Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Who wants to laugh??

Okay, so I just sat down to write a blog post, and since I love to procrastinate . . . I checked my email first. I had a message from Katie directing me to this site.

And, now I'm laughing so hard, I can't possibly be expected to post anything. I'll be back tomorrow after I've scrolled through the entire "Catalog Living" site.


Monday, June 28, 2010

I Won The Lottery!

As I watched my husband rush out of the house this morning with a zillion things to do (things he was dreading, but all part of his job), I looked down at the fabulous book in my hand and thought, "How is it possible (or fair) that my job is to read fantastic books and watch incredible movies, all in the name of research?

Are you kidding me?

My bedside table is swimming in books, and my netflix account is locked and loaded. My TV is poised with the latest movie (in this case, AWAY WE GO) and my twitter feed is a plethora of creativity. I spend my days taking notes about interesting quirks, or photographing unusual events. I read recipes with an eye towards metaphor, and smell flowers, thinking of poetry. My boss, otherwise known as me, suggests I work in my pjs with frequent coffee breaks. "And feel free to work-out whenever you want to," she adds as she eats another Twizzler.

How did I get this lucky? Paid or not, I am living in some kind of dream, having won the lottery of all jobs.

And I pray to God I never have to wake up.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


As I sat on the beach last week, reading WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, I thought about the books that have inspired me in the recent past. Books that made me want to be a better writer. Books that literally changed the way I think about "story." So, I thought I'd share a few.

First, LIPS TOUCH. I have posted about this book twice already, but, if you missed it, read this. I find that the more I write, the more I want to be creative with words. To mold them like clay, and to really express things in alternative ways. To think out of the box, and to take my readers on a real journey. This book did that for me.

THE HELP. I not only read this book, but listened to it as well and it. is. incredible. It is no surprise that it has remained on the bestseller list for well over a year.

PERFECT CHEMISTRY. I flat love anything and everything Simone Elkeles writes. She captures teen love like none other.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. I am reading this one now and the writing is utterly beautiful. I can not WAIT for what Jandy Nelson writes next.

THE DUFF. Kody Keplinger has truly created a heartfelt masterpiece. I could not put this book down.

HARRY POTTER 1. I just re-read this book because it's told in 3rd person like the one I am currently writing, and I fell in love all over again. Jo's ability to create such memorable characters is something I have studied again and again.

And Finally, the aforementioned WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON. The authors captured something of "love" that you don't see much in books. They dealt with a fear of intimacy that I found totally fascinating. Loved it!

In other news, as you know if you read the post below this, I have been flooded with ideas for my WIP this week. But, as a person who probably has ADD, they are coming into my brain all wonky and out of order. This is both wonderfully creative and completely frustrating. Thank God for Scrivener, which I know will save me later.

I think what I am trying to say is that overall, the summer is progressing nicely, and writing has been more joyful than terrifying. I remain awed by the community of writers in which we find ourselves, and blessed by this passion I call my "job." What's not to love? Go read SF's post about doing what you love here. It's great!

Have a great day y'all!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bit by Bit

First of all, I prepared a vlog for my dear blogging partner's big day but in my vlogging stupidity can't attach it properly. Nonetheless, it wasn't very good at all.

Silly, in fact.

Trust me.

But not to worry, I shall compose a letter:

Dear SF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am so excited for you! And I am proud to claim you as not only my blogging partner, but my dear friend. You deserve every bit of your success and I am so honored to have been able to watch it happen, bit by bit.

Yours truly,


Speaking of bit by bit. The craziest thing has happened to me this week. As I have been chillin' with the family on the white, oil-free beaches of Destin, Florida, I have been discovering pieces of my WIP like tiny, glistening seashells in the sand.

I don't know why it's happening on vacation, but everyday I have found a phrase, an image, or an idea that has sent me running inside to jot it down. And then today, I wrote a whole chapter!

I am reminded of the fact that sometimes writing, like life, is easier in tiny bits. Big ideas have the power to overwhelm some of us, causing us to freeze up. Sometimes we do better with just a crumb. And if we follow all the crumbs, we will eventually get out of the forest.

At least I think so...

Have a great day y'all and YAY SF!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010


Well, I've got some news to share, so I thought I'd do it via vlog.

3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . Action!!

Thanks to all of you who suffered through that horrible first part of the video. I had originally planned to talk about all of the Viking Children's books that touched me throughout my childhood and all of the people who helped me along the way . . . until I realized that such a post would be totally maudlin, sappy, and self indulgent. So I kicked up the blah at the beginning and finished with the fun video that an announcement like this should be. Those of you who stopped watching after the first ten seconds can now go back and look. :-)

A huge thank you to my uber-supportive family (all of you!!!), this entire fabulous community of children's writers, my super-amazing agent Joanna Volpe, and everyone at Viking Children's who believes in my book (especially my main cheerleader Doni!).

And, most importantly, thank you Katie. If it weren't for you, I'd still be a "closet writer."

Champagne and cupcakes all around!!!!!!!!

Huge smiles,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What Up Wednesday?

What's up?

Here's what's happening over here.

1. I have hit the 20,000 mark on my WIP and although I love it, I have found myself in that part of writing a story that is hard.... Like, so-hard-I-have-a-headache hard. The kind of hard that makes me want to bake cookies instead. Focus Katie, Focus!!

2. Mississippi is hot. The thick, steamy, fog-up-your-iphone kind of hot! I am wiped out by 3 p.m. on a daily basis.

3. The kiddos got home last night and I have washed 9 loads of laundry so far and have at least 4 left before we leave on vacation this weekend. whew!

4. I just read the ARC for a book that I ADORED! I can't wait to review it properly! Squeee!!!

5. What is cooler than writeoncon?? Like seriously - give me one thing cooler. Those gals are an inspiration!!

That's it. Get some shade people :)



Monday, June 14, 2010

What Children's Writers can Learn from Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway's style is minimalist, crisp, and characterized by emotional understatement. He is a master at "eschewing obfuscation."

Legend says that when asked to create a short story in under ten words, Hemingway came up with this:
"For sale: baby shoes, never used."

He once confessed to F. Scott Fitzgerald that he wrote "one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of sh*t." How's that for self-editing?

This is exactly what we need to do as children's writers. Kids don't want to read books that are weighed down by emotional baggage. They want writing that is clear and packs an emotional punch without a bunch of flowery adjectives. The best children's writing is poetic, clear and charged with subtle emotion that bubbles just below the service of one carefully chosen word.

I've been spending my writing time these last few weeks doing some heavy duty brain storming. I've been putting myself through a mini PiBoIdMo (I'm brainstorming the heck out of picture books--coming up with a manuscript a day). When I go back and look at what I've written, I'm trying to come up with a simple sentence to encapsulate my story. And, then later this month, I'm going to cut, cut, cut--and probably throw away a good ninety-one pages.

I hope I have ONE diamond in the rough that survives!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Embrace the Big Shaggy"

I love reading David Brooks' op-ed pieces in the New York Times. He reminds me of a pragmatic older gentleman who speaks his mind with great wisdom and balance. I don't always agree with what he has to say, but his views are always expressed with a depth and sincerity that is missing in our flash! bang! twitter-fied world.

He wrote a great piece earlier this week about the importance of the humanities and a liberal arts education. It seems that when the economy tanks, people run away from history, literature and the arts, and into the arms of an accounting degree. Hmmm. . . this sounds exactly like what happened to me when the recession of the early nineties sent an art major to law school, yes?

He wants us to embrace "The Big Shaggy". Here's what he means:

The observant person goes through life asking: Where did that come from? Why did he or she act that way? The answers are hard to come by because the behavior emanates from somewhere deep inside The Big Shaggy.

Technical knowledge stops at the outer edge. If you spend your life riding the links of the Internet, you probably won’t get too far into The Big Shaggy either, because the fast, effortless prose of blogging (and journalism) lacks the heft to get you deep below.

But over the centuries, there have been rare and strange people who possessed the skill of taking the upheavals of thought that emanate from The Big Shaggy and representing them in the form of story, music, myth, painting, liturgy, architecture, sculpture, landscape and speech. These men and women developed languages that help us understand these yearnings and also educate and mold them. They left rich veins of emotional knowledge that are the subjects of the humanities.

In writing, I think "The Big Shaggy" is what it's all about. Without mystery and messiness, characters end up being predictable and two diminsional. Without romance and emotionally charged decisions and behavior, fiction can't exist. Our characters can't always act like textbook caricatures. They've got to do some weird things . . . and we as writers need to understand why they act this way on an emotional level.

I've got a novel wip in the works, and I'm kicking around some new picture book ideas. So, I'm off to do some shagging (and NOT the Austin Powers kind!).


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yay for Middle Grade!!

I've just gotten the word about a fabulous new blog that is geared toward writers and readers of middle grade books. Check it out here!

I love YA, but it's not what I'm writing. I'm a picture book girl and a wannabe middle grade writer. I haven't found a ton of sites that deal with middle grade fiction, so I'm thrilled about the launch of this blog--especially since I am diving back into one of my middle grade manuscripts. It's been out with some super-awesome betas, and I'm ready to roll.

Plus, they're doing an awesome giveaway.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

What's your magic number??

So, I've been working away on novel number two and loving it. BUT, I am slightly less than 20,000 words in. I ended up spending MONTHS getting the first five chapters just so. I could not go on until I felt like the set-up was perfect. That meant I rewrote those chapters from word one at least four separate times but I hope that since I finally feel like I've got them down, I can move forward.

Here's my question: Is there a point at which you feel like you've got this? Is it 10,000 words? 20,000?

I can't remember the magic number when I thought, "Yeah. I can finish this."

I don't mean to suggest that I wouldn't finish a book - as in put it down and start another. No way! I'm far too stubborn for that. I will work this mutha like a dog until it's a force to be reckoned with. I just wonder at what point do you kick into overdrive and zoom through the story. Right now I am still having to think through how my characters act and why.


Friday, June 4, 2010

L.L.'s IMPACT Initiative

Writers are so cool. Today I read an awesome post by my friend, the uber cool, Lindsey Leavitt.

In her words, "I noticed a few weeks ago that I’d become so focused on accomplishing all the things I needed to do—for my family, for my move, for my work—that I wasn’t really reaching out beyond the immediate me. The excuses, however valid, just kept building up until they’d created a wall between me and those who I could potentially serve."

Lindsey went on to say, "I often write IMPACT when signing my name in books. It’s a word that has new meaning to my main character, Desi, as she takes on different princesses’ identities. I believe in that word—believe everyone in this world has the ability to positively impact others—but sometimes felt weird writing it. How could I tell others to reach out when my own arms were folded so tightly to my chest?"

What a great way to describe how so many of us feel. Especially as writers, I think we tend to live inside our computers much of the time, often neglecting what is *real* around us. To make her own impact, Lindsey rounded up twenty other authors who have all signed on to share ways they have "impacted" other people in their real world OR have been impacted by someone else. She is blogging about it all month long and I, for one, am looking forward to reading them!

Be sure to check it out!!! She's giving away tons of swag too, and I know how you all love that!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We Read MATCHED!!!!!

Holy mackerel people. MATCHED by Ally Condie is soooo good. It reminded me of the Hunger Games in that it's unlike any story I have ever read before. And what's really cool and scary about MATCHED is that there's this element to it that seems really possible. Possible, and yet terrifying.

MATCHED takes place in the future in a society where all decisions are made for you based on a statistical formula that determines what is the best for you. Complete happiness is supposed to abound because there aren't any confusing decisions to be made (including who you are "matched" with as your partner in marriage).

There is a list of the 100 best poems, best songs, etc. and that is ALL that people are allowed to read. All the other works of art have been destroyed. This was the creepiest part for me because it reminded me of all of those lists: "100 Best Movies", "100 Best Children's Books", etc. What if that were all we were ever exposed to?? That part of the book made me want to seek out obscure titles from used book stores and READ them!

MATCHED comes out on November 30. You might want to go ahead and get in line to buy it--it's going to be huge!

And, isn't that just about the coolest cover you've ever seen??

sf and katie

Our Motto

Our Motto