Thursday, October 31, 2013

Autumn Comfort

The crisp air, the dry leaves crackling underfoot, the smell of wood smoke and tilled earth—one last time before the frost, these speak of autumn. But it also means the air is getting chilly and my tropical, green, chilled smoothies just don't do it for me.

Last year I started experimenting with warming up the (almond-coconut) milk I put in my smoothies, then whizzing it in the blender. This year, I'm going all in with dumping the green or orange slurry right into a saucepan and warming it up. This is what I call a warmie...and I like it thick, almost like pudding.



Into my smoothie I add (in inexact amounts depending what I have on hand or need to use up) goes:

Oats
Chia seeds
Flax seeds
Spinach
Cucumber
Unsweetened coconut-almond milk
(Sometimes) Unsweetened Soy Yogurt (Does anyone know if unsweetened coconut yogurt exists? *Desperate*)
(Sometimes) Almond butter or other nuts
Banana
Fruit du jour: apples, pear, pumpkin (though I suppose this is veggie...) 

A few dashes (okay, alot) of cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice. 

Blitz it in the blender, then pour into a saucepan and warm through. Then, I put it in my giant mug and indulge in the creamy flavors of autumn. Warms my belly and my hands ;) And a favorite book is the perfect companion. See my Goodreads sidebar to find out what's on my shelf. Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Show and Tell


Everything I know about showing and not telling I learned from author, artist, and race-car driver, Maggie Stiefvater. (That's right, THE Jane-of-all-trades.) Incidentally, I also had the pleasure of attending a live event to promote her recent release, Dream Thieves. She was engaging, funny, and as great a story teller in person as she is on the page. Okay, that's not entirely true, I didn't learn EVERYTHING from  her, but a lot. (And she is AWESOME—she's got that vibe down in spades.) There were a few other instructors, articles, and people along the way, but with Maggie's work I keenly became aware of how a writer allows a reader to experience the action and scenes of a story.

To date, the instruction, "Show don't tell" has been the devil my most difficult writing challenge. I've repeatedly received the critiques:

 SHOW DON'T TELL (in caps because I saw it so frequently it was like being shouted at)
 Describe this...
 I want to see/feel/smell/taste what you mean!
xx Ad nauseum xx

So I delved deep into the search on Google. What does this vague directive mean? Do I care? (Asks the nonconformist/rebel in me.) What does showing not telling look like/feel like/smell like/taste like? Why can't I wrap my head around it? Should I forget about writing? Am I failure? Down the rabbit hole I went.

However, as I started saying above, I got my newly released copy of Dream Thieves and with the study of show don't tell in the forefront of my mind, I started, to, get, it. Understanding slowly unfolded in a turn of phrase here, a sentence there, and it turned into a paragraph until I was smacking my lips and eating it up. Maggie deliciously strings words together like glistening beads of honey (that I can taste, feel, can you hear honey?) and it just clicked (finally!) I'm by no means a show don't tell expert, but the concept finally crystalized.

If  you wandered here hoping for some examples of what this show-don't-tell hullabaloo means- you're in luck. Although there are countless blogs and writing websites out there with far better examples, I'll toss a few of my revised sentences from my work in progress.

Tell: My father didn’t appreciate the household makeover. 

Show: He sent me a photo of the apartment in Brooklyn restored to its drab state. I expected a copy of the credit card statement highlighted in red pen, but maybe it didn't come in the mail yet.


                                ***

Tell: I'm still wet from my shower. 


Show: My wet hair slaps my back and wraps around my neck as I look down the adjacent hallway. 

                                ***

Show: He freezes.


Tell: He moves robotically into the hall as if he’s afraid Cooper will disapprove of our alliance, but clearly more fearful of me.


Oh, and here's a good article about the subject from She Writes in case you want to read further sans my tangents. Another couple sound bites on the topic include:

Imagine writing from first person, (if not already doing so.) How does the character see the world? What sensory experience is that person having?

Actions speak louder than words. (Uh huh. Right-o!)

"Dramatize, do not simply state." (Not sure where that quote came from, but it's a keeper.) 


The thing I've found about SDT is it's a concept that you get from practice, from study, and less from simple rules like where commas go or writing in the passive vs. active voice. Either that or I'm just thick.

In general, always SHOW, describe, and give the passage life. However, there are times when a bit of telling is okay too, it can move things along so long as it's done in the same voice as the rest of the piece. You can hate me for saying that. But it's true. Telling can also work as a place holder while you're in drafting mode. You can go back later and create a fuller scene if you can't type fast enough to get your thoughts down. If it doesn't work or your CP tells you to show, show, show, you can always go back and tinker. The point is, don't sweat it too bad. I got my knickers in a knot obsessing over it. Then I just saw, smelled, tasted showing in action and it came together. (I think. Heh heh.) It's a work in progress, really. The more I practice they better I will become, but I've made peace with Show Don't Tell and no longer feel like punching something when I hear those three words.

Any sage SDT nuggets? Please share!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Salty Inspiration





 Chin up buttercup, my mantra when I'm feeling that low uncertainty that I'm failing, flailing, when there aren't replies to queries—either way, when I find myself questioning what I'm striving for in writing, what's the point? I lift my chin to the sun and seek reminders, support, and beg to answer, why do I write.

To share. 
To inspire. 
To role model women following their creative pursuits. 
Express my passion. 
To lose myself in a world that doesn't share the same rules as the real world. 
To connect. 
To see and experience beyond my boundaries. 
To bring light and love to the world. 
To learn. 
To grow.
For fun. 
To spread happiness.
For hope. 

And while I may not be published. I may not be read widely except a few special people who've volunteered to read my manuscripts. I may not be compensated financially for my efforts.
But in many ways I am fulfilling my own reasons for writing. And that's something. That's reason enough.

Easkey says, "Surfing teaches us to fall." And the thrill of it gets me back up and out on the water. If I translate that to writing, as long as I've sat my seat in my chair, fingers to keyboard, and have written and revised each and every time I've fallen, or at least more days in the week than not, then I am doing it.
I am a writer.
And I am living my passion.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cheerleaders for Writers aka Resources

I'm so tired of the word "resources" (mental thesaurus please come up with another term. (Tumbleweed and crickets.) So for the lack of a better term, that is essentially what this list is—resources for writers to connect with each other, agents/editors and of course more deeply with their work. I suppose I could call them online writers clubs or something more clever and creative (but some are for readers too. So...Resources it is. Grumble. Words. Grumble.) 

On the sites listed below you'll find writing resources (bang-thud. that word again), posts about craft, marketing, editing, etc. contests, critiques, agent and publisher information, interviews, reviews, cover reveals and book releases, support, and more.

Long ago in a galaxy far away I had NO IDEA what it took for a book to go from the seed of a story to the printed page. When the credits roll in movies you see hundreds of names (even if they're really teeny-tiny) listed, but when it comes to books, there are loads of people involved who often go unnamed. There are those that help during the research phase, supportive family and friends, beta readers, critique partners, old-man (woman?) time, meaningful people who help us cultivate patience and fortitude. Then there are the hard workers in the "industry," the agents, assistants, editors, the people who operate the machines to print books and drive them to book stores for goodness sakes! There's the mail delivery person and the book store employees and owners who bring those crisp pages to us...Have I made my point? And the community of writers and readers who support us online from answering stumpers like, what's the diff between who and whom, to picking us up when we don't think we can go on with translating our thoughts to words. Suffice it to say, Virginia Wolff, Tolkien, not even JK Rowling in the early days, had access to so much support. Writers don't need to, shouldn't, and when it comes down to it, can't go it alone.

Real writers and authors run and contribute to these sites and blogs. I find this makes the information more accessible and in the seams with us creative, writerly types who aspire toward print—so in some ways more authentic. If you don't have a virtual cheerleader (or several) get connected, there's something for everyone.

All the Write Notes - 15 Writers who love music and books. Interviews, Ten Questions, Playlists, Giveaways and Guest Posts. And more, of course. 

Brenda Drake - Writer, blogger, book reviewer, and giveawayer...Oh and she heads up the writing contest Pitchwars/Pitchamadness which matches writers with mentors and then they pitch. Sometimes baseballs, snowballs, or really great manuscripts. 

Critiki Lounge - "A scorpion bowl full of feedback." Visit the lounge, submit your pitch on the designated day and get some great critiques. 

Critique Circle - A members group for sharing your work, editing, and of course giving great feedback. 

Cupid's Literary Connection - An undercover cupid makes writer-agent love connections. Contests and success stories. 

Janice Hardy - Writer and blogger who will show, not tell, you how to strengthen your writing.

KidLit - Agent Mary Kole's blog helping aspiring authors with writing, revising, and publishing. 

KidLit Frenzy - Super sweet review site encompassing children's picture books to young adult.  

Kidliterati - Contests, giveaways, writing tips and support, interviews with real child readers (!) and more. 

Literary Rambles - Writer and agent interviews, giveaways, and a tome's worth of agent information (very accurate, up to date, and comprehensive.)

Literary Rejections - Another point of reference for agent info in the US and beyond, along with a boat load of support for those of us who've received, (mumble, mumble, mumble) rejections. 

Manuscript Critique Services accessible, experienced, trustworthy

MG Ninja - Middle Grade Ninja provides a great resource for information and interviews with agents, and writers, and editors, as well as reviews. 

Michelle (4 laughs.) - I just think of her as Michelle, a doll, a wonderful writer and blogger who provides agent interviews, contests, and has a great twitter presence. 

Middle Grade Minded Writers on an adventure exploring the world of middle grade with stories, tips, and encouragement.  

Miss Snark's First Victim - The anonymous Authoress hosts monthly (and then some!) writing contests with reputable agents, feedback from seasoned writers, and a wee bit of chocolate lovin' sass. She tells it likes it is, but sweetly. 

Mother.Write.Repeat - Uber promoter for both the writer and agent. She reviews, interviews, and shares some of her more personal thoughts, but all in a smart and accessible way. 

NA Alley - Everything you want to know about New Adult including books, writers, content, contests and writer's support. 

Operation Awesome - A community of writers sharing their thoughts, trials, and triumphs in the writing world. Oh and a monthly mystery agent contest. 

Project Mayhem - The Manic Minds of Middle Grade Writers includes an awesome community of middle grade writers who offer writing tips, reviews, support, helpful links, and a burst of humor. 

The Girl with the Green Pen - College age writer who loves writing, reading, and writing and reading queries. She will critique your work as well as provide other writing related services. Also, she's pretty awesome and talented. 

Writer's in the Storm - Writers sharing their thoughts and experiences on writing. And agenting. And publishing. And marketing. Super smahhhht and informative articles. Really. 

YA Highway - A collective of published writers who provide info on publishing, writing, author interviews, and more.  

YA Misfits - Similar to above, but they're misfits. 

YA Sisterhood - Home of several tournaments, reviews, writers support and more. 

YA Stands - Writing community complete with beta reader volunteers!

Yatopia - Teen Lit Heaven. 'Nuff said. 



What did I miss? I know I missed TONS. Please comment below with any sites or blogs for me to add. I will eventually compile these on their own page for quick reference. 


Thursday, October 17, 2013

DIY Chalkboard Door

"We're bored," the littles whined. 

"Not so fast, you two, I have just the thing--- a new door!"

The smiles were wiped away faster than if they had a door slammed shut in their faces. 

"No, trust me. You'll love it."

And so it began. 

In the throes of a summer heat wave I conceived a brilliant idea- paint over one of the doors that had been "decorated" when the littles were actually little with chalkboard paint. If nothing else, it would provide a surface for a glow-in-the-dark make-you-own chalk kit we received several years before. Huzzah!

How to Make your own Chalkboard Door

Remove door from hinges and then take off the hardware. I found just loosening the hinges gave me enough wiggle room to get the paint in there. 


Block it up on horses. Prime. Wait. Paint. Wait. Paint again. Wait. Yep, the chalkboard paint I got had a three day cure time. Then I flipped the whole thing over and did the other side. Needless to say, the not-so-little littles whined some more. But we found a few or three or ten things to do in the meantime. We're good like that.


Then I refit the hardware. And hung it back up. 



Last step, we prepped the now chalk-board painted door with a layer of white chalk, wiped it off, and then gave it a quick wash.  


It looked a bit more white grey, than black grey, but that has more to do with me not getting a fresh, non-chalky rag to get it sufficiently clean. 


Voila...a great surface to doodle on, play tic-tac-toe, do some quick math figuring when explaining an example from summer math workbooks, or reminding myself where the laundry room is...oh and to do said laundry. 



Any fun projects on the docket? Do share!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Writing Contests- Trick? Or Treat?

This autumn there are several writing contests on the horizon. I've participated in loads over the years and overall have had a positive experience and recommend writers participate if (a) they have the interest/the manuscript is ready and (b) have thick skin and a discerning mind.

I say have interest because for some, putting their work out there is akin to getting egged. There's a level of investment and participation that doesn't appeal and that's okay. If this is you, dear reader, and you haven't already done so, investigate this only insofar as how contests in some ways mimic writing for a real live audience (fans and critics) who will pick apart every single paragraph, word choice, and the plot itself. (And either toilet paper your house or give out the king size candy bars.) If you're anything like me, you'll read contest entries and be amazed at how many outstanding stories there are out there and temporarily feel a low similar to eating all my Halloween candy at once. The other part of a is obvious. If your material is not ready, do NOT enter. I've been guilty of this on more than one occasion. Have I mentioned I'm not patient?

As for b, buckle up. When queries, loglines, the first 250, etc are available for public critique (not just via an agent or mentor) most of the time respondents (anyone from "anonymous" to Jane Doe to Aunt Millie) are kind. Awesome. Validating. Hugs and kisses galore (except on Aunt Millie's left side, that mole makes me think she is bonafide witch.) I'm thankful not to have run across any jerks. BUT sometimes the critiquers have no idea what the heck they're talking about.

For whatever reason (I can think of a few- he, he) they'll make comments like,

"Where  is this happening." 
Uh...It says it in the first sentence. 

"How old is the MC. 
Uh. Did you read the second paragraph?"

"I really don't see where this is going." 
Uh. You've only read the first 250 words, but it does say they MC's vacation was canceled. So...

Maybe those were dumb examples. But, you get the idea. Thoughtless? Harsh? Unreasonable? Whatever the case, there is a careful balance between brushing this all off and also taking a closer look at the submitted materials. If readers don't get it on the first go- it may just be due to their lack of experience critiquing, being in a hurry, or carelessness. Don't scrap the project. It could be a case of writing farsightedness. BUT it is also an opportunity to take another look and ask ourselves if there is any more work to be done on our MS. Just sayin'. Contests that involved rounds of peer editing/comments/feedback prior to the pitches falling into the hands of agents are great for this purpose. It allows us to really focus on the all important first impression. See below for logline peer critique. Some blogs also host query crits that aren't contests, just forums for feedback.

Contests can be full of treats—offers for partials, fulls, opps to meet critique partners, a chance to shine or sharpen...But then can also be a time for tricks—lousy respondents, the realization that the work just isn't ready, or writer's low ("Woe! Why doesn't anyone get it?! I'm a failure as a writer and will never put finger to keyboard again.") Like entering a haunted house, proceed with caution, but when you make it to the other side, jump with joy!

Here are three upcoming (and awesome) contests this autumn that are worth checking out. I'm not etching it in blood, but I think these will be my last round of contests for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I'm ready to get off the roller coaster—the ups and downs of participation, at least for a while—and focus on the proverbial craft. But until then check out these amazing opportunities to get your writing out there and also a big, chocolatey, sweet thank you to the hosts for the tremendous amount of work they do behind the scenes!


Halloween YA Pitch Party hosted by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Literary Agency. She wants to see steamy and sizzling YA romance in her inbox. Find out more on her blog (which also has some great query tips btw.)

Nightmare on Query Street - hosted my Michelle, SC, and Mike. This happens on Oct. 19. Be prepared! And maybe a little afraid ;)

Trick-or-Treat with agents - hosted by Kimberly Chase and Brenda Drake - check out her shiny new website! Get your bowl of candy entries ready for Oct. 22. it's going to be a howlin' good time. 

Baker's Dozen Auction: EPIC contest in November. Involving these agents. Stay tuned for details. But hone those loglines NOW

And if that weren't enough, there's another Pitch Wars in our future. Load the marshmallow guns. This going to be complete with mentors AND agents.

If there are any more coming up, please add them in the comments below. And forgive my silly analogies.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

(i)Photos Galore

My late summer. Early autumn. In pictures. Indulge me. 



Pretty Kittyfur. She reminds me of a race car. 



My mews. Get it?


 A finished draft!


Bite marks. (Or is he my archenemy??? Or was it her???)



 Gluten Free Birthday Pizza!


Not Gluten Free Birthday Pizza


 Peanut Butter Banana Cupcakes Elvis would love. They smelled delicious!


Gluten Free Gnocchi


Couldn't stop thinking about cupcakes- the result.
I've posted this already, but remember this? A crowning achievement. Still working on the frosting. 


 Nom. Double Nom. 


My yoga buddy. 


Bike riding. 


Cow watching.  


Will someone tell me if the brown stripe means a long winter or short one?


Not ready to think about the answer to the question above. Vegan, GF, sugar free, banana soft-serve. Tropical style. 


Close up. 


Really not ready to give up summer. September surf. Light and easy.


On the quest for eternal sunshine. 


Love is everywhere, especially at the beach. 


Reluctantly time for slippers. 
(Note: make sure cuffs are even in the back.) 


A warmie...
A smoothie heated up. Pear, spinach, oats, cukes, chia, banana, almond-coco milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. Nom. 


And I curled up with these. 


#BananaSmile!

Follow me on Instagram :) 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Twitter Hashtags for Writers


Sorting through the soup of Twitter hashtags can be tricky. Here, I've compiled a list of common and trending hashtags for writers. Some are labeled, some have links, and others are pretty self-explanatory. Did I miss any? Please add in the comments below. 

#Amquerying - As in I am querying. As in the brutal delightful process of condensing somewhere over fifty thousand words into a few short paragraphs. Get the support you need on Twitter...and also see The Girl with the Green Pen below. 

#Amrevising - See above, but exchange the condensing part to editing, revamping, etc. 

#Amwriting - This is on the top ten list of things to do ever. In my life. Did I say ever? You get the idea. 

#Askpub - From time to time industry professionals will answer your questions. 

#MGLitChat - Write middle grade? Hang with your peeps. Er, I mean tweeps.

#MSWL - Mansuscript Wish List. This is a PHENOMENAL hashtag where agents, yes, real live literary agents update what they dream about receiving in their inbox. Keep an eye on this one - there's often an update day complete with: 

#MSWLM - see above, but with video. Hilarity ensues. 

#PitchMadness - Stands for Pitch Madness hosted by the inimitable Brenda Drake. Check out the deets there. It's a game where agents vie for pitches. Uh. Huh.  

#PitMad - See above and below, except it happens on Twitter. Yup. Meaning it only involves 140 characters or less. 

#PitchWars - Similar to the above contest, but involves mentors to help prep pitches for agents. Yep. Exciting and competitive. Good stuff with extremely generous people involved. 

#Queryday - The outstanding Taryn of The Girl with the Green Pen fame periodically receives and edits your queries. FOR FREE. She's amazing, talented, and super sweet. Check this out for helpful tips and to submit your query. 

#Twdtopic - Topic Tuesdays, fascinating subjects related to writing. Get in on this trending conversation. 

#WIPlines - Work In Progress lines, sentences, turns of phrase that JUMP off the page. Share. 

#Writeclub - (@FriNightWrites) This is SO fun. If you're idea of a fun Friday night involves sitting in front of a computer and making up stories, get yourself here at nine pm. Look for the timer, sprint (write) and then record your word count...and other things, but remember, the first rule of write club is...

#Write - Obvs. 

#Writers - Ditto. 

#Writersbutt - This one, I was hoping to invent, but as is the case for those of us afflicted, it was probably better it's already a hashtag. 

#Writetip - Tips, sometimes quotes, things you didn't realize you needed to know. 

#Writing - As in the process of...

#YA - Young adult.writing topics, novels, short stories, support, etcetera, etcetera. 

#YaContemporary - Navigating what contemporary means. Check out this great article from Stacked

#Yalit - Young Adult Literature. If you've made it this far, you probably know what Young Adult Literature is. I hope. 

#Yalitchat - Similar to above, but more of a discussion. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Name Game



Sometimes names pop to mind like fizz in a soda, other times they were always there in our brains, waiting for their character to be born...and sometimes names are elusive. There.Just. Isn't. One. It can be frustrating. But it can also be fun. When I'm stuck, I've used the phone book, magazine mastheads, baby name websites, and have asked people to say the first name that comes to mind. (Usually that's a #fail.) But this oldie-but-goodie slash song that gets stuck in your head for days slash when you reveal to your children that you in fact know such nonsense will ask you to sing every single name they've ever heard in their entire lives. Ever. Ad nauseum. But this may just be what you need to get outta the name rut. Enjoy.



To see the lovely Shirley Ellis singing the Name Game, click here.