Monday, June 30, 2008

Writing process

I'm always intrigued when writers talk about their "process" - because, to be honest, I'm not really sure what the heck that means - particularly when it relates to my own writing.

But I think this comes under the heading of "process":

Every time I finish a book, I ALWAYS have a feeling of panic.

My thoughts = I will never have another idea for a book.


But then some miracle occurs....

.... and another book happens.

But I've just wrapped up The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis (due Fall 09) and...

I've been thinking: I will never have another idea for a book...


Nothing is happening.



So here's where process comes in - for me, a book starts first with a really really really really really hazy thought/image/character/phrase/place....whatever. [Note: Notice I didn't include PLOT, Sarah?]

That really really really really really hazy thought/image/character/phrase/place percolates for a while.

And eventually.... grows - and becomes less hazy until....

It becomes clear and I'm off and writing - and that really really really really really hazy thought/image/character/phrase/place turns into a book.

Sometimes this hazy part of the "process" is fun.

But sometimes it's not fun.....

Like this time - because it's taking longer than usual to become clear.

What if I never have another idea?

What if I'm never able to write another book?

Maybe I better go check out the Want Ads.....

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

Author Wally Lamb says:

In writing, as in life, voice is crucial. Your voice has been honed by your family, your ethnic heritage, your neighborhood, and your education. It is the music of what you mean in the world.

Imitate no one.

Your uniqueness - your authenticity - is your strength.

Can I hear an AMEN, BROTHER?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Just being honest

From a student's biography of his grandmother:

Soon she was teaching the second grade. She did a great job teaching even though she has a very short temper.

I love kids......

Saturday, June 21, 2008

State awards

For all you authors and illustrators out there:

I used to sing the praises of Tandem Library to learn about any state award nominations your book has picked up.

But I've now I'm singing the praises of Perma-Bound. It's more current. (They even post "State Award Lists Just Announced" right on their home page.

While I was there, I discovered a few more state lists for How to Steal a Dog, bringing the latest list to:

Rhode Island
North Carolina
South Carolina

Friday, June 20, 2008

Another omen

You know how I told you I'm a believer in omens?

Well, here's another one.....

One of my summer goals was to be a substitute driver for Meals on Wheels.

So I talked to the lady at the Council on Aging and she took all my info. Then she said she was all set for drivers for a while, but they could use a volunteer for their Friendly Visitor Program.

That's a program where they assign you to an elderly person who has requested a Friendly Visitor and then you, well, VISIT them.

She told me she had one lady who had just requested a visitor.

Her name is DOROTHY!

If you've read Greetings from Nowhere, then you know that the name Dorothy is significant.

That's a sign - I was meant to visit Dorothy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mission accomplished

Summer has barely kicked in an I've almost accomplished all of my goals.

Pretty impressive, huh?

I've taken my first African drumming class.

I've contacted Meals on Wheels (more on that later).

I've spent 238 hours on my screened porch - even with the Attack of the Pollen.

I've updated two school visit brochures and created a general author brochure. That book on the table is Creating Pages with i-Work. (And Jennifer, that tablecloth reminds me of you.)

And I've remembered how lucky I am (every day).

Now I need new goals.

Or should I just sit back and relax?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The real world

I finally got to meet Dr. Dorothy Bowen in real life.

Dorothy teaches children's literature at Eastern Kentucky University.

She's invited me to participate in an online chat with her students for several years now. It's great to chat with teachers (Dorothy's students) and hear about their classroom experiences and how they use my books with their students.

I felt like I knew Dorothy, even though we had never met.

But last week she came to Boston for a conference.

We had a great time chatting about children's literature, as well as her fascinating life as a missionary in Africa for many (30 something) years.

Now when I chat with Dorothy online, I will be able to see her face and hear her voice.

It's so much better having a friend in the real world than just in the cyberworld.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Beat it!

You know how there are some things that you've "always wanted to do"?

And you really have no good reason why you haven't done them?

Well, I've finally done it!

African drum lessons, baby!

Djembe drums, to be exact.

My teacher, Mohamed (right) and an unknown person:

My new drum:

Phoebe is very suspicious of this new animal:

This is a recording of me practicing yesterday.

Well, okay...that was someone similar to me practicing yesterday.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thank you

Thank you, Lord, for sending rain
To wash away the pollen

...and to water my garden, especially the scavolea that needs watering constantly but I bought it anyway so what was I thinking?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Love this writing

I loved this piece by my Smoky Mountain Soul Sister, Kerry Madden.

My two favorite parts:

They led a back-deck life of wine and jazz and never went anywhere except to visit troubled adult children "in the desert."


If something needed fixing, Connie would appear in her wig and muumuu and sad story about the price of things.

Pollen Part 2

How bad is this pollen, you ask?

So bad, Phoebe has Pollen Nose:

So bad, I have resorted to hanging bed sheets on the screened porch!
A nice look, isn't it?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I've always been lousy at sports.

The last one picked for the team.

For good reason.

I'm even lousy at Wii Fit.

There's this soccer game where you're supposed to head butt the balls that are being kicked at you.

I miss....

...a lot.

And THEN, they start kicking SHOES at you!

Soccer shoes with cleats.

You're supposed to duck.


It hits me in the face every time.

And it makes this big thwack noise.

Notice the score. (Yes, that would be 7 balls hit out of 67 kicked at me.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

Today's advice from Stephen King again. (Hey, the guy does know a little about writing).

Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story.

Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot.

It's not just a question of how-to, you see; it's also a question of how much to.

Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how.

You can learn only by doing.

Description begins with visualization of what it is you want the reader to experience. It ends with your translating what you see in your mind into words on the page.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer goals meme

I've been tagged by teacher extraordinaire Megan Germano for the Summer Goals Meme -

  • Take African drumming lessons
  • Sign up to be a Meals on Wheels substitute driver
  • Spend as much time as possible on my screened porch
  • Update all my brochures and create some new promotional materials
  • Remember how lucky I am


I made a Yoohoo boat, too!

And I sent one to my editor and one to my agent.

Friday, June 6, 2008

So what do ya think?

Is it time for new slippers?

I'm totally bummed. As you see, I love these slippers. I wear them constantly and have had them for a bajillion years. But that big tear on the right one is causing them to be too big, so it's getting harder to walk comfortably in them. Sniff.....

They are L.L. Bean Wicked Good Clogs.

They are Wicked Good.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

Today I turn once again to the master himself: Stephen King (From On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft):

I think locale and texture are much more important to the reader's sense of actually being in the story than any physical description of the players. Nor do I think that physical description should be a shortcut to character. So spare me, if you please, the hero's sharply intelligent blue eyes and outthrust determined chin; likewise the heroine's arrogant cheekbones. This sort of thing is bad technique and lazy writing, the equivalent of all those tiresome adverbs.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bashing, swooping and all that stuff

Pretend like I wrote this*:

I revise just about every time I write, writing and revision are completely intertwined for me. Usually before I write on, I read over what I wrote the day before, sometimes starting all the way at the beginning. With each rereading, I make tiny changes, over and over again...I love language, to fiddle with words, to play with cadence and sentence structure. It's like layering paint, for me, or molding clay - very tactile, very satisfying. More challenging for me is the kind of global, architectural revision that comes toward the end of a draft, where sometimes you have to take away a whole section or radically rethink the way a book is built. For this kind of revision, I rely on readers - writer friends, my editor, etc. - who can help me see the project from a distance and take the long view.

This is SO me...

...and also reminds me of Sarah Miller's post about bashers and swoopers.

*It was actually written by author Elizabeth Graver and quoted from Off the Page.