Wednesday, January 30, 2013

This week's post will be short, but sweet. I spent most of today with my regional SCBWI group, where we video chatted with author, Terri Farley. She wrote SEVEN TEARS INTO THE SEA and the Phantom Stallion series. The topic of discussion was characterization. Fleshing out characters so they leap from the pages. Truly insightful!

On a note of SUPER news, I've finished revisions on my picture book, and my fabulous agent has put together a great pitch and picked our first round of editors. Now we enter Sub-it-land. Wish us luck!!!! Jan. 26th, I turned 4*, yup, it's a secret. o_O Here are a few things I bought myself. 

1. WRITING PICTURE BOOKS by Ann Whitford Paul. I simply cannot wait to dive into this one! WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion. No, I'll probably not have it read by Friday when the movie comes out, but a zombie romance, what could be better? Not much. Just saying.

3. 50th Anniversary calendar of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Can you believe it? 50 years. Wow. 

Just before Maurice Sendak passed away last year, I was sitting in my car listening to Terry Gross on NPR, when she called Maurice Sendak and interviewed him. I hit the ultimate literary jackpot that evening. I laughed. I cried. I found an illustrated snippet of the interview on You Tube. I'd like to share it with you. Don't forget the Kleenex.

~Have a writerly week, y'all!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Two Nuggets of Writerly Awesomeness

I've ran across two things on the web that have my wheels turning. The first is an interview with YA horror author, Alexander Gordon Smith HERE. Excellent. Fabulous. Superb. Even if you don't write or read horror, I believe you'll find this blog post insightful. 

In the interview Smith states, "I always say that if you're writing a scary book then write about something you're scared of. That way the fear will be genuine, and will help fuel the story. Readers will sense that there is something real there, and they will respond to it." 

Profound, right? 

Now, the rest of the A.E. Smith interview is great, but I'm moving on to the next valuable nugget of awesomeness I found. A video of children's author Jeanne Birdsall. She wrote the Penderwick books and a couple of picture books. If you write for kids or teens, watch this video. Find 15 minutes, grab a mug o' something hot and enjoy.

These two things combined have stirred my creative kettle. What frightens me the most? Lots. But what would be even better, is if I could recall what frightened me the most as a child. Now, there's a good story. Trust me. 

Have you read Alexander Gordon Smith? How about Jeanne Birdsall? 

~Have a writerly week, y'all!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wrestling With the Control Freak

My inner muse is a real piece of work. Let's call her, Control Freak. We had numerous throw-downs this past week, while working on our agent revisions. I say our because if I don't, she'll beat me up, again. Between you and me, she has issues. Control issues. Emailing our revisions yesterday, was like tearing off her fingernails, one by one, with a pair of pliers. Slow and painful. 
Me: That'll do.
Control Freak: No.
Me: Save as.
CF: No.
Me: C'mon, we've made so many changes, now we're back to square one.
CF:  I don't want to disappoint Kathleen. Do it, now type.
Me: But Kathleen said "not to change too much of the story we're already in love with.
CF: *grinds teeth* I said, type.
Me: Yes, ma'am.

I type, revise, read, type, revise, and read and read and read.

Me: There. Happy?
CF: No.
Me: I think we should send it to her and get her thoughts. It's our first round of edits. 
CF: No.
Me: I'm saving as.
CF: No.
Me: I'm attaching the document in the email.
CF: No!

Inner Control Freak wrestles me to the ground where we proceed to fight over sending our revisions. I escape her fists of steel and hit "send".

And then, I look at the document one last time and discover I'm not happy with a verb I used in a scene. Great.

Me: See what you've done! *folds arms in anger*
CF: I told you not to send it. *shakes head*
Me: Ugh, I'm a loser.
CF: I could've told you that. All you had to do was ask.


How do you know when you're finished (absolutely) with revisions? Is it a feeling or do you just know? Do you wrestle with your inner muse about knowing when done is really done?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Notes on the Character-Driven PB

Although not everyone writes picture books, I believe this information can be helpful with any character-driven story.

Over the past two weeks, I've had my head buried between the pages of character-driven picture books. I've analyzed, studied, and read them over and over again, discovering what makes each main character leap off the page and into kids' hearts. 

For instance, take Pigeon, a spunky & tenacious bird who takes on a life all of his own. Pigeon began as mere sketches (Psst! don't tell Pigeon this!) in the margins of his author / illustrator Mo Willems' notebook, demanding Willems to write about him. 

It's this type of character, which perches on a writer's shoulders, whistling "Yoo, hoo! What about me?" in the writer's ears, who becomes that character, the one who drives a plot forward. Sometimes, these pesky characters not only sit on our shoulders, but they grab us by the hair, jerking our heads all around, until we finally write them.

Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!
Click here to buy
In DON'T LET THE PIGEON STAY UP LATE by Mo Willems, readers get a huge dose of character-driven magic in a tiny package (only 197-words!). I don't want to spoil the story, but Pigeon tries, in hilarious ways, to convince the reader to help him stay up late. Pigeon, although a bird, acts like my girls did when they were five with their feeble attempts to stall bedtime. Too funny! And yes, by the end, I was in love.

In my research of the character-driven picture book, I've learned they should focus on:

- a lovable character children (or silly adults!) can relate to
- one they can fall in love with
- one that never leaves their minds
- a flawed or troubled (at least in some aspect) character
- a character who is active in resolving the story's conflict without the assistance of the adults in his / her / its world
- a character who grows or develops in response to the BIG problem. 
Currently, I'm working on revisions with my agent (yippee!) on my character-driven picture book. I've been very hush-hush on the premise of my book and the main character, but my silence only heightens the excitement! I will tell you this...

My main character is flawed-big time
He's lovable-in a weird, quirky sort of way
Memorable? oh yeah
He may deal with a common kid-ish conflict, but his spin on the tale, is like no other.

Only he can tell his story.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January IWSG - O.M.G. Can I Announce It Now??

Warning: An overuse of exclamation marks and all CAPS (yes, I'm screaming!) WILL be used in this post.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, I got the email I thought would never come. Yup, the email asking, when's a good time to call. The next day, I answered the phone with shaky hands. An offer was made. After a few days, I said yes (ARE YOU KIDDING? OF COURSE I SAID YES!), and an agreement was signed. I was all, like, OMG, when can I announce it to the world? 

Walking on Sunshine on your tippy-toes with your mouth duct-taped is not easy. I felt like a five-year-old waiting to open the best present EVER.

Wait for it...Ready?

I'm CRAZY-HAPPY to announce, I'm now represented by the lovely Ms. Kathleen Rushall from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency!!! OH. MY. GOSH. I'M REP'D! I can't think of a better way to begin the New Year!

Okay, no more shouting, but seriously...

*IWSG members out there, if you're still waiting, don't give up. Keep believing in yourself. Your story. Your novel. Your poetry. Your illustrations. 

Remember there's an ebb and flow to this writing thing. This world is yours. It's what you make of it. I'll leave you with the words from musician Andy Grammer. The art in this song's video is amazing.(Sorry for the text issues. Guess the blog didn't like my copy and paste. Oh well, you get the gist.)

  The World is Yours...
This is the song that you throw on
When life is feeling rather long
And you're longing for confidence to make it

And these are the words that make you feel
That all your dreams aren't dreams
But real events that simply haven't taken place yet

But if you stare high
The sky will come right down and kiss you
If you keep your head towards the stars
They will assist you

The world is yours
The world is yours

This is the time of night
When all the streetlights rub their waking eyes
The day and night find compromise in dark blue

This is the magic in the air
That whispers, "You are almost there"
The worries, cares, and daydreamers will leave soon

But if you stare high
The sky will come right down and kiss you
If you keep your head towards the stars
They will assist you

The world is yours
The world is yours

Well, this is the song that you throw on
When life is feeling rather long
And you're longing for confidence to make it

And these are the words that make you feel
That all your dreams aren't dreams
But real events that simply haven't taken place yet

But if you stare high
The sky will come right down and kiss you
But if you keep your head towards the stars
They will assist you

The world is yours
The world is yours
What are you waiting for?

The world is yours 
*If you'd like to find out more about the Insecure Writers Support Group, please click on the link above. Alex Cavanaugh hosts the incredibly supportive group. I know I wouldn't be where I am today without the support of this wonderful blogging community. Y'all rock! Happy New Year!