Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Project Writeway.

If you're a fan of Project Runway, or contests in general, and you like to write, you might want to enter the contest over at Throwing Up Words. It's unlike any blog contest you've ever seen...and, my friends, the stakes are high.

I hope to see you all over there.

And as Tim Gunn would say: "Make it work, people!"

Friday, December 16, 2011

What I Learned At Big Sur.

I recently returned from a writing conference in Big Sur with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. It was an amazing experience and I could write about it for hours, but I really should be doing other things like writing a book and/or wrapping Christmas gifts for my children, getting Christmas gifts for my family and forcing myself off the laptop for a few days.

So, here’s the quick version:

· Living on the beautiful redwood coast for a few days.

· Meeting amazing writers and really nice people.

· Having five to one crit groups with Jennifer L and Eric Elfman. Both had great insights and were very professional and helpful.

· Listening to Ellen Hopkins and Jeff Stone speak about their publishing process.

· Being able to accost editors and agents at lunch and ask them questions about publishing, how to tweet, their pets or anything really. Guess what, they’re regular people. Just like us.

· Having no internet or phone service kept me writing and focused.

· Lots of tea and brownies.

· Good meals with writers where we’d talk about writing and practice our pitches.

· Winning the luck of the draw and getting to room with author Joy Preble. She’s written a paranormal trilogy, beginning with Dreaming Anastasia (which I'm reading and love) and she had a sit down with me and asked me some hard questions that led me to an “aha” moment. What I’ve been most impressed with, as I begin to follow more and more of the YA writing community, is how generous and giving all these authors and writers are. (Thanks Joy!)

· Leaving the conference with a handful of new friends and feeling encouraged about my writing journey.

So, now I’m off to work on being a mom and the Christmas chores this role involves, including wearing a sweatshirt my daughter made for me with her palm and footprints (strategically placed to look like a moose with antlers) and may or may not say the words “Merry Christ-moose!”

I hope you all take a little break from writing and enjoy some holiday time with your family. And then, as New Year approaches we’re going to talk about goals. Big writing goals. Are you with me?

P.S. How do you balance the crazies of the Holidays with writing?

Monday, November 28, 2011


Go ahead, click on it.

Despite Thanksgiving, life, the flu (acting like the black plague), my kids, the interwebz
And with the help of my crit partners, NANOWRIMO pep talks, diet coke and chocolate
I won!
I did.

And I learned A LOT!
And I had fun.
And I know, now, I can do really hard things.
And I love my writing buddies. No, really love them.

I already miss getting daily word count messages from them.

And now I have to finish the novel that I began. So, if you'll excuse me....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What I've Learned From NaNo So Far.

Writing the beginning if fun. Writing the middle is hard.

I have amazing Crit partners who offer advice, listen to whining and send care packages.

Also, they write beautiful words like these.

Some days are easier than others.

Some days are impossible.

The people in the rest of my life have no concept of what I’m doing, nor do they want to hear about it (excepting, of course, my husband and kids).

I draft well with music. (I think it mostly drowns out the noise of the kids)

I wore a hole in the butt of my favorite jeans. Yep. And I’m not ashamed.

After this month is over I’m going to:

Buy new jeans. Go to dinner to celebrate. Go to a movie. Not write on the weekends. And try to keep the momentum going!

How are you doing? What have you learned?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Things I Have to Do Before I Can Start Writing.

Otherwise entitled: Procrastination.

Exercise. I know. I can’t help it. I get up really, really (I know, two adverbs) early (ok, three) in the morning to do this.

Make bed. I didn’t do this the first day and it didn’t get made for two days. I know, not necessary, but just a little something Martha Stewart taught me.

Clean up breakfast dishes. Something about the hum of the dishwasher creates a nice background noise for noveling.

Procure four-year-old playmate for Jane. The moms in the neighborhood are loving me because I’m begging them to bring their kids over. If they don’t, Jane ends up watching TV all day. Not good.

Stock desk with glass of ice water or, if I’m cold, hot herbal tea (I like the peach with sugar and milk).

Also, does anyone know how many calories the little bite-size Halloween candy bars are? Just wondering, cause I may have eaten twenty yesterday. I consider chocolate collateral damage during November.

So. What do you do to prepare for your writing day?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

First Day Stats

First sentence: Apparently making a star isn’t that big of a deal.

Last Sentence: A bulldog sticker peeked from the corner of the scrambler’s back window.

Word Count: 2001

Emotional Stability? This took longer than I anticipated. I'm hoping it's because it was the first day and as we all know, the first page/chapter is the hardest. I had to keep reminding myself this is just a draft. I can fix it later. I WILL fix it later.

How did you do?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


So. Here’s the thing. When I was in college I had this boyfriend. He was a philosopher type and was a little obsessed with Nineteenth Century Transcendentalism. Of course Walden was his bible. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy being in a relationship with a philosopher, he was always pondering and then wanting me to ponder and be all brilliant with him and, well, I’m not. Brilliant I mean.

So one time he looked at me and told me he’d figured me out. Like I was this very deep and profound puzzle, which—as I’ve said before—I’m not. I’m shallow. Simple and shallow. Really. Anyway, when I asked him what he meant he said, “You’re chapter eight.” And then he stopped, like I was supposed to know what that meant. So I picked up Walden and read chapter eight, which is called “The Village.”

So here’s the deal. Thoreau went to the woods to ‘live deliberately,’ you know, suck out the marrow of life and live isolated and independent on his little plot with his little house and his paper weight (another chapter that would bore you) and his rows of green beans. Well the truth was, he didn’t. He went to the village, which was Concord, everyday. That’s right everyday!

So I guess old Thoreau was a social guy after all. And I suppose my boyfriend was right. I’m a village kind of girl. I like people. I like community. I thrive on conversation and support and friendship.

Which is why being a writer is hard sometimes. It’s a solitary life.

And that, my friends, is why I’m doing NaNo. I’m drawn to it by my sense of community. I know, for a month, I will be participating in an absurd undertaking. But at least I’m being absurd with thousands of other crazy villagers. Our writing village.

And everyday, as I finish my word count, I’ll step out of my little cottage on Walden pond, take a deep breath of woodsy air, suck out the marrow of life, snap a green bean into my mouth and saunter to Concord. My little writing village. And we’ll gossip about writer’s block and plot and characters and story arc and failure.

And then we’ll ‘sail from some bright village parlor’ and make for our ‘snug harbor in the woods’ ready for the next day with a ‘merry crew of thoughts.’

And when we’re done we’ll get t-shirts and book bags and a button for our blog. And we’ll say, ‘We did it. We survived.’ Because, you see, it’s better to survive or fail with each other than alone.

So. Are you doing NaNo?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughtful Distractions.

I'm going to pretend this is me right now.
and without a Word Processor...
Which is not entirely true, because I can't write without a keyboard and spell check.
But, I'm going to pretend the intrawebz doesn't exist because it's VERY DISTRACTING.

Ah yes, and wearing a corset and a bun.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Me In-between Two Extraordinary Writers.

Maureen, Me, Stephanie

So. For some weird—the gods must be against us—reason, we never have YA book signings in the Bay Area. Why is that? We have a population of about nine million. Surely there are enough kids around that might be interested in meeting an author? Or reading a book? But no, I endure email after email, post after post, picture after picture of my crit partners and their numerous, copious amounts of book signings in Utah.

Therefore, I was pleased. Very pleased to rub in that we were finally going to have a book signing in the Bay Area. And YA. And, not just any YA authors, but STEPHANIE PERKINS and MAUREEN JOHNSON.

So. I braved the early rains and drove to a little indie bookstore in the hills of Oakland. Seriously, this bookstore was the size of a postage stamp. And adorable. We got front row seats, because there was, literally, only one row of seats.

Stephanie and Maureen were hilarious, smart, informative and hilarious. Did I mention they were funny? Maureen had a prepared rant about Ghost Hunters that was spot on. I loved hearing about their inspirations, their research, their struggles and their support in the writing community. I was happy to see many youth there as well (Not just weird middle-aged women).

I hope this is the beginning of a trend and we’ll see more YA authors out here doing signings. Cause I’ll go to all of them. Every. Single. One. Thanks to their publishers or book sellers or whomever made it possible to get them here.

Maureen and Stephanie being smart.

When’s the last time you went to a book signing?

Now I'm off to read this and this. Oh yeah, and write. Of course.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Revising, cause I can.

So far, in my very limited experience, revisions are somewhat painful and yet, at the same time, gratifying.

What’s the deal with this dichotomy?

Drafting is laborious, but creative and exciting. You’re meeting your characters for the first time. You have many moments of self-congratulatory exhilaration as your plot weaves into brilliant chapter after brilliant chapter. You smile and pat yourself on the back. You dream about your book and characters. Every song you hear is your protag’s song. You finish your book with a sigh and shed a little tear. It’s brilliant.

And then….

You begin to revise. Or, ahem, in my case rewrite. Because it’s awful. Horrible. How could you have ever put those words on that paper. What were you thinking? So you rewrite. You suppress your gag reflex and overwhelming desire to just throw your digital copy in that little virtual trash can on the bottom of your screen. And then throw it away…if only to hear the gratifying digital sound of crumpling paper.

But then…

You rewrite. And while it’s painful, it’s also cathartic. In what other world can we start over? In what world can we delete awkward pauses, poorly worded conversations, terrible name choices? Only in our worlds can we do this.

And we rewrite and we make it better. And this, my friends, is what it’s all about. This is where ART happens.

So I continue to revise. I cringe at my previous brilliance and forge ahead. Cutting poetic lines and adding smart dialogue and always, always getting rid of that (the actual word that—I’m littered with it).

SO, my HUGE overwhelming question to you is this: How many times to we have to endure re-writes until it’s RIGHT?

Sunday, September 11, 2011


That day, ten years ago, was like being underwater in a mountain lake where everything is bright and clear yet every movement is deliberate and it’s difficult to breathe. I sat with my one-year-old daughter in front of the TV and watched in that strange filtered moment as the twin towers fell. I spent the morning there, like the rest of the world, glued to the television. My thoughts were cluttered as I tried to make sense of the encompassing tragedy.

The day was strange, like a holiday, but cheerless. It seemed the world had come to a screeching halt. Yet, there was one thing I did that day to ground me to the old life, the life before September 11th. I went to piano lessons. This act of normalcy was like a pushpin holding a random collection of receipts, clippings and photographs to a pinboard. Chaos held together and organized by one thing: music.

I was learning Beethoven’s Piano Sonata 14, the Moonlight Sonata. As I played for my piano teacher I felt all the emotions of the day were released, unconfined.

In the following days and weeks the Moonlight Sonata became my comfort. I played as the High School across the street lowered their flag to half-mast. I played as my neighbors placed flags on their front porches. I played as my toddler looked at the sky with wide eyes, wondering where the silver flash of highflying airplanes had disappeared.

And while I played I thought of the past two hundred years. I thought of all the people who came before me who had found comfort in this same sonata. People who had experienced unimaginable loss. I visualized the music drawing us together. Linking us—past and present—like an invisible web of solidarity.

My daughter is eleven now and while she hasn’t mastered Beethoven yet, her halting rendition of Fur Elise reminds me music is what makes us human. It has been ten years and I still play Moonlight Sonata and when I do, I remember that day and how amidst the violence, I found peace and hope in a humanity that can find solace in the creation and love of music.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

LIving to Write or Writing to Live

This is what I did instead of write this past weekend.

I worked on my daughters’ quilt. The same one I’ve been working on since May. It might, might, be done by Christmas.

I heard once that you have to live in order to write. Ok, I get that. But my living consists of cooking, cleaning, and when piecing a tedious quilt is the most exciting thing that I do, well, how is that living exactly?

My sister writes it best.

What do you do to live? Or do you just write?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

"What the What?"

This is a Liz Lemon replacement curse. I love Liz Lemon.

Here’s the thing about TV sit-coms: They are a fantastic study of character. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my dramas too…but here’s the thing about comedies: character is all they have. There is NO PLOT. The entire success of the show is based solely on its characters.

Think about this show. Its whole premise was a ‘show about nothing.’ And yet, it was really a show about something. It was a show about characters that were so real, or unreal, that we LOVED them. Try this one, or this one, or—I recently discovered this one.

When you feel like your characters are too flat. Watch a little TV. I dare you. You’ll find yourself caring so much about made up people. That’s right…they’re not real. And yet, we are completely transfixed.

What do you do to fortify your characters.

And in the meantime, if you’re ever having a Liz Lemon moment like—I don’t know—there’s lettuce in your hair. Just make sure you maintain her character response:


Also, there may or may not be a prize for anyone who can name my shows. This will require much procrastinating as you get distracted watching episodes of each link.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Feeling Vulnerable

Thoughts on letting your manuscript go:

I feel like I’m standing in front of my crit group completely naked. They’re standing there offering suggestions like, “Maybe you could lift here a little,” or “This whole area needs to be tucked, like this,” or “I’m not sure about the coloring.”


And then someone says, “But her eyes are nice.”

Thank you. I’ll focus on that for a few minutes and then get to work on the lifting and tucking—cause you know what—they’re right.

Nothing I can do about the coloring though.

My crit partners are skillful at making me feel good first…and then ‘helping’ me see the ‘problem’ areas. They’re the Best! It’s so great to get fresh eyes on a project. So thanks guys, I don’t know what I’d do without you.

What are your critiquing despairs or triumphs?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Finding Time and Feeling Guilty

Ponyo: Jane's favorite show.

Confession: I let my youngest daughter watch TV. The older kids don’t know, they’re at school. They are only allowed to watch TV on Fridays. But Jane, my youngest, basically gets to watch as much TV as she wants.



Yes. I feel guilty about it. Yes, I do supplement it with bike rides in the backyard (the ones where I watch in the shade from my laptop and she rides around and around the loop). I do occasionally shout out things like, “Nice job Jane,” and, “Be careful around the corner.”

Am I a bad mom?

What do you do to find time to write?

P.S. Don’t tell the other kids about the TV.

Monday, August 22, 2011

World Building With a Bottle of Wine.

I have created a world. It’s an impressive world separated from our own by time, space, distinctive culture, economics, politics, climate, and science (among other things). I cannot, however, figure out a way to convey this world to my readers without it being choppy, confusing, bewildering…you get the idea.

My world fits into a neat little corner of my mind. Why can’t it fit into a neat little corner of your mind too? How do I balance the construction of this world between the fine line of an info dump and a hazy cloud of vagueness?

My mind has been consumed with this problem.

I live behind a vineyard. I came back from vacation to see the rows of grapes had been readied for near-harvest with hundreds of glitter ribbons. The workers tie glittery ribbons every few feet on the tall vines. Apparently the sparkle scares the birds away.

The thing about the vineyard is this: most of the year I see very little change. Sure, some cutting back in the winter, glittery ribbons in the fall, and then the harvest: which is done during the misty darkness with bright lights and the bustle of workers talking and laughing all night long. Occasionally, near harvest time, I will hear the shots of a canon as they try and scare more birds away from the ripening grapes.

So for me, an outsider—an admitted wine neophyte—it doesn’t really seem like that much work. You plant a few vines, wait, and try and keep the birds away. Not that hard right?


Apparently a lot of work goes into vinification (not a made up word). There are all kinds of variables: the quality of grapes, the yearly weather patterns, local flora that can affect the taste of the wine, the fermentation process, and etcetera. Besides the fact that even the glitter ribbons require labor. Someone has to tie those ribbons every few feet in the acres and acres of vines.

I know, right?

So I guess maybe my readers don’t need to know everything about my world. Maybe I just need to show them the glittery ribbons and the harvest. You know, the good stuff. And maybe some of the bad stuff too. The mundane stuff is there, neat in a corner of my mind, the hours testing the fermentation process, the boring meetings about natural sugars with chemists and other vitners, the panic over altering weather patterns. Those things might not be important on the whole, but aspects of them might leak through.

In the end, hopefully, we have a really nice bottle of wine.

How do you build your worlds?