Monthly Archives: August 2008

Welcome to the jungle …

Last night we went to Andrew’s Jr. High (yes, our district has Jr. High, not middle school) orientation and open house. Guess how long we were there. No. Go on. Guess.

Three hours. Ach, Mein Gott, as Andrew would say (he’s practicing for German class).

Actually, though, it went really well. I was impressed with all his teachers and some seem simply stellar. I think teaching Jr. High (or middle school, if you insist) must be a special calling. Andrew mentioned after the school visit last spring that all the teachers were funny.

And they are! I think they must channel their inner stand-up comedian.

Andrew also noted that the ninth graders were “practically huge!”

And they are! They’re channeling their inner Hulks.

We visited each classroom, in order, for A days and B days (they have four classes a day, 88 minutes each, and switch between two schedules). As we sat in the Reading classroom, I told Andrew that this was a class I wanted to take.

The teacher had posters on the wall with things that said, Setting, and Point of View, and so on. They get to do a multimedia presentation on the genre of their choice. On our way out, Andrew asked if we should tell the teacher about my book. I said it was up to him. His school, he could decide whether he wanted people to know.

Andrew to teacher: My mom’s a published author.

(Yes, he said it just like that. Can you believe it?)

It was crowded and we had to get to the next classroom, but I gave the teacher a quick rundown of Geek Girl’s Guide status.

Teacher: I must have you in. Will you come in? The kids love this sort of thing. Let me write down your name. I’ll email you.

I said great. Three seconds later, I was all GAK!

Still, it’s a pretty neat opportunity.

Now, if I can just locate my inner stand-up comedian.

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Filed under Books, Kids

Writing practice ~ Write on Wednesday

From Becca’s Write on Wednesday:

How about you? Do you have a writing practice? What’s it like? How has it helped you become a better writer? If you’re thinking about starting a writing practice, how do you envision it? What would work for you?

Over on the Write on Wednesday site, Becca has a great summary of what writing practice is, along with author Natalie Goldberg’s take on it.

I do writing practice or morning pages or whatever you want to call it every morning. Like Becca I really need that first cup of coffee to get going. It goes pretty much like this:

  • Start the coffee
  • Open up my notebook
  • Write down the date and a few words
  • Zone out for a bit
  • Get coffee
  • Write

After that, I work out (after three cups of coffee, I’m beyond ready to work out). Over the years, I’ve experimented with the best time for writing practice/coffee/exercise. Starting back in November 2007, I finally hit upon the combination that works (at least for now).

Back in the day, as a young lieutenant, I used to laugh at the “old” warrant officers and sergeants who’d show up at first formation with a large cup of coffee. They’d say, “Just you wait, ma’am. Just you wait.”

These days, I so need that cup (or three) in the morning–both to write and exercise. And I hereby extend an apology to Chief Warrant Officers F. and M. along with Master Sergeant D. You guys were right.

A friend of mine called morning pages/practice “the best therapy money can’t buy.” Julia Cameron recommends them for all artists, not just writers. I think, initially, it’s hard to get past not writing something of significance.

These days, I happily litter my morning pages with Internet shorthand (I seem to LOL to myself a lot) and litanies about how tired I am (generally written before that second cup).

So, writing practice. Like the swearing (see yesterday’s post), it’s something I highly recommend.

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Filed under Memes, Writing

Getting here

Some people take the roundabout way of getting here. I don’t get search terms as much as search phrases. For instance:

we are losing the art of fine cooking

Oh, no, I’d say it’s already been lost, at least here, and for a very long time.

what can moms wear to jonas brothers concert

Anything that doesn’t embarrass your child.

my little pony and the jonas brothers

Seriously, people, if you’re looking for this, I don’t think I can help you.

swearing when writing for children

Yes. I find swearing helps when writing anything. Highly recommended.

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Filed under Misc

All We Know of Love

On Tuesday, August 26, Nora Raleigh Baskin’s YA novel All We Know of Love comes out.

I was fortunate enough to have Nora as a teacher for two children’s book writing classes last summer. Nora teaches at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and if you’re inclined to write children’s fiction (from picture book to YA), look into taking a class with her. She is absolutely terrific.

For those of you who have never attended a writing class or workshop, it can sometimes be very difficult to find the heart of someone’s story if they’re just starting out (either with writing or that particular story). Nora has this talent. I marveled at her feedback to the other students. It was spot-on every time. So, of course, I listened when she gave me feedback on MacKenna’s story.

Anyway, she’s published several middle grade books, but All We Know of Loveis her first YA. It sounds terrific and I’ve already pre-ordered it. And look at the quote she got:

“A poignant, daring tale about love. . . . I hesitate to use the word ‘healing,’ because it has so often been misused, but this adventurous tale truly deserves that description.” ~ Anita Shreve, best-selling author of THE PILOT’S WIFE

Dude! Anita Shreve. Sweet.

And, for your viewing enjoyment, the book trailer:

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Filed under Books, Video, YA

Wednesday, Friday … just write

I discovered Write on Wednesday via Anno. And yes, I know it’s Friday.

1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction?  Or both?

I work as a technical writer, so depending where we are in the development process, I’m either writing fiction or non-fiction. Trust me on that.

I also write the (very) occasional article and the sometimes short story. Oh, yeah. And the books (fiction). I guess I write those too.

2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook? 

Yes and yes. I have various paper notebooks and computer files. I just downloaded Inspiration so I can manage the research I’m doing for a possible historical/historical YA novel.

3. If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?

I do a lot of prep work and I like to have a “road map” for where I’m going. For novels, I also do extensive character “memoirs.” They’re not interviews, they’re not biographies/sketches, because I write the in first person. I don’t know what else to call them.

The one writing craft book I recommend without reservation (as my writing friends know) is Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass.

Despite all this, I’m totally open to changing things on the fly. I once threw out 7,000 words because I realized I was going in the wrong direction.

4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

I procrastinate when something is wrong. Either I’m not approaching a scene correctly or I need some time to “walk around” a scene/topic before I tackle it. I used to freak when I did this; now I know it’s simply part of my process. Although, sometimes, I still freak. Just ask Darcy.

5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?

Yes and yes. It depends on how much time I have.

6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

I can work either time, but I like to do things and mull things over in the mornings, then write in the early afternoon.

7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?

I can write with kids/cartoons howling in the background, with one exception. That’s when I have the master manuscript on one half of the screen, Darcy’s edited version on the other half, and the markups from our editor in a document holder. Then, all bets are off.

8. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)

Yes and yes. Depends on my mood.

9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One?  Or do you let the story evolve as you write?

In general. See above where I say I have a road map. This, too, can change.

10. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?

Thing is, books coming out right now were bought anywhere from 12 to even up to 24 months ago. I do keep an eye on Publisher’s Marketplace, but then, I’m publishing news junkie, so what can I say.

And of course, the deals that come through on Publishers Marketplace are just those people feel like reporting. Still, you can glean things from there, like how next year, it will be the Summer of the Zombie in YA and so on.

11. Editing/Revision – love it or hate it?

I’m not sure how Darcy feels after our editing experience with Geek Girl’s Guide, but I still love it. I love have that second, third, twelfth chance to get it right.

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Synchro and San Fran

If you ask my kids what they loved best about our San Francisco trip, they’ll both say: swimming and the beach. Seriously, I think they could have spent the entire time in the pool at my sister’s place and been completely satisfied.

True, Andrew’s a little unclear on the pointed toes concept:

This might be my favorite picture from the trip. It looks like she might end up doing a colossal belly flop, but she didn’t.

I love how she’s reaching for the sky.

Now that Geek Girl’s Guide has gone to copy edits (man, that sounds surreal), I’m back to working on The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath, AKA MacKenna’s story. In this pursuit I, of course, got sidetracked on YouTube, looking for synchronized swimming videos.

Because, you know, that’s really important for the writing. Also important, if you’re writing a book with a sport, make sure it’s one people like to mock (cheerleading, synchronized swimming, etc.).

Note to YouTube users: the video of your Cancun vacation where you’re clearly drunk and pretending to swim synchro? Not really funny. Trust me on that.

I’m hoping we get more good video from the Olympics. In the meantime, enjoy the following. Sure, they’re commercials, but they’re also pretty cool.

All I can say about the 0:39 point: Ouch.

You can see more of the “traditional” elements of synchro in this one:

I love the lift in this one.

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Filed under Misc, San Francisco, Video, Writing

The science class on our window

She’s been on the back porch window since last night. Thanks to the Internet, we know she’s a common garden spider and not aggressive or dangerous. And today, she had lunch when we did. Kyra called her beautiful and decided to name her Caitlin.

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Filed under Misc