Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Seven days, Seven books. Day 1. Dozens of Doughnuts by Carrie Finison, Illustrated by Brianne Farley

I have big love for Dozens of Doughnuts by Carrie Finison, Illustrated by Brianne Farley

"Ding! Dong!"

Kids will delight at this refrain and be tickled to see who arrives next at LuAnn's front door.

Dozens of Doughnuts is absolutely, positively charming!

I suspect kids will be tempted to count how many doughnuts are made, eaten, and appear on the endpapers!

This book will appeal to anyone with a love of pastries, humor, and furry friends.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

WIFYR Day 5. Surprise! Fellowship Grant and Final Take-Away

The last day of the conference came too quickly. 
But I'm left feeling hopeful and inspired with tools I can use as I revise my work.

We began our Friday workshop sharing the homework assignments that we'd each been given to improve our novels. The excerpts shared in our class blew me away. It was amazing to see a group of skilled writers transform their words and take them to a higher level over and over again. 

The panel of agents and editors offered great advice, as always. In short, here's a recap for writers who are getting ready to put together a submission:

What Keeps an Agent/Editor Reading? 
Compelling stakes. 
Great characters.
The burning question of, What happens next? 
An unexpected storyline. 

Surprise! I don't know how to say this, but I need to share, so here it is. 
During the closing webinar of the conference, I was awarded a Fellowship Grant for the middle grade novel I'd brought to revise. Yay! 

It's hard to put into words, how I felt at that moment, and how I continue to feel today. 
When I realized that the words being read were my own, my first instinct was to dive under my desk and seek shelter. Lucky for me, I have a small desk. I couldn't get away from them.

Getting this grant feels surreal and at the same time, hard to believe. I met many talented writers this past week, and each are creating amazing stories. It's impossible not to want the same for them.

For me, the timing of this grant award culminated in an important Take-Away. 
I'll preface this Take Away with a bit of backstory. 

March, April, and May were busy months. A handful of professional critique opportunities unfolded. I prepared what I could, the WIFYR grant being one of them. By the first week of June, I'd heard back from those critiques (but not the WIFYR grant.). One agent thought my MC was too whiny. Another liked her, and thought the story held merit in discovering how the relationships would unfold. Another agent didn't have much to say. Which is all fine. I can fix "whiny," and yes, I like my relationships, I think they're worth sticking with to the end. And clearly, it's good to discover agents who aren't a good match along the way to finding "the one." 

I found similar reactions in my writing workshop. Some authors loved the manuscript. Others liked it well-enough, although I suspect it wasn't their cup of tea. Which I get. Different readers develop different tastes. I respect that. 

And then, my manuscript won the Fellowship Grant! 
What?!? How is that possible? 

At the very least, it means something, or a few things, are working in my story. And I'm hoping that the tools I learned this week will help me get all of it right.

If anything, the rollercoaster I've been on with this manuscript over the last 12 days shows two things.

1) Connections to a manuscript happen on personal levelSome readers will love it, others won't, and that's OKAY. There isn't one story on the planet that will appeal to everyone. For example, I own the book, Where the Crawdads Sing. My mother loved it; my mother-in-law loved it; my daughter loved it.  I've begun reading my copy on two different occasions. But I haven't been able to "get into the novel," that has sold more than a million copies... Soooooo. Reading and loving a book is personal, although I suspect I'll be able to finish Where the Crawdads Sing when the timing is right.

2) Write your story!  WRITE IT. Throw up all over your pages, and then revise, and make it beautiful for you and the readers/writers/critique-peeps that get it from the beginning. Because stories that find a way into your heart, are wanting to be told. YOU are the person who needs to tell them. 

YOUR story isn't knocking on the door of the writer who lives down the road. 
It's knocking on yours. 

So welcome it in. 
Give it a place to put its feet up.
And then give it wings. 
This is my revelation,  
my take away.

My wish for you 
is for you to keep writing, 
and for you to revise, 
and for you to maintain hope,
until your story takes the shape it needs.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

WIFYR Day 4. Filter Words and Little Wins

Day 4 of the conference was jam-packed with information, more revisions, and more critiques. And I haven't even come close to putting a dent in watching the webinars. To top it off, I capped off another day by participating in the WIFYR writing sprints at 9pm with other writers from the conference. I'm so surprised at how quickly I've grown to love these virtual group meetings! Go me, in trying all the new things.

Filter words. These words weaken your manuscript. They put distance between your character and your reader. Seek them out and delete them.  Words like:
I'm able to
I know
I decide
I wonder
I can/could/couldn't
I hear
I think
I try
I see

If you delete the filters words that permeate first drafts, then you'll be left with the action of the story, rooting your character and your reader exactly where they should be.

(This advice was shared in a short teaching segment given by Kathy Lipscomb, an editor and author, who participated in our morning writing workshop with one of her own projects. And I'll just say it: I LOVE Kathy's writing. Her words, her stories, all of them, need to be in print. As in, hardcover, paperback. ebook. All the formats. I can't wait until they are published.)

Little Wins and Pacing.  Sometimes your character needs a little bit of a win. Little victories to keep her and your reader going, especially when the going gets tough. So while we're told as writers to be merciless to our characters, at times, we also need to be kind. Like maybe give them a cookie and a glass of milk to go with it. (That last part was a joke, but think about your character and her arc and how she's feeling. Make sure it's not too overwhelming.)

Keep writing everyone!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

WIFYR Day 3. Doors of No Return

Another fantastic day!

These take-aways came from Cheri Pray Earl's workshop.

What is a Door of No Return?
When your character makes a choice, and can't undo it. In other words, she can not un-know what she now knows, and she can't un-see what she has seen.

The 1st Door of No Return happens between the Introduction (Act 1) and Act 2.

The 2nd Door of No Return happens before the climax and moves your character in the final conflict.

Must be driven by each character's wants and needs. After you establish the conflicts, raise the stakes, and increase the tension, then go back and make the conflicts worse.

Each chapter begins with your main character dealing with a particular emotional state and dealing with a problem.

Basically, today workshops involved ensuring that our characters suffered, and then suffered even more. All in the name of growth and a movement toward a more satisfying resolution.

Yay for growth!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

WIFYR Day 2. Crucibles and Take-Aways

WIFYR led me through another amazing day in this writing journey.

Through a series of critiques and discussion in my morning workshop being led by the amazing Kathryn Purdie, I had 3 major take-aways. (Actually, there were lots more, but on account of the late hour, and another writing deadline due before tomorrow, I'm abiding by the Rule of 3.)

Take-Away 1. How can writing from a 13-year-old point of view help you tell your story (for any memory, which can then be translated into your story's scene). I'm writing an upper middle-grade, so I chose a young age. Authors of YA, would choose memories from an older age.

Take-Away 2. The details, and particularly the "telling details," trigger memories of moments for use in a story. The emotions associated with those memories naturally flow as you write them.

Take-Away 3. Crucibles can be emotional or physical. They can be used in a single scene or extended over an entire book. Actually, you should have at least one crucible extended over the entire book. What is a crucible? A crucible is an emotional or physical "vessel" where characters are stuck together. An emotional crucible could be relationship, as in mother/daughter. A physical crucible could be a room, a house, an island, a train. If you want to know more abut what a crucible is as a writing device in a novel, you have your first assignment. Look into it!

Lastly, during the WIFYR writing prompt today, I decided to write a short snippet of scene that will be added to the climax in my current WIP. And yes, this scene hinges on one of the novel's main crucibles.

The realization that the car sitting in the driveway doesn't belong washes over me as soon as Mother pushes her way through the screen door. Head down, feet racing over each step, she closes the distance, anchors her hands like bookends on each of my shoulders. Her touch seems foreign, as my mind lifts away.  I see him standing in the window. Even before he turns in my direction, I know who it is. Why he's come.

I'm not sure I'm ready. I'm not sure I remember how to breathe.

WIFYR Day 1. Swapping notes with my character

Today marked the first day of a weeklong conference: Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers.

I'm blessed to be participating in the Novel Bootcamp Workshop with Kathryn Purdie, author of YA books such as Burning Glass and Bone Crier's Moon.

Our first assignment this morning was to allow our main character to write us a note about how they felt.  Here's what my main character, Meg, had to say:

Look, it's about time you get this done. We've been sharing headspace for a while. You rehash words. You rehash me. Edit every last sentence, and I think it's time you trust in the story that needs to be told. No edits. No tweaks. Just trust that I'm ready to carry myself on the page. A bunch of pages, actually. One after the other so that I can get myself to where I need to go.

Here's my reply:

Dear Meg,

Whoa! You're far too young to be forging ahead like that on your own. We came here to gain perspective on how we can both grow. You, as a girl trying to figure out her place. Me, as a writer trying to become a better wordsmith. Yet, here we are on day 1, and already you're acting like you have a mind of your own. Sheesh!

Obviously, we have a lot of work to do. Please, sit down. Stay a while. Let's plan this story out and not get too crazy.... Although I admit, maybe I should loosen the reins a little bit, put my editor hat away, and see exactly what it is that you want to say.... 

I mean it. I'm ready to listen. You go first.


What an interesting way to get geared up for tackling the journey ahead. 

Happy writing, everyone!