Monday, October 14, 2013

YA Titles of a Writer's Life

I've always read.

I've always written.

It's Kind of a Funny Story (Vizzini.)  This past weekend at an SCBWI event, I sat in the audience, listening to the same story over and over.  It was how many of us came into this industry, wearing our rose colored glasses not expecting to see The Fault in our Stars (Green.)
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I decided to sell my business and stay at home with my Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Taylor.)  She was two months old and I was going to write and publish picture books.  What could be more inspirational than my very own Stargirl (Spinelli.)
I didn't realize my inspiration was going to be hidden by Thirteen Reason's Why (Asher,) I would never be able to manage these two full time jobs at the same time.  Bottles, diapers, adorable factor and sleepless nights had made me The Giver (Lowry.)  This baby of mine had become my Bookthief (Zusak.)  The isolation and game change from career person to mom had me feeling like The MazeRunner (Dashner.) 
Plotting my own life like a good novel. I wanted to add a special gift to my personal conflict of this story.  I broke my ankle and The Perks of being a Wallflower (Chbosky) had new meaning.  Now, armed with crutches, baby, and my pencil in hand... picture books were bound to flow, Oprah would be calling anyday now.

I managed to write a few manuscripts and to learn about SCBWI.  The next five years passed and my writing career was not moving.  Kindergarten offered new hope.  It was time to put together All the Broken Pieces (Burg.)   Six whole hours a day to myself, seemed Almost Perfect (Katcher.)  I focused on craft, joined critique groups, read more books, attended SCBWI events, and learned the industry that I wanted to be part of.
I give my writing the same respect any of my friends give to their careers.  I write for six hours a day.  My office is my sanctuary, my assistants are covered in fur and have wet noses.  I play my Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist (Cohn & Levithan ) and I get down to the business of writing books for children. 


I read to my daughter. 

I read for myself. 

I found myself reading more and more Young Adult stories.  I started toying with short stories.  Wondering if I could actually connect them together with a plot line?  I studied plot, character development, dialog and grammer.  I kept hearing about this undefinable thing called "voice."  It seemed like the Same Difference (Siobhan) to me.
A year later my story was plotted out and was 45,000 words.  I thought this was an accomplishment on its own. (Celebrate all moments along the way)  I was in three critique groups, attending conferences, writing retreats and kept revising my story.  Now, my characters were telling the story. Perfect (Hopkins.)   VOICE- celebrate this moment!
My manuscript was The Chosen One (Williams) pulled for a private consultation, an editor loved my characters voice!  (celebrate!)  But, my story needed to be 25,000 additional words and then she'd love to read it.
I wasn't quick to claim the title of a writer.  I felt like a poser, I kept it Hush Hush (Fitzpatrick) because I was unpublished.  Somewhere along the way, I found the magic of my own Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants (Brashares) with my writing and illustrating friends.  I can depend on them and we are always there for each other. 
I added the 25,000 words and continued to revise.  There are moments in a writer's life where you Lament (Stiefvater) Shiver, and feel Lost (Davies.)  We strive for more than, Almost Perfect (Katcher) we need to tell our story the best we can.  The Chocolate War (Cormier ) and a glass of wine will sometimes help ease this gnawing desire.
I'm starting a second novel while revisions of the first are twisted in my head.  The new work flows  like Delirium (Oliver) and I wonder if this is how it feels Before I Fall (Oliver?) 
There are moments I feel like I'm Going Bovine (Bray) or on a Highway to Hell (Clement-Moore) trying my best to sort through the work I need to do. 
Just Listen (Dessen) as my character's voices rattle about in my head and they Speak (Halse-Anderson) to me.  They keep me on my task, they're Why I fight (Oaks) and keep my butt in my chair working on rough drafts and revisions.  With all this Surface Tension (Runyon) publication seems like a foreign concept.  But, it's The Call of the Wild (London) that my stories make it into the hands of children who will relate with them.  My writing is Forever (Blume) and I hope to see you Along for the Ride (Dessen.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Heart and Soul

My writing is a direct line into my heart, I don't know any other way to get to the story. 

My writing is a part of me.  Even humor comes from an emotional place.

I've been asked if I am a plotter or pantser.  These two styles of writing consist of: 1) organized plot driven stories or 2) fly by the seat of your pants/character driven stories.  I've always resided somewhere in between, and I think I will call it Heart and Soul style.  I start a project based on a concept I feel is relatable and important.  Research, lists and outlines are completed before I write one word.   It becomes my own, based on the way my characters tell the story.   My first draft is me getting to know my characters, putting them in situations to see how they react.  These characters have their story to tell.  I hope that I have the ability to do them justice.

I have become a writer because of the way I live my life. 

I never gave all this mushy stuff much attention before.  But, on days like today when you are called to reflect upon humanity it becomes crystal clear.  My tribute story explains how writers fill their hearts with memories, emotions and descriptions to later draw from.


My daughter's artwork
Twelve years ago on September 11th the world changed for everyone.  Today the conversations are abuzz about where you were.  I can tell you where I was on that day.  I can tell you the look on the faces of the people who crowded around a small tv- disbelief, scared, anger,and sadness.  The most memorable part was how connected we were.  None of us in that office knew what it meant, none of us had answers but we realized this moment affected all of us.
As the day came to an end I found myself at my sister's house.  Being with family, was where I needed to be.  My niece came home from school, she was scared and didn't understand.  We didn't really understand what it meant, but knew we had to give her hope that everything was going to be okay. 
We found candles, then walked to the end of the driveway and lit them to honor the lives lost.  This simple act made us all feel better.  It made a difference, it gave us control in a time that we didn't know what we should do. Standing on the street with our candles lit, may sound corny.  What happened next was a moment that sticks.  One by one, the neighbors came out to the the street with their candles.  As cars rolled down the street on their way home from work, they nodded and moments later they would join us, lining the street.  The sun sank below the mountains and there in our tiny corner of the world, far away from WTC, our candles lit up the night and we came together.
That day fills my heart with memories.  A simple act of coping opened an area in my heart that is now filled with a personal experience.
I don't know if my stories will ever take me to place where I will write about the attack on the twin towers, or Al Qaeda, or anything political.  What lives in my heart will fuel my characters when I need to feel humanity, patriotism and community.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Attic History

Everytime I visit my mom, the trip ends the same way. 
At the last minute, she says,
"Wait, I have something for you."
Boxes of nostalgia have made their way into my library.  Filling the gaps between all of the amazing books I have spent reading with my daughter. 

Fast forward a year later, I was dusting the shelves of my library, I found myself drawn to Volume 2 of Childcraft, Stories and Fables.  I was transported back to the 1970's.   I would curl up, reading, in my white, pleather bean bag chair.  I not only remember this book, I know it backwards and forwards.  The same stories I've read to my daughter from her updated versions.  But, these stories are mine.  These illustrations are embedded in my head and will always be my point of reference when I hear these stories.

Beautiful Artwork, from the Boy who Cried Wolf

Not from Stinky Cheese Man

I love books.

My Little House on the Prairie books have been read and re-read.  Memories of grocery night at Meijer's, picking up dinner at McDonalds and then home to watch my favorite series brought to life.  Little House on the Praire was a weekly ritutal.  Oh, how I wanted an adopted brother like Albert.  (I settled for the new boy down the street- (Not from Mankato, MN, imagining how great it would be if my parents would adopt him.)
How many times have you read your favorite series?

I rode horses everyday. 
Nice shag hairstyle.

I loved drawing.  Drawing horses was natural.  This book found its way back to me via another delivery from mom.

My reading list was filled with Black Beauty, Flicka, Black Stallion and Misty of Chincoteague. Golden Prize was a favorite equine anthology. 

Around ten years old my interests expanded to:

Humor + Horses + Reading + Cartooning = Love

My experiences have brought me full circle to a life as an author/illustrator for children. Created and nourished by my family filling my days with love and surrounding me with books.

Packing up and saving 40+ years of my history and then handing this gift back to me = priceless

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bookclub for kids

Four years ago I started an adventure based on love.  The love to read, the love of a good book, the love for great illustration and mostly the love I have for my daughter.

I started a children's bookclub for my daughter and her friends.  The children had just finished Kindergarten and teetered with excitement on the edge of this new skill- reading.  Everyone made their selection and we filled our summer with books.

At first the children were happy just to name the characters and draw their own illustration to go with each book.  Now, in their fourth summer, they're digging deeper, discussing plot, themes, character traits and even their favorite author's unique writing styles.


First rule of bookclub, Is talk about bookclub. 

If you're talking about books with friends, you're more likely to be reading books.  And reading ten books through the summer isn't a bad result when disguised as spending time with friends. 


Second rule of bookclub, Is it's your bookclub.

Simply stated that after the initial organizing (selecting books and scheduling dates) the kids run the show.  A basic questionaire for the children to use as a guide was given, but I expressed that by no means do they have to stick to that structure.  What happened next was magical.
The kids started acting out the stories by pretending to be their favorite characters in the book.  The artwork they brought in was inspired.  They brought in book related treats to share with their friends.  Their laughter was contagious and the books came to life in front of my eyes.
As an author, I know my personal experience with books, the reason I write.  As a parent, I want my daughter to have the same connection I have with books.  The way this bookclub touches my heart confirms how important writing for this audience is.
I will be sharing posts from our bookclub, Chapters, Chat, Chillin, and Children.  Please know that our group has grown and given rise to a younger sibling group with some cross over of classic moments that had to shared.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Something to Blog About

Here a blog, there a blog, everywhere a blog, blog. 

It seems that everyone has something to say and the need to blog about it.  There are blogs I can't wait to read and others that just make me wonder, why?

For the last year, I have been writing posts and saving them to publish at a later date.  You know that day in the future, the one that will come when someone (who isn't related to me) is actually interested in what I have to say.  Until then, I continue to write, revise and blog. Wondering? Who will read it?  Why will they read it?

More research, more conversations with colleagues, more lectures about the importance of building a platform for my writing career, all the while searching for the answer... who will read it? 

The answer is simple, I have stories to tell.  The time has come to accept and validate this life that has chosen me.   I'm a writer and guess what?  Writers write and share their stories with...wait for it.... readers. 

This entry feels like and introduction, an interview or maybe a first date. I thought I would share a bit of my neurosis with you.  Yes, I'm a list girl, a planner, a coordinator and some (who will remain nameless) may add control freak.  I live my life with a direct line into my heart and soul.  My writing wasn't a choice it's a defining part of me, and has been a constant throughout my life.  Now, I consciously set out to write by combining my heart with truth, the kind of truth that I love reading.  Along with being a heartful type A, add a side of Dreamer, that's me.  Here's my first list to share with you.

Items to blog about in the future

1.  Moments that take your breath away
2.  A writer's life
3.  Funny, awkward, twisted takes on life
4.  Through my daughter's eyes
5.  Working to make this a better world
6.  Stuff, (including but not limited to) books, articles, converstaions, movies, music, art...
7.  Gossip, things I 'have' to induldge in
8.  Kidlit
9.  Adjectives... just because
10. Who knew.  Helpful things I pick up along the way

I plan to go where the wind blows, hopefully in an honest, truthful, passionate, funny, caring and inspiring way.  (See #9)

I hope, after reading my blog, you leave with one of my title's adjectives.