so good!)

I checked out the art of a billion illustrators – not an original idea.

I think I see Jerry's bald head somewhere in the back.

I think I see Jerry’s bald head somewhere in the back.

I may have even donned a costume and danced a bit.

The Great Catsby and the girls.

The Great Catsby and the girls.

The Movie Mogul and Who is that fabulously feathered masked woman?

Jerry, The Movie Mogul and Who is that fabulously feathered masked woman?

I met some authors and took some awkward photos – they were all so generous with their time and kind words.

Laurie Halse Anderson at least knows how to keep her eyes open...

Laurie Halse Anderson at least knows how to keep her eyes open…

Joking around with Mac Barnett

Joking around with Mac Barnett

Me and Matt de la Pena. The flash went off and I froze like a deer waiting to be shot.

Me and Matt de la Peña. The flash went off and I froze like a deer waiting to be shot.

I may have gone overboard with the books.

too many books

(My bag weighed in at 49.5 lbs at the airport – score!)

I’ll be sharing posts in the weeks ahead about some great talks that helped me find the inspiration that made me excited about writing again. I hope you enjoy them.

As for my writing goals this month, I’ve toned them down a bit. Last month was a little crazy (which may have contributed to my negative state of mind).

Here are my #writemotivation goals for August:

1. Enjoy the SCBWI Summer Conference. DONE!!!
2. Revise, revise, revise. I have tons of critique notes from crit camp to review – not to mention my critique from the conference. I will be very busy with this.
3. Write, write, write. DITTO.
4. Read, read, read. I’ve indulged in this goal for the past few weeks and have read over six books already. More on that to come!
5. Keep that exercise routine going. Blech. Yes, I’m working on it. Stop nagging me. I’m just back from vacation, er, a business trip, whatever.

I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable summer and are rejuvenated from your various adventures. I know I am. Here’s to a productive and inspired fall!

Doing a favor for loved ones rarely puts one’s life in danger, but then it also rarely involves psychotic chickens.

Last week, the kids and I set off on a four hour road trip to house-sit for my folks deep in the Ozarks of rural Missouri and to experience what my dad kept calling an adventure (my first clue something would go terribly wrong).

I was greeted with a four page manifesto of chores – the bare minimum necessary to keep the place running smoothly. That’s okay, I thought, I wrote my folks something similar once when the hubs and I went on vacation many, many moons ago – a survival guide for babysitting the younglings, more than double the length of their instructions.

It’s all in the details.

I admit, I may have glazed over some of the details in that first reading due to road fatigue and children demands – What’s to eat? How do I work the TV? Why are there so many bugs here?

One of the details mentioned something about a rift in the chicken world with one particularly spiky chicken nicknamed “The Bitch” who had to be quarantined away from the younger chickens throughout the day so she didn’t terrorize them and peck them unmercifully. Good thing I didn’t have to start worrying about that just yet.

We started the next day with a brief introduction to the psychotic chickens. Entering the pen and throwing scratch on the ground. Don’t ask me what scratch is, I don’t know. I just measured it out of the bucket labeled “scratch” like the directions said and spread it around like I was told. I am not a country girl – as you may have guessed by now. The two oldest chickens met us near the gate to the pens, clucking in what sounded like a friendly manner. They went after that scratch the minute it hit the straw-covered ground. That gave us time to observe them and check out their surroundings – and most important of all, look for eggs. My folks had been gone a good twenty-four hours by then so we found a good haul. We made our slow departure, eggs in hand. I left the chicken compound thinking, hmm, maybe this chicken thing would be easy.

Ha.

After that excitement, the daughter who has developed an extreme phobia to all flying insects, decided to stay inside while the boy and I enjoyed a beautiful walk along the countryside. I did remember the one detail in the instructions about bug spray; if you’re going to spend any amount of time outdoors, spray, spray, spray. Or you’ll get nasty chigger bites. Spray we did, then off we went to enjoy nature.

Trevor Walk

Trevor walking up ahead.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers in the morning sun.

Uphill Walk

If only I hadn’t forgotten how steep and rocky the hills were on the return trip. Who needs an elliptical or treadmill? This hill was set to extreme cardio level 10!

By the time we’d walked a little over a mile, I was breathing so hard it hurt my chest and my calves were singing in pain. I thought I was going to die. And I hadn’t even begun the daily chores. Nice. When we climbed the final steep hill back up to the house, my son decided he’d had enough. Time to take a shower and call it a day. I tucked him in to his favorite spot with his favorite things and started a movie. He was back asleep before I went out the door. I envied him.

It wasn’t so much that the tasks were difficult – mostly there was a lot of watering garden areas and moving hoses around, carting water buckets to flowerbeds, that kind of thing. What killed me was climbing up and down to those rocky hills about thirty times to get it all done. I was a sweating, drooling, zombie-shuffling corpse (complete with incomprehensible moaning) by the end of the day.

And I haven’t even mentioned dealing with the chickens.

The instructions said around noon I’d have to corner The Bitch and pick her up – I was told not to worry because she was used to being picked up and this should be fairly easy to do (another warning sign that things would go terribly wrong). Once I had a firm hold of her I would then need to let the younger chickens out of the coop into the open area of the pen. After they were all out in the yard, I would gently secure The Bitch in the coop and lock her in for the remainder of the day after making sure there was plenty of food and water inside.

Right.

Let me just tell you that is not what happened on the first day. Or the second. Or the third. Not even on the fourth.

I brought my daughter along to help me corner said spiky/bitchy chicken.  After a few minutes, it was clear she wouldn’t be fairly easy to pick up no matter how “used to it” she was. All of our chasing did manage to direct her into the small dog crate in the chicken yard  – also used for chicken separation. Sweating and panting, we made sure she had food and water and locked her into solitary.

I was exhausted. And my chores were only half-done at this point.

For the rest of the day, there was just more water hauling, kid-wrangling, body-aching to contend with. The younger chickens actually put themselves to roost in the coop that night so locking them back in and releasing The Bitch, as we now affectionately referred to her, into the main pen was much easier than our noontime adventure. The only other notable event came when we were wrapping up our final evening chores. We had to bring in the leftover cat food for the outside cats so it wouldn’t attract raccoons. A little after dusk, I had my daughter shine the flashlight along the walkway while I retrieved the food. (Have I mentioned she’s also an arachnophobe?)

At the first sight of this…

Daddy Long Legs courtesy of Benny Mazur via Flickr

Daddy Long Legs courtesy of Benny Mazur via Flickr

…she screamed and the light went out.

I froze and asked her what happened.

  “Spider!” she yelled and pointed at the harmless loping thing as it made its way across the deck.

 “Turn the light back on,” I said. She did and then promptly screamed again.

“Eek!”

There was another one, a little closer, but still just as harmless, moseying along. At this point, my light source companion bailed on me, not waiting to see what other horrors lurked in the darkness. She high-tailed it back into the house.

I sighed and wondered if she’d ever get over her irrational fear of all things creepy and crawly. There was just enough light that I could still make out fuzzy outlines of most things so I just soldiered on. I was almost at my destination; the end of the deck. I grabbed the food dish and then screamed even louder than my daughter. Inside the dish, coming towards my hand, was the largest daddy long legs I’d ever seen (trauma of the situation may have warped my recollection of events and size of said arachnid). I dropped the food dish with a mighty clatter and spilled out all of the remaining cat food. The raccoons fed well that night, I must tell you.

I bolted into the house even faster than my youngling and slammed the door. I couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation and the entire day. My daughter, once learning what I’d done, joined in laughing at me. This, of course woke up my son who just looked at the two of us like we were insane. At that moment, I’m pretty sure I was.

Day two was pretty much a repeat of day one, with the added bonus of pain. Copious amounts of pain from all the work I’d done the day before. I knew I wasn’t in great shape, but it wasn’t very nice of the Ozark Hills to advertise this fact so maliciously. Also, the chickens were much less cooperative.

Yeah.

Less.

The Bitch didn’t fall for the old, let’s go into the dog crate routine so easily this time. Instead, she hid underneath the back roosting nest after leading us on quite the aerobic chase around the pen. I finally had to go get a long stick to prod her (gently) to come out. Her response was to run around the back side of the coop where only a slimmer, younger chick could fit. Let’s just say she got herself stuck in an embarrassing position – literally stuck between the coop and the fencing.

WTF?

That wasn’t in the manual.

I pulled the fencing out as far as I could to make it wider for her and she still remained stuck, flapping her little wings and running her legs in mid-air, like a chicken with her head cut…er,I mean, to no avail. I gave her a loving, gentle prodding with the stick (I swear, it was loving and gentle) and she finally came out. Still, it took another ten minutes to get That Bitch in the damned dog crate.  Another day in the hole.

That night, way past their bed time, the younger chicks decided to test the new babysitters. They weren’t ready to go quietly into the coop. I reread the instructions and it said we were supposed to chase them in to the coop – and that they were used to this. (HA! And again I say, HA!) As this was night time, and I thought this was a quick chore, like it had been the night before, I did the unthinkable – I forgot to spray, spray spray before going out to do this simple task. It took at least fifteen minutes to corral all of those damned psychotic chickens into their coop. And don’t think I wasn’t a little bit tempted at my weakest moment to bring out The Bitch to finish the job and chase them into the coop for me.

The other chores went a little smoother, although I did drop the cat food dish, again – less to spill this time. I think it was just a little PTSD from the night before. Or maybe from my entire experience thus far.

One nice thing about this day…

Fireworks 2

…It ended with a bang!

Fireworks 1

And we only set one little small fire that was put out in a second. No problem.

(Did I mention that I woke up with the worst chigger bites all over my arms and legs?) Apparently, toothpaste works wonders for the itch when nothing else does, also you smell minty fresh. I thank my daughter for that home remedy she learned while watching some science program. You rock, even though you abandoned me in the dark. All is forgiven.

So what if the nice, relaxing country vacation where I could hang out with the kids and get some writing done didn’t happen exactly the way I thought it would. We eventually got into a better rhythm with the homestead and all of its creatures, even the psychotic chickens. By the fourth day, I woke up and didn’t feel crippling pain, just good, honest muscle ache – that I could work with. We all three had our stations in the chicken coop when it came time to put The Bitch in solitary and she went in with much less stress for all involved and in record time.

There were some really good moments, too. We made time to visit our favorite eating establishment there in Gainesville, Missouri. Antler Package & Pizza, otherwise referred to as The Antler, where they do indeed decorate with antlers and the heads that came with them.

Taking a break for dinner at our favorite Missouri hangout - Antlers.

Taking a break for dinner at our favorite Missouri hangout – The Antler.

Regardless of the décor, the food is to die for. Trevor devours the famous cheese pizza and my husband swears they have some of the best burgers around.

On the final day, once the sore muscles faded and the itching stopped, the chores were done, and there was time to just be, I had time to absorb my surroundings and this is where I was…

Trees at Sunset

and here…

Sunset Deck View 1 Sunset Deck View 2

and I did find some inspiration. So in the end, even the psychotic chickens were worth it.

photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. httpwww.flickr.comphotossahlgoodeI had so much fun mentoring my fellow writers and seeing the immediate progress my little group made after just one day of revisions. I also thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with my writers friends and staying up way too late to get to know some of them better.

I ended the weekend by attending a party for my lovely writing friend, Gwendolyn Hooks who just received a fantastic book deal on a much-anticipated project. We’re all so excited about this book that we felt like it was our success as well as Gwen’s. I couldn’t be happier for her. I didn’t even mind being “volunteered to participate in an original skit written and narrated by Anna Myers (who somehow got out of wearing any kind of ridiculous and embarrassing costume – the rest of us weren’t so lucky!)

 

 

Karen Grencik played by Jerry Pati played by Helen

 

The not-so-lucky ones – some of my fellow cast members

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I felt so inspired after such a beautiful weekend that I’ve worked my ass off this week. I’m so excited about the trajectory I’m on right now. Friends and unconditional support can sometimes make all the difference. Thank you to everyone who has inspired me this month! You all rock.

book pornI also returned home to find this lovely literary pile of gifts waiting for me, including two books signed by Maureen McGowan. I’m looking forward to reading the first two books of her Dust Chronicles series. All of this swag, including the Dan Krall book I received earlier in the month, was the result of entering contests on fellow writer blogs. It does pay to engage! This collection is an awesome way to add to my TBR pile! I don’t know which one I want to read first…decisions, decisions, decisions!

Here are my #writemotivation goals for June:

1. Submit Museum Crashers (MG mystery) to editor who requested the full. Tons of progress made. Should be sending out by the end of the month. Tentatively marking as DONE because of all the progress made.

2. Submit Institutionalized (YA contemporary) to five more literary agents. DONE! I actually submitted to six agents. Two were rejected. Four are still out. (Five counting the full requested and submitted to an agent four months ago.) Waiting, waiting, waiting. Blech! Not my favorite.

3. Work on first draft of Pretty Vacant (YA contemporary). No progress on this one. I’m going to use this as my Camp Nano project for July. I will get a rough draft of this completed by the end of the summer! I will. I WILL!!!

4. Read at least five books – review one on the blog. I will finish Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk before the end invisible-monsters-us-trade-3of the month and I discussed Tara Hudson’s Hereafter in my last blog post, so I’m marking this one as DONE! 

5. Work on outlining new blog project idea. DONE! More exciting ideas are coming next month.

6. Exercise 3 times each week. DONE! I’ll be increasing this for next month. :/

7. Finish critique of friend’s manuscript. Finally started this! Will have to move over to July’s goals to complete – hopefully by my friend’s birthday.

I hope you all took a velociraptor-sized bite out of your writing projects this month. Don’t forget to sign up for next month! Visit KT Hanna’s site here to join us for #writemotivation in July.

Sometimes when I’m reading or listening to a news story or looking at a piece of art, I get this overwhelming feeling of inspiration that I can hardly contain and I must drop whatever I’m doing to start writing. I thought sharing some of these moments of inspiration might be a fun element to add to my stable of blog posts, so here’s the first one.

Caroline Shaw recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her piece Partita for 8 Voices.  At 30 years old, she is the youngest composer to win since the inception of the award. She is also one of only a handful of female composers to win this honor. Shaw wrote this piece for the vocal group partita-for-8-voices---shawRoomful of Teeth, “a vocal octet dedicated to re-imagining singing in the 21st century.” (Description from group’s website.) Shaw is also a member of the group.

Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing 305

Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing 305 – Inspiration for Shaw’s piece

What I found most intriguing about this interview on NPR was how modern and avant garde her composition was and that she was inspired by a piece of artwork by Sol LeWitt entitled Wall Drawing 305. I love it when one form of artistic expression inspires another. It happens to me all the time.

This particular art piece is one of a series “in which LeWitt experimented with textual instructions that direct the draftsman to construct shapes on the wall. Called ‘location’ drawings, these works are done in black pencil with geometric figures emphasized in crayon, foregrounding the process of drawing as a problem-solving mechanism.” (excerpt from Mass Mo Ca website).

As to how it inspired Shaw, there’s one moment in her music piece  where the lush harmonies give way to a cacophony of vocal noise, like several people talking at once.

“It’s funny, my first thought was, ‘Wow, that’s what the Internet sounds like!’ When you open your computer and everyone’s talking at you suddenly,” Shaw says. “But I was really wanting to hear the sound of jumbled talking, where you can’t understand what’s going on — and then, suddenly, one beautiful, simple chord.”  (excerpt from A Moment With Pulitzer-Winning Composer Caroline Shaw.)

After hearing the interview and this description of what it sounded like, I had to hear it. I found it surprisingly beautiful and haunting. The spoken voice part blended in so well with the whole composition. Click on this link to hear Partita for 8 Voices for yourself.

So that’s my first “Inspiring Stories” post. Be sure to let me know what you think and feel free to share any inspirations you’ve had.

photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. httpwww.flickr.comphotossahlgoodeI had a slow week last week, but here in the home stretch I’m making up for it. I had to prepare a submission for the SCBWI LA conference at the last minute since their deadline moved up this year to the end of May and I just paid for the conference about a week ago. Nothing like an impending deadline to get all fired up and work like mad. My submission made it just in time. Woohoo!

The recovery effort in Oklahoma is still ongoing. For those of you who are interested, you can still participate in Kate Messner’s  KidLitCares for Oklahoma giveaway. It’s open until June 7th. Great cause, great giveaway, so check it out. There’s also a way you can help replenish the classroom libraries of the two schools that were destroyed in the tornado by visiting the Moore Books for Moore Kids Facebook page and making a donation.

On to my goal progress:

1. Complete latest draft of Museum Crashers (MG mystery) and prepare for submission. More progress made, but still short of the finish. I’ll have to really push hard to reach the end soon. I’m still happy with the progress I’ve made. I will definitely be sending this out next month.
2. Research more literary agents for submission of Institutionalized (YA contemporary) and send out to five of them. I have the short list. I will work on the personalized queries over the next few days and start sending them out.
3. Make some progress on first draft of Pretty Vacant (YA contemporary). Develop main character fully and decide which way story arc will go. More research and more reading done. I really have a good feel for the main character now. I’m excited about starting this project.
4. Exercise 3 times each week. Exercise has been going well. Still on the lighter side. My daughter and I are going to ramp it up next month by joining a gym and being each others work out buddies.

I hope you’re all doing well with your goals. Let’s meet up again in June for the next #writemotivation month! Sign up now!

Motivational quote for the day:

“A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”

- Frank Capra

This week has been emotionally taxing for most of us who live in Oklahoma. Luckily for me and my family, the devastating storms on Monday died down outside of Tulsa and left us with heavy rains and scary winds. That, we could live through.

Still, we felt the loss. We all stopped our lives for a moment of silence and embraced our loved ones a little harder. We touched base with friends to make sure they were okay, reached out to those who were not okay and offered our support. We have several members of our SCBWI family in the Oklahoma City area, some who live right there in Moore. Although all made it through the storm, some have damaged houses and know people who were lost.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I ventured out in public. We were running out of everything and I couldn’t remain frozen inside afraid of watching the news coverage. Too many dead children. Too many sad stories. And yet everywhere I went, the conversations were all about the storm and people ready and willing to help. There were donation stations everywhere and volunteer sign ups, neighbors checking up on neighbors. That’s just what we do. I guess it’s the same all over.

We all feel so useless when something tragic happens. What else can we do but give bottled water, diapers, food, clothing, a shoulder to lean on? Help with picking up the pieces, clearing away the debris of  lives scattered for miles. Next to this, money seems like such an innocuous thing to give to someone who’s lost everything, although I’m sure it helps. We all wish we could do more.

Life does return to normal faster for those of us not directly affected by tragedies, and I suppose it’s okay that it does. It doesn’t mean that we don’t care. It’s okay to laugh, to have fun, to live. Bad things will never stop happening.

My moment of normal happened while I was out running my errands. I popped into my local bakery to replenish our supply of sesame bagels and maybe snag a caffeinated beverage for myself. (I have a rewards card and my next one was free. We eat a LOT of bagels at my house.) I waited on the friendly barista to prepare my caffé mocha, and I noticed these lovely signs all around the restaurant with quotes from writers on them.

Dickinson TeaAlcott CoffeeWhitman Smoothie

They were delightful. (Although, I wasn’t quite sure how old Walt would react to being the spokesperson for a reduced calorie smoothie). I was immediately inspired; I wanted to sit down in a booth and start writing.  After all, writers and cafés seem to just go together. Where else can you write for hours on end, uninterrupted, surrounded by the the wonderful smell of coffee and the gentle hum of humanity? Those banners also reminded me that I should  get back to work very soon. I hadn’t written a word since the storm. No more. Time to create!

I hope all of you have had a safe week. The skies are overcast, today. More rain. More storms. Brace yourselves; hug those loved ones, even if they squirm a bit.

And if you have been looking for ways to help out the victims of the May 19th tornado, here are a few options you might want to consider:

Kate Messner is hosting a KidLitCares for Oklahoma giveaway . There is a huge list of books to be given away and the list is still growing. Check out her site for details. All you have to do to qualify is donate at least $10 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Forward your donation receipt e-mail from the Red Cross to kidlitcares@gmail.com and Kate will enter you into the contest. She will enter you in the contest once for every $10 you give. Enter by June 7th to qualify.

Fellow writer, Rebecca Weston, is offering a similar deal in exchange for a donation to a list of acceptable charities helping out with tornado relief efforts. Instead of books, she’s giving away query/first page critiques. Becca will be joined by a panel of writers who will help her field the critiques. All you have to do is e-mail her a copy of your donation receipt before Saturday and then you’ll get your first 250 words critiqued by a fabulous writer with critiquing experience for free! Everyone who donates will get a critique. Deadline is May 25th!