Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Holidays

Lately all I've been doing is revising. Since last January, I really haven't written anything new - except that my revisions are getting more and more complete. By this I mean, I fiind that I'm less devoted to my earlier versions than I used to be and I'm more willing to start over.

This is the hardest part of writing. Sometimes I feel like I'm stuck and getting nowhere. It was so energizing to have Alyssa tell me last June that my novel was ready to go out. Now we are working on the next novel and it's revision, revision.

Having ideas is such fun, isn't it? Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and have the greatest ideas. I keep them all - but they are waiting, stacked up like planes over O'Hare. I never have enough time to follow up, not enough time to do everything I want. Including this blog!

So what have you read lately? I just finished a very sweet short collection called "Toys Go Out". Small and quiet, I wouldn't have found the book except that Alyssa recommended it for its internal dialogue. She was right. I read it in about 2 hours, and if you haven't, go find it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Long time, no blog!

If you're reading this, you probably have fast internet, which I do not. Which explains, at least in part, why this blog has been dead quiet for far too long. In the past months since I last wrote anything here I've quit my teaching job and begun to write full time. This change has been dramatic - although I thought I would have all sorts of time on my hands, it's remarkable how fast time goes and how work expands to fill the available space. I'm calling this the gas law of the writer's life.

My agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin, has been remarkable. I feel like the luckiest person to have her in my writing life. In June she decided that the revisions I'd completed on Faithful had made it ready for submission, and as of this writing, we're waiting for word as to whether the book has sold (no fair peeking!) Now I'm working on a middle grade book for boys, which is proving to be challenging and rewarding and emotional (since I have a teenage son). I keep remembering things from my own tween years, which were painful at best.

If you're a teen girl who feels like you have no friends, and are the most awkward person on the planet, you know what my teen years were like. I buried myself in school work because I had nothing else. Teachers liked me, but that was about it. Glasses, braces, the whole bit. Just remember: you will grow out of this terrible time in your life! You will!

Ok, more later, promise.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

more books

Here are a few more favorite writing books:
"The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children", by Nancy Lamb. This one's a winner, even if you don't write for children. It's comprehensive, up to the minute, and offers great examples.
"What's Your Story", by Marion Dane Bauer. It's for young people, but full of common sense ideas.
"The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes" by Jack Bickham. Every writing book by Bickham is excellent; this one is a great check for issues.
I have to admit, I'm a sucker for a good writing book. I learn something every time I read a new one.
I was teaching grammar to my 9th graders today, and bemoaning the mistakes that seem to be cropping up more and more in magazines and newspapers - I like to think they're typos, but I fear that some of the copy editors in question are lax on grammar skills. Have any thoughts?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Take Two: Books for Writers

I wanted to use this blog time to talk about writing books that make a difference, and to invite readers to share their own favorites.
My top two entries are Robert McKee's "Story", and Christopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey". Now, I know that McKee is a screenplay writer/editor, but his analysis of story construct is brilliant and detailed. If you like movies (as I do), you will relate to his analysis. Probably the most important message to take from his book, though, is to remember that storytelling needs to be compelling. I'm beginning to think about the bond that I want to create with my audience. (I say "beginning", because I feel like I am still learning to construct a decent story). Without a story that makes a connection, my words are just pretty nothings, and this is McKee's message.
Vogler's book is a reinterpretation of Joseph Campbell's classic (if complex) "The Hero's Journey". What I like about Vogler is that he is so clear and logical. Not to say that story construction is driven by a template - not at all. But certain things come back time and again in stories and were probably present in the earliest tales told around the campfire. These things include archetypal characters, and stages of change in the protagonist.
One of the ideas present in both books is that the protagonist must go through a change that is irreversible. That is, the protagonist never leaves their story in the same shape as when they began their story.
But more about that and some other favorite books later - and please, add your own thoughts and books to this page.

Friday, March 23, 2007

ramping up...

Hi, and welcome to my blog. My hope is to carry on lively and informative discussions about writing and publishing for children. I particularly welcome participation from kids.
I've been writing all my life, and in the past 6 years have been writing for children. My first publications were in magazines (Spider, Highlights for Children), and last year my first book was published by Free Spirit, a wonderful small house that specializes in self-help for kids and the adults in their lives.
Last fall the first chapter of my historical young adult novel was critiqued by Alyssa Eisner Henkin, who was then an editor at Simon and Schuster. She liked what she saw, and when she became an agent at Trident Media Group in December, requested the rest of the manuscript. In January, she signed me as a client.
Needless to say, I feel the thrill of starting a new phase of my career as a writer. Alyssa and I are working on several projects now, and I'll talk about the ups and downs of the process in these pages.
For now, I'll just say that success in the writing business is a combination of luck, desire to learn, and persistence. And joy - writing is all about the joy of creating characters and stories that touch people.
See you soon!