Friday, October 31, 2008

Here's what happened . . . to me . ..

In response to Katie's last post in which she wondered where all that wonderful writing time and energy had gone . . . here's where mine has gone.  Notice the pictures--pumpkin patch field trips, tricking up my house for Halloween, dirt-and-worms cupcakes for school Halloween parties, PTA newsletter, and the gi-normous, thirty-foot "shining stars" mural that I painted at Oxford Elementary School.

And, this all happened THIS WEEK.  And, I haven't even mentioned the saga of the Halloween costumes--which involved more painting and driving and sweat and tears.

Katie and I recently had a great discussion about pruning--not our gardens, but our lives.  I have noticed that when I'm using my creative energy to do anything--writing, painting, or volunteering--I feel pretty good.  I loved, loved, loved painting all of those giant stars on the wall of my daughter's school.  When I'm doing something that goes against my natural tendencies, I dread it--for example, the PTA newsletter was not so much fun and I had a pretty bad attitude.  

New goal--prune out the stuff that doesn't fulfill.  Somebody else is gifted in that way and will probably do a better job than I would, anyway.

Now, I'm off to my preschooler's Halloween party with my wormy cupcakes.  This week was gonna be a wash anyway.  I can't compete with Halloween!
Enjoy your pumpkin carving!!  sf

Monday, October 27, 2008

What Happened?

What Happened? I got back from LA and was on fire! I wrote 25,000 words in one month, which for me, is like white lightening, baby!! And then... life seemed to get in the way.

After a month or so, of soccer games, dance competitions, sickness, substitute teaching, Bible Study, lots o' cooking and cleaning, my poor novel has sat dormant over there on my desk for tooo long. When will I ever make it back?

Maybe next week....sigh.

P.S. This is me and my friend Whitney working her booth at a holiday show last week. Although it was a necessary distraction, I did get a pretty cool idea for another screenplay while I was there. Man I love writing! If only I had more time...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dream Big

"I wanted so badly to study ballet, but it was really all about wearing the tutu."  Elle Macpherson

When I first started writing for children, it was all about the tutu.  Sure, I did the work and wrote the books.  I even had several people read my work and give me great advice and encouragement. The problem was that everyone was SO encouraging and positive about my impending publication and success, I kind of got caught up in the "tutu"--the Newbury Awards, the Oprah interviews, the adoring fans . . . 

When success didn't happen as quickly or surely as I thought it would, I realized that I had some work to do.  I started going to conferences and started seeking out readers who wouldn't simply cheerlead my work as genius--they would point out flaws and weaknesses (an actual critique).  

So, here I am a few years later.  I do still dream of the tutu--who doesn't?  That's the most fun part, and I think we can all agree that Elle Macpherson's dreams of wearing the tutu came true in a big way.   I love the thought of hanging onto that big ole dream out there in the sky while I do the grunt work that I have to do to prop it up someday.  I think this quote sums it up:

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost;  that is where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them."  Henry David Thoreau

So, enjoy your dreams.  And then--get to work.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Introducing Edwin...

Allow me to introduce you to my new love, Edwin...

He was a gift from my father and mother whom I adore, and to whom I owe my very life. They are HUGELY supportive and helpful and I am just overwhelmed by their generosity. Thanks y'all! Really!

NOW... Let me describe Edwin to you.

He's only been around a week or so, but I have found him to be insanely smart, and almost a tad nerdy in all that he knows and can do. Yet I find him utterly fascinating. His sleek body only emphasizes how sexy and ultra powerful he is. So powerful that it blows my mind sometimes.

Ahhhh Edwin. I love you.


P.S. One of my favorite things about Edwin is that he has a feminine side too. He arrived with the most beautiful and delicate pale pink peony as one of the preset screensaver options. My favorite flower. He knows me so well :)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Time Management

I remember reading a blog recently in which the writer mentioned that she had made Excel spreadsheets for all of her main characters to keep track of...I forget. What could she possibly need this for? Now that's dedication!

And yet the other day, I found myself having to not only figure out high school schedules for five of my main characters, but I had to then figure out a whole semester's worth of football games, dances, test dates, date-dates, and a slew of other stuff.

YIKES! I promise, I had no choice. My MC kept running into people in random classes and then I would see later that there was no way those two girls could have that class together. Or I would have some guy ask a girl out for an event that was two weeks prior. Arrghh...This is no doubt due to my non-chronological method of writing. Who knew writing could be so technical at times?

Is this like the unpublished back stories that you hear people like J.K. Rowling talk about? I heard her once say that she had volumes of writing about Harry's grandparents etc... My mother asked me the other day why one of my characters did something, and I said, "Oh. Well, her parents...yada yada yada..." And then I realized that her parents barely enter the story, but I knew the root of why she did what she did. So, anyway, now I know everyone's schedules and life is much easier. Does everyone do this?

P.S. I'm not sure, but I am thinking that maybe, just maybe, Scrivener has some way to do this better. I'll let ya know.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ahhhhh. . . beach.

This weekend is Fall Break which means no school for the kiddos on Friday or Monday.  What a perfect time to sneak in a little beach trip!

I am fortunate enough to have a generous aunt with an empty beach condo this weekend, so we're heading down this afternoon.  My poor husband is in the financial biz, and I think it will be good for him to be out of the office for a couple of days (although, he's a little worried about being gone right now . . . okay, he's a LOT worried, but we will have telephones and wi-fi).  My dad will also be there with his boat, and he says the redfish are biting.  

I know I'm probably being a little too hopeful in thinking of doing some writing this weekend, but I'm going to try.  I'm still working on my WIP with the help of Scrivener.  By putting synopses of each chapter on notecards and getting to stand back and look at my work as a whole, I have discovered tons of plot holes.  But, I think I've found a really cool way to fill these holes, and I've been doing lots of strange, kooky ebay research.  My favorite thing about Scrivener is that I can look at my research file--pictures, text, web pages--in split screen while I'm typing my manuscript.  No more back and forth clicking between different files and bookmarks--it's really cool.

I think Katie's even a convert to the Scrivener way of writing . . . 

Monday, October 13, 2008

Katie's Trip to Atlanta

I have just returned from a delightful long weekend in Atlanta. Last year at our regional SCBWI conference I was overjoyed to win the big door prize of a free website design by Bilan Inc. marketing in Atlanta. I know - cool, huh?! So This past Friday I cruised over and met with the delightful and brilliant Shelli Johannes Wells. She also happens to write YA like me, so I was especially excited to talk shop with her. After our website meeting, we met another writer, Jessica DeHart for dinner and talked more shop and some politics. Then, I went and spent the night with Jessica and her adorable family which consists of four boys, or rather men. (I always think this is odd, since I live with only one man, and two girly girls!) So there was a bunch of sports equipment laying around, not to mention - paintball planning, late night flashlight tagging, and early a.m basketball gaming. Quite different from my usual experience with toenail painting, late night dancing, early a.m. costume dressing, and art project doing. anywho, I digress.

From there I went on to my dear old friend Fleming and Shawn McCrystal's house for a couple of days where we talked no shop, but just hung out, ate and shopped. And joy of joys, at their church Sunday there was a "Blessing of the Pets." This meant that almost the entire congregation brought loads of dogs, cats, birds and even a hamster to be blessed at the altar. It was the cutest thing ever! I took a zillion pictures. Dogs were sitting in pews, and howling during songs, and walking in the aisles and just being their lovable selves. Too fun!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Our Guest House (aka "Duck Camp")

We were lucky enough to be able to snatch the house directly behind ours when it went up for sale a couple of years ago.  We bought it gutted--the previous owners had begun a "do-it-yourself" renovation then decided that they had bitten off more than they wanted to chew.  After lots of thought and number-crunching, my husband and I decided to do a massive renovation of the 1950s eight hundred square foot house (our fourth house renovation to date--and our last--no really, I mean it this time).  The renovation included adding the ultimate screened porch which we connected to our backyard with a garden path.

We furnished the house with comfy couches and beds with yummy sheets, and we rent it short term whenever we can.  Because we live two blocks from the historic Oxford Square (see our debate pictures if you want to know how cute and hip downtown Oxford is!), we get plenty of renters.  

The only downside to the whole guest house gig is that I am "Flossie" the maid, and she is especially busy this time of year.  What is the big deal with the fall, you ask?  It's Football Season, and tens of thousands of people flock to the Holy Grail of Tailgating (see Katie's earlier post about the Grove scene) for all of the home games. Since Oxford is a small town with few hotels (and only one hotel downtown), we are in a prime spot for the football weekend renter. And, you know . . . supply/demand--Flossie gets paid well for her efforts this time of year.  Actually, most of our rental money goes to our house note and into the girls' college funds, but Flossie gets a little cut which she puts into her SCBWI Conference fund for Sarah Frances.  Isn't Flossie a sweetie?

But, the very best thing about our guest house is that it is a great escape from the clutter and noise of everyday life.  This is why my friends and I have dubbed it "duck camp"--we decided that our husbands' real reason for going off to duck camp during hunting season is to get away from it all and bond with their male buddies.  There are no stacks of mail, no laundry mountains peaking out from the utility room (like the pun?), and no telephones.  I can take my computer over there when I need a fresh perspective, and write away.  I've even spotted Katie over there sneaking in a little writing retreat on our screen porch a time or two.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Scrivener... is making me looney!

Yep. That's me - freaking out on my roof! Wait! Don't panic. Let me give you a little history. For the last few years, I have plugged along on my adorable little Mac ibook. However, lately, my precious laptop has been acting a bit wonky and the operating system is just, well, OLD.... Which led to me start shopping for a newer, cooler laptop.

BUT, since the economy is behaving badly, I just can't afford a new one right now. This realization made me very, very sad as I watched SF going to town on the seemingly fabulous new program - Scrivener. (Scriv won't work with my dumb OLD operating system) After whining to SF and my family for a few days, I remembered that my daughter has a brand new Mac in her room!!! It's a desktop though, which means I can't carry it to conferences and the coffee shop. Sigh... But I thought that I could def. download Scriv onto it and just type my book up in her room. she has a big desk and three large windows. I mean, what could be more relaxing?

So, yesterday, after I returned from a glorious trip to Atlanta (which I will blog about next) I went out and bought a new yummy candle to set the mood (I really did) and a gigantic iced tea, and headed over to SF's for a pre-work tutorial. She glided effortlessly through the explanation and I was psyched to go home, light my candle and get to work.

Let's just say that actually using the program by myself, without help, almost made me lose my ever lovin' mind. And I finally busted out of Kate's window to de-stress on the roof. SF called and counseled me some more and I have gotten a bit further, but dang if new software isn't hard to figure out?!! And I am IMPATIENT!!!

So, I have had to take a chips and salsa break, take a shower, make a few phone calls and vent to my hubby for a bit - and now I am back at the computer (but obviously I am blogging rather than scriving. ) Oh well. I can tell it's gonna be great! As soon as I get comfortable with it. Pray for me....

P.S. When we built this house, I was excited for my daughter to have a rooftop lounge area 'cuz I had one when I was a kid and we sunbathed on it. So it's not quite as scary as it looks. It is now officially the Rooftop Spa and Calming Room. Come on over!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Scrivener--where have you been all my life??

I just downloaded a free thirty-day trial of Scrivener on  (sorry all you PC users--it only works on a Mac), and I am in LOVE!  What a great writing program!

I was a little skeptical when I began to use this program--I often find things like Scrivener to be more trouble than they are worth.  For example, I have tried using a palm pilot for scheduling, but I prefer carrying around a small dayplanner in my purse, and I (gasp!) write things on it with an actual pen.  I love the pen-to-paper exercise and the ability to circle things and to physically mark them off.  So, I approached Scrivener with the expectation that it would be a procrastination tool, at best.  Boy was I wrong!

I watched the video introduction that is offered on the website, and then I went through the guided tutorial a couple of times.  It took me an afternoon to really get comfortable with the program and to figure out what all it would do for me.  It really is an easy program to use--and I really mean it.

Scrivener allows you to put an entire manuscript into a virtual binder which you can divide up into chunks of text.  You can easily manipulate these chunks of texts around, view them together, and merge or separate them.  You can write synopses of these chunks of texts which Scrivener will put onto color coded index cards for you--and you can view them on a virtual corkboard.  The program will also put these synopses into an outline form for you. Manipulating and experimenting with text is simple (and, the program allows you to take a "photograph" of your text before you switch things around--so if you change your mind, you can restore it to its original layout).  

I have exported my middle grade novel into Scrivener, and I am going through each chapter and writing a synopsis for each one.  I am color coding my chapters based upon which plot line is developed.  I am about halfway through, and it is unbelievable how many plot holes were revealed to me through this exercise.  When I read the notecards in order, there were some very noticeable gaps that I needed to fill.  Plus, I noticed four green cards in a row--four straight chapters that dealt with one certain character, so I quickly realized that I needed to break up these chapters with some different storylines.  I finally feel like I am making some real progress!

Scrivener also has a place for you to write plot notes and research notes or files.  You can view these pages in a split screen form which is incredibly helpful.  For example, one of my characters is bipolar, and I had several research files bookmarked and downloaded in my computer.  I was able to drag all of those files into my binder, and I could look at that information while I was typing away on my manuscript without opening another file.

I do miss the physical pen-to-paper revision process a little, and I have run into a few problems because I'm working with the rigidness of a computer program (some chapters deal with two plot lines, for example, and I'm not sure what color to make the card).  Overall, though, it is an incredibly efficient way to plot and revise, and when my thirty day trial is over, I'll be forking out $39.99 to own this gem of a program forever.

Sarah Frances

Our Motto

Our Motto