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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Over the last several months, and for months to come, I’ve been interviewing authors who have self-published their work or have published through small publishing houses. From each, I’m amazed by the mission behind each book and the hopes of the author to share a theme. I have learned something valuable from each – and the trend continues this week with Virginia Ripple.

If you are a fan of fantasy and also appreciate authors who include their faith, then Virginia’s books are certainly for you!

2Apprentice Cat Toby with mysterious eyes

1. In your biography on your website, you shared something that really struck home – While working part-time as a Religious Education Director and writing the other half “the teeter totter of passions unbalanced” your life and you found yourself writing less. Many people reading this will find encouragement that they are not alone in feeling frustrated with not having enough time to write. What changes have you made to your life-style, your career, and your passions that open up the 24 hours to more writing time?

I learned a lot during my time in ministry about what it means to be Called into God’s service. Sometimes others see our hard work and think, “Wow! She really has a heart for (fill in the blank). She should do it full-time.” If we’re not aware of what our true purpose is, then we might go along with their well-meaning suggestion and then suffer because we’re not doing what God planned for us to do. It took me the better part of seven years to figure that out and another four years to understand what doing my particular ministry meant in terms of what I spent time on.

I’m still learning and evolving as a servant writer, and sometimes I fail miserably, choosing to do something as mundane as doing a marathon watch of a particular television show instead of spending that time working toward the goal of producing another book. However, I now divide my work days between writing (and all those things involved in being an indie author) and the daily tasks I need to do in order to live like anyone else, such as going to my part-time day job. No matter what self-imposed deadline I have, though, I make sure to spend the evenings with my family and force myself to leave writing in my office during the weekends, especially Sundays. I take my Sabbaths seriously, because without that rest, we can’t accomplish what God has planned for us.

 

2. Tell us about your novels, Apprentice Cat, Journeyman Cat, and Huntress of the Malkin.

Secrets-of-the-Malkin

When I was in seminary, trying to find ways to make a little extra money so we could survive, I was naturally drawn back into writing. Although I wrote several short stories (none of which ever made me any money, btw), one stuck with me. The story was about a young tom who had entered a Harry Potter like magic school and was paired with a human that never wanted to do his homework like he was supposed to. This human always wanted to race ahead of what he was being taught and it constantly got the pair into trouble with the head masters of the school. It was just a scene, really, nothing very deep or meaningful went on in it, but for some reason, Toby and his partner Lorn kept coming back to me whenever I sat down to write anything new.

 

Flash forward a few years to just before my eldest was born and I decided to dive into this new thing I’d heard about — self-publishing. It was no longer a vanity thing. People were actually making money. Ereaders were starting to become a big thing and I thought, “What have I got to lose?” Still, I didn’t know what I could write about and I was still trying to figure out how to blend my desire to write with the Call I felt on my heart to serve in ministry. The first book I wrote was actually a Bible study, something that came about from a need my church had for an adult VBS class. I’m glad I did it, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped. I was left wondering if I would ever find that balance.

 

Then one night, as I was going through some old stories, Toby padded into my life again. Why couldn’t I expand his story? Of course, the original didn’t have any of the Christian hallmarks. It was straight fantasy. But who was to say it couldn’t become a Christian fantasy? So I started working on it. It took a year and a half to finish, but when it was done, the pieces sort of fell into place. Now I knew how to blend my Calling with my passion.

 

Since then, I’ve worked toward weaving Christian themes into each of my books. For instance, Toby’s story is ultimately the story of learning forgiveness. This tom has a lot of tragedy to deal with from the disappearance of his father to the terrible thing that happens to his mother. Add to that the things he himself must do in Journeyman Cat, things his very soul rebels at, in order to complete his mission and you have a cat that has much to learn about forgiveness — for himself and others. In Master Cat, we get to see how all this weighs on him and what he must ultimately do for his own spiritual peace.

 

Nadine’s storyline is about taking a timid she-cat and showing her how to follow the path God has planned for her. She’s expecting someone else to solve the problems she sees around her in the post-plague world. God, on the other hand, has a different idea of how it should be dealt with.

 

In many ways, both these characters are living out and working through issues I’ve dealt with myself. I wish I could say I’ve come out on the other side of these challenges and now I know exactly how to face all the problems life throws at me, but I’m still learning. I think that’s part of this whole ministry. While I’m serving God and, hopefully, helping others find a way to work through their own life challenges, God is working in my own life, changing me in ways that make me more like the person God knows I can be, the one God wants me to be.

 

3. The pool of Christian Fantasy writers is sadly, quite small. Does this fact provide an obstacle or a boon to publication and marketing success?

 

Both.

 

I don’t write what’s considered typical Christian Fantasy. Generally speaking, magic is frowned upon in Christian literature, so what I write isn’t always deemed acceptable in those circles. However, fantasy, with magic and all the other bits of wonder it includes, is what I love to read. Growing up, it was nearly impossible to find Christian Fantasy with those fantastical elements in it that didn’t seem childish at best. Yet, the regular fantasy lacked the positive world-view I yearned for. It wasn’t until I read about how C.S.Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote their wonderful stories and called them Christian that I began to see that there was something more.

 

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings labeled as Christian Fantasy, but, according to Tolkien, it is. I think it’s a disservice to Christian Fantasy as a whole not to call a story what it is, but often, for one reason or another, what would otherwise be labeled as such is simply stuck in the pot with all fantasy. I know other writers who do that because they fear they won’t sell as well with the Christian Fantasy label, which is a shame.

 

The niche I’ve chosen is smaller, but so are the sales. That means that, while it might be easier to find in the CF category, most of my sales will be primarily from people who are acquainted with me or that niche.

 

As with all things in life, you thank God for the good and ask God to help you meet the challenges.

 

4. Imagine you are standing in a room of young people that have just read your book. One of them asks who inspired you to write. What is your answer?

 

I’ve always been a story-teller, so I don’t know who my original inspiration was. However, every author I’ve read and movie or television series I’ve seen has influenced the progression my writing has taken.

 

In high school, I read a lot of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. Her book , By the Sword, particularly inspired me to write in strong female characters. I don’t create shrinking violets or male-dependent love interests. My characters have their flaws, yes, but it’s usually not the screaming meemies or the weeping willows.

 

The Christian turns in my writing were heavily influenced by Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. Both of these books scared the daylights out of me when I was a kid. I loved the depth and reality of the spiritual forces, as well as the nail-biting “will he/she survive this encounter” as the characters faced the opposing human force. The best part of either of those books was the enduring hope you’re left with at the end. God loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done. It’s a message I hope readers pick up in my works, too.

 

The mystery elements of my writing come from various mystery books and shows from the Joe Grey mysteries to Sherlock on BBC television.

 

And I have to admit that Toby’s story originated from my fascination and love of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. That’s not to say I tried to mimic her wonderful world, but I did borrow a few things for Apprentice Cat, like the magical boarding school idea and the beloved head master taking a student under his wing.

 

5. What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? Speaking personally, I’m always looking for new ideas and am eager to learn from those who have succeeded. What have you tried, what didn’t work, and what does work for you?

 

At first I tried to cram everything into whatever free time I could carve out for myself. That’s a recipe for frustration and procrastination. After my eldest was born, I tried squeezing it all in a scheduled hour or two before spending time with my husband just before we went to bed. That led to being over-tired and cranky.

 

After my daughter started half-day’s in preschool, I was able to get four solid hours of work done before I had to go to my day job. This, so far, has worked best, especially since I pretend that I’m going to a regular 9 to 5 job as soon as I walk in my front door after dropping her at school. On my days off from my day job, I spend the mornings doing the highest priority work, like drafting or editing the next book, and the afternoons on more business tasks, like marketing and administrative tasks, and research.

 

The next step I took was purchasing a Galaxy Tab 10.2 in 2012 with a bluetooth keyboard. That has been the best business purchase I’ve made to date. I can now extend my writing time to the afternoons at my day job and kill the down time between customers with some massive productivity. In fact that’s what helped me win the 2012 and 2013 NaNoWriMo. Combined with my smartphone, I can work on both writing and business anywhere, anytime.

 

As for the actual drafting of any of my books, it wasn’t until I read James Scott Bell Plot & Structure and Conflict & Suspense that I really got the hang of it and the process got faster. I’m a plotter by nature, so Bell’s various ways of plotting made getting my ideas down so much quicker and efficient. And while the old adage “chase your character up a tree and throw rocks at him” might be one way of creating suspense and conflict, it just didn’t make sense to me. It wasn’t logical. When I read Bell’s Conflict & Suspense the “ah-ha” moment arrived with a giant Acme lightbulb. It’s not just throwing your character into challenging situations; it’s about finding the tension point — the “what’s the worst that could happen” moment — and then building the next scenes from that. I highly recommend both these books to anyone wanting to stuff some more tools in their writer’s toolbox.

 

6. Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

 

I sort of had this “If you build it, they will come” image in my mind. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing because if I’d known then just how much work getting in front of an audience is, I might not have finished Apprentice Cat.

 

Since then, I’ve discovered there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that goes on for an indie author to succeed that has nothing to do with writing or editing. The writing and editing, for me, is the easy part. It’s the marketing and social networking that’s tough. Over time, though, I’ve managed to make some great friends who have helped me figure it all out and who continue to inspire me to greater things.

 

7. You also have written two bible studies titled, Simply Prayer and Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives. Who would benefit from these books? Why did you write them?

 

Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives is a basic Bible study I put together when I was asked to teach an adult vacation Bible study class several years ago. Someone wanting to get a deeper understanding of the scriptures might find it useful, especially after doing the meditation exercises, which I designed with different learning styles in mind. I’ve posted several of the lessons on my blog for people to use for free.

 

It’s part of my mission to aid others in developing a closer relationship with God, and I believe accessing the scriptures is an integral part of doing that. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote Fear Not! and later Simply Prayer, which is a guidebook on different methods of prayer and what real prayer looks like. When it comes to knowing God, people often see not a loving Being wanting to have a close relationship, but rather the white, bearded man on the Sistine Chapel. I would like to help others realize there’s more to God than a wrath-filled judge or magic genie.

8. Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two :) We can all use more inspiration!

 

Be still and know that I am God. — Psalm 46:10

 

In our hurried lives, we so often forget to breath. I love this scripture because it reminds me that stillness is part of balance, that to hear God, we only need to quiet ourselves and listen. I suppose that’s why I love the labyrinth my husband mows into our backyard every year. It offers me a chance to find a moment of quiet in the middle of the rush of life. If I had one wish, it would be that everyone could find a quiet place they could retreat to every day.

 

9. You blog is a eclectic collection of thoughts, scripture, writing and marketing tips. I noticed you do a ‘Wordless Wednesday’ post, which I really enjoyed! How has blogging contributed (or not) to your writing, marketing, and in building a platform?

 

My blog has evolved over the years as I’ve worked to discover how my Calling could reach out to others. As my tagline suggests, it is a glimpse into the heart of one of God’s servants. For a while, I spent so much time on the blog, I lost valuable time producing books. It wasn’t until I realized how unhappy I was that I decided to slow down and re-think the direction I was taking.

 

About two years ago, I decided to switch gears and blog irregularly, focusing mostly on book reviews, as a way for my readers to find good books to read and as a service to other writers. I struggled during that time with a desire to do what would be called sermons in an church setting. I didn’t know how to go about it or even if it was worth doing, not to mention the fear of letting the world hear my voice outside the pages of a book or blog post.

 

Then this year, I decided to take the plunge. I researched podcasting methods and drew up a plan for a once a month inspirational message. I also added the monthly Bible study. I don’t know the exact numbers for my audience on those particular posts, but the number of downloads have been promising. To me, that says I’m on the right track for building a platform that will help me reach out to others who are hurting or simply want to see God in a slightly different way.

 

I’m always looking for new ways to show God’s love to people, so I’m sure my blog, as well as my newsletter, will continue to change and grow. I think that’s what’s important. Do what you’re Called to do and the rest will follow in God’s time.

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Connect with Virginia!

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When I first started the Pay-It-Forward Author Interview Series, I knew I would meet all types of writers from all over the country and the world. I’ve been amazed by the stories they write, their candid honesty about the writing process, and their willingness to share secrets of their craft with others. How often in other businesses do you find people in the same business so willing to help one another? The ‘secret sauce’ and the ‘family recipe’ are well guarded to keep that something special an exclusive right.

Not so with stories.

I am amazed by the writers who have come to share their work – and now I am humbled by Nikki Rosen, author of In the Eye of Deception: A True Story, Dancing Softly, Twisted Innocence, and No Hope? Know Hope: A Healing Journey.

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Nikki has won awards for her writing, and rightly so. Her story captivated me, and it will do the same for you.

Nikki, thank you for writing! Your story, In the Eye of Deception, was a heart-wrenching and beautiful roller coaster. With a website titled Write 2 Empower  you clearly have a message and a mission. Would you share with us the birth of your writing and what you are accomplishing with your work?

I never met to write and publish a book. Something happened that threw me back into the memories. I wrote to get the images out of my head. Strangely, I connected with an award winning author who believed in my writing and in my story. She wanted me to publish but I didn’t want to at the time. Her and I went back and forth for six months before I decided if I were to write my story, it has to be something that would give hope to others who are where I was, living in the darkness, with no hope of anything ever changing for the good. I found that writing gave me my voice, a way to ‘speak’ what I hadn’t been able to say.

 

Not only am I amazed by your story, but your writing style is obviously an incredible gift. What kinds of resources or training did you have in preparation (or to improve) for writing?

I had no training to write. I just wrote my heart. I wrote what I couldn’t speak. Now however, I discovered how much I love writing and have taken a few online courses and also a few locally. I also try to read everything I can on the craft. Especially from writers I adore like Anne Lamott, Maya Angelou, Eli Wiesel.

 

In the Eye of Deception won the The Word Guild Award and received an Honourable Mention of The Grace Irwin Award. First of all, congratulations! What was the process to submit to these awards and how has this boosted your writing and your platform?

Thanks Jessica. A friend nagged and pushed me to submit the book for an award. I struggled with that b/c I didn’t think what I wrote was any good. I actually submitted it the night before the contest closed. The process involved submitting the full manuscript (2 or 3 copies) and paying something like $40.

It boosted it in that many members of The Word Guild, immediately bought the book and although the book had already been selling well, I think it gave credence to my writing.

It didn’t change my platform as I already had established one and knew who the book was aimed at – women who had a history of abuse, or/and trauma and needed hope.

 

What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? 

Writing process – I usually like to write early in the morning when the house is quiet. But the place that pumps me the most and inspires me to write is when I’m in the woods. It’s there my heart speaks the loudest. I need emotions to write and images. And when I’m out in nature, I’m not afraid. I feel alive and free. After I listen and hear, I run home and type it all up. Then I agonize over edits. I’m also part of a writing group now. We’ve been meeting for three years once a month. I value their input on my work.

 

Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

When I started writing, I had no method. All I wanted was to get the memories out of my head. Writing became a way for me to have my voice. I wrote all day, late into the nights. I sometimes forgot to feed the kids. I felt compelled. Looking back now, it was very cathartic. And very healing. What shocked me in the beginning was people, women and men, young, middle-aged and older identified with my story. They told me my book came to them as a message of hope and that if I could overcome, they could too. I loved that.

I self-published my book through my university. Once I got it in my head I wanted to use what I lived to give others hope, I wanted it out as quickly as I could get it out. There was a lot of negative talk about self-publishing but the book has done incredibly well. It’s sold throughout Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, Hawaii and India.

 

What has been your greatest moment in your writing career? To make that moment shine more, can you also share your most difficult moment?

Winning the award was a definite wow for me. But I also won a couple of short story contests and have been published in a number of anthologies (5).

Another couple of highlights – December 2013, someone donated $5000 to put my book into a small pocket sized edition and distribute it free to women in prison or living on the streets. 5000 copies were printed and have been shipped across the country and overseas.

A few months ago someone approached me to have it translated into Russian for the women there. That’s happening now with the goal of getting it to the Ukraine by Christmas.

The most difficult moment was when I was at a writing conference and a well known editor who didn’t even know my story, told me memoirs don’t sell and my book will never sell. I wanted to go home and give up. My friend was there at the conference and she wouldn’t let me. I’m very grateful to her for that. One person’s opinion is just that – one person’s opinion. A great learning looking back.

 

Do you attend writing conferences? If so, which ones do you recommend? What internet or book resources can you recommend?

I’ve only attended one writing conference – The Word Guild 2009 – in Guelph, Ontario Canada. I’d love to attend more but it’s been hard to get away as I still have kids at home and my kids are my priority.

My absolute favorite writing book is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Love her style of writing and love what she says.

I used to read through Rachelle Garner’s page a lot. http://www.rachellegardner.com. There’s a ton of other sites but can’t think of them right now.

 

Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two :) We can all use more inspiration!

Okay…..here’s a couple of favorites.

 

  1. “Every little thing wants to be loved.” Sue Monk Kidd.
  2. “Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.” Eli Wiesel
  3. “I spent five years suffering from writer’s block. Then it came to me…just write a book I’d love to read. Not “like” to read. But love. Not for my mother, my acquaintances, critics, even readers. Just for myself. I needn’t worry what anyone else thought. I needn’t even worry if it was published. All it needed to be was written.” Louise Penny

 

Looking for more from Nikki? Check out her other books:

my books1

 

Connect with Nikki:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GentleRecovery

http://write2empower.webs.com

https://www.facebook.com/Write2Empower

http://write2empower.wix.com/write2empower

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3311275.Nikki_Rosen

http://www.amazon.com/Nikki-Rosen/e/B00A7HFPPQ

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nikki-Rosen/e/B00A7HFPPQ

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/in-the-eye-of-deception/9990006606270-item.html

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If there was anyone who even deserved a gold star for being patient with me, it is Gail Hedrick. Life as a homeschooler, despite all my careful planning, side-swiped me two weeks ago and I was late in sending these questions to her. Gail, again my apologies. Thank you for your gracious patience :)

Not only is Gail a sweetheart, she is an award-winning author. Her book, Something Stinks!, was brand new in our house a few weeks ago and is now a little tattered looking as my three daughters have been reading it – and loving it! It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Gail Hedrick!

[applause]

Gail Hedrick

Gail Hedrick

I’ve spent quite a bit of time admiring your website. Did you put this together or did you go through a service?

Gosh, thanks! I was a total infant in the website process, but luckily knew how to ask questions and do research! I began by finding a ‘webmaster’—I tried to go it alone via Go Daddy, but it was over my head tech wise. One of the members of my critique group and pretty famous children’s author, Joan Hiatt Harlow, has a cousin who teaches IT for a living at the college level, and also has a website design business. I then looked at lots of writers’ sites for content. Neither my webmaster nor I are graphic designers, and I was doing this site on a small budget, so that would have been a nice addition to the team. It’s probably due for an overhaul, appearance-wise, but it has been fun to have and very much served its purpose.

Check out Gail’s website @ www.gailehedrick.com

Something Stinks! is wonderful! You set this in a specific region and then visited schools in that region. Is this an area near to where you live?

Again, thank you for the kind words. I am married to a North Carolina native, and his job took us to Southwestern Virginia. We lived there a number of years, developing many friendships and connections to the area. So, when we made the move to Florida for work, we still kept up with all things Virginia. Some of the news stories I read were about fish dying in large numbers in the Virginia rivers. (I now know, after research for this book, that, sadly, fish die in large numbers around the country for many different reasons, but at the time, I was only seeing the stories from Virginia.) The strange thing was, at that time, nobody seemed to be doing anything about this, either on the state or local level. With a writer’s curiosity, I began to wonder if industrial pollution were the culprit, could any of the many industries in that area of the state be the bad guy? I came up with a ‘what if’ and asked a contact in one of these industries if I was on the right track. He gave me several scenarios where ‘yes’ could be an answer, and I had the makings of a story. I kind of figured kids would care about the fish, and particularly, Virginia kids as this was where the fish were going belly up.
 Something Stinks! won the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Book Award. That is a wonderful accomplishment!

Again, thank you. And, what a huge surprise to me, a non-scientist!!

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Was this something you or your publisher submitted the book for consideration?

Well, my publisher, Tumblehome Learning is a Massachusetts transmedia company that helps kids imagine themselves as young scientists or engineers and encourages them to experience science through adventure and discovery. [More information at: http://www.tumblehomelearning.com] So, they submitted Stinks! for this award, and I all but yelled when the publisher personally called to tell me it had won! I really think not being a scientist helped me research through things like the kids would, and in the process, I really learned a lot. I recently posted an article on Middle Web on getting kids interested in science through fiction. This might be of interest to the home school folks, so here is the link: http://www.middleweb.com/14464/using-fiction-excite-middle-grades-kids-science/

 

What is your writing process/schedule?

Honestly, I am terrible at processes. I do write everyday. It might be a journal entry, writing practice -like pick a word ‘suitcase’ and free-write for twenty minutes. Or, go for a walk. I get ideas for things to write about on a walk, or work out a problem scene, or hear a rhythm that might work in a verse. But, for planning a big project, like another book, I find it difficult. I have an idea or premise, and then a loose outline like ‘what if’ and the characters. Then, I do a bit of research. It seems that if a subject interests you or makes you go ‘hmm’, it might be worth pursuing. I have written 4 full length middle grade manuscripts, but they remain in a drawer (s) as they are not very good. But, they served their purpose to give me practice, and this is a craft that needs lots of practice.

If you are someone who likes journaling, go for it. I do it in spurts, but nothing regular. I also do different kinds of writing, so that stretches me a bit, which is always a good thing. I write non-fiction pieces, activity verses, short stories, and poetry. My big dream is to write a picture book, so I mess around with the text from time to time. I probably will sign up for a class one day, as it is not an easy task, and I think tricky to tackle without some direction. (At least for me!)

Going back a time, what inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve written ‘something’ since elementary school. Speeches, poems, and greeting cards for our family to name a few. I think, though, it was reading to our kids when they were little that ‘pushed me over the edge’ to take my first class from the Institute of Children’s Literature. I took their Beginner’s and Intermediate classes. I could do it, and still be at home with the kids, so it was a great solution. Then, I took a community college Creative Writing class, and continue to take workshops at conferences. I may start an online class this summer with Joyce Sweeney if there is still room, and I can squeeze in the time commitment.

What has been your greatest moment in your writing career?

It’s a tie, between making a sale on the first piece of work I ever submitted, and receipt of the email from my publisher, Tumblehome Learning, for my first book. The editor/publisher and I had been working together for five months, and the email ‘We have a book’ and ‘We’ll get a contract out to you in the next few days’ still makes me smile. It was a very quiet reaction, more internal than shouting to the rooftops, as I had waited so long for it to happen. To make that moment shine more, can you also share your most difficult moment? Well, my most difficult moment has been kicking myself for not ‘getting serious’ about my writing twenty years ago.

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What is your publication story? Did you go through an agent or straight to a publisher?

I went directly with a publisher. My book was a bit different, so I had my antenna up for a publisher where my manuscript might fit. I subscribe to Writers Market Network, and the Institute for Children’s Literature newsletters, and of course, SCBWI. I saw a posting for mystery stories for middle-grade with a science component, and took a chance that mine had enough of the science for it to get a read. And, it did! The process for it to become a book took about 10 months of revisions, but that was fun as I like working with an editor.

Describe the perfect Spring Day.

I just had one this April, so it’s fresh in my mind. We were in Raleigh, NC, mid-seventy-degree day, with our son, daughter-in-law, and first grand, nine month old, Callum, sitting at an outdoor café. The sun was shining, but not hot, the dogwoods, daffodils, and tulips were nodding in the breeze. The baby laughed at something, so did we, and kind of, so did the day. It was one of those ‘pinch me’ moment to be sure!

Gail at a Va Book Sale

I’ve asked authors this question before, and I’ll ask it to you as well: Imagine you are the keynote speaker at a writing conference. The audience includes 500 writers at various stages in their writing, with a plethora of experiences. What would the final statement of your address to them be?

I wish this could be profound and epic, but here goes. Don’t wait-know that time is passing, and if you want to write and have a modicum of skill, don’t say ‘aw, I’ll try to write that piece next week’, or maybe I’ll read this article on writing the perfect ending tomorrow. Learn your craft, yes. But, if you really want to do this thing called writing for kids, then do it now. Find good/great readers or editors for your work, and do the work. I kept thinking ‘oh, I’ll do that next month’, and didn’t knuckle down until a cousin read an article of mine that had just been published in Kiki magazine. He looked at me, and said, “You have a gift, and should figure a way to do this full-time.” I listened, more importantly heard him, went part-time with my day job, and within two years had a book contract. Study your craft, get feedback, but mostly, do the work. And, have fun-remember, you are writing for the ultimate fun people-kids!

 

Something Stinks! is currently listed in the Goodreads Giveaway. Click Here to sign up. The entry to win ends on May 31, 2014 so don’t delay :)

 

Thank you! If you are an author or know an author and would like to be considered as a “Feature Author” contact me @ jessicaschaubwrites@gmail.com with a brief synopsis and form of publication.

 

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Becoming a writer is just that – a becoming. Like our 18th birthdays when we become an adult, we know that despite the fact that we are legally recognized as an adult, we are too young to drink and we don’t know anything about what it means to be an adult. It takes years of being of age and feeling the pride, the sting, the work that is required to truly become an adult. Despite all the years of practice, some people never become adults.

Writing is the same. We slowly grow into a writer by studying the craft, learning from successful writers, and practice.

Loads and loads of practice.


We write short stories, try our hand at poetry, launch into a novel. We stumble, fall, are rejected and hopefully, we try again.


Just as infants first roll over, then crawl, stand, and the finally walk, learning the craft of writing (or any craft) is the same. Start by watching others, reading the works of authors who have successfully published again and again. Make this first activity a goal:


Make a list of book you want to read this year. How many books can you read in a month?

Put the list into alphabetical order (or in order according to publication dates).

Start today.

Keep notes on what you read, reflect on why the stories are wonderful

(or not, and you scratch your head wondering why that dribble was published and not your own work?

…this comment based on personal experience :)

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In between reading, and working your other job, making meals, and finding time to exercise, you should find time to write. I suggest this next exercise with a little hesitation:

For a week, track how many words you write.

At the end of the week, reflect about what you did on the days when your word count was excellent.

What did you do on the days you didn’t write much at all?

Remember you are human and there are people in your life who need you.

This is the basic principle of NaNoWriMo.com. National Novel Writing Month (November for Novelist) is a month-long challenge that provides daily inspiration and motivation to write as much as possible – the goal being a 50,000 words. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this.

Benefit – this is a BICAW (butt in chair and write) challenge. It breaks through some of life’s distractions and focuses efforts into one thing – get the words on paper.

Drawback – The result of BICAW stories is more of a ‘diamond in the rough’ than a polished gem.

If you want to challenge yourself to write a much as possible in one day, one week, or one month, I highly recommend you invest the time beforehand to prepare your story as much as possible. Outline, brainstorm, collect snippets of ideas to have by your side before your BICAW adventure.

The purpose of this challenge is for you to go into writing prepared, but to also keep track of what prevents you from writing. It’s more of an exercise in scheduling and lifestyle; an intentional examination of what works and what doesn’t.

Find the balance to be a present human being and a prolific writer. Yeah…good luck :)


Take a break from the story you are working on and work on the query letter to an agent or publisher.

(For help with query letters, spend some time reading www.queryshark.com )

I discovered a hidden benefit when I work on a query letter – it sharpens my purpose in writing that particular story. Every story need a purpose, a lesson, theme, moral, statement – whatever you wish – but it must be there. Many books on the shelves have less than desirable purposes and morals. That is up to you to decide if you are writing a social justice statement (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird), a tale of to-die-for teenage lust (Twilight), or expressing Christian values (anything by C.S. Lewis, but particularly The Chronicles of Narnia).

When a story starts to fall flat or when I just need a break from writing, I switch gears to work on the query or the synopsis. It’s a nice break from writing scenes, it keeps me focused on the story, and quite often leads to a story break-through.

confidence

If there was a common, and yet thin, connection between these three exercises, it’s that writing does not always include writing. Reading, thinking and, people watching. Seek balance, seek mentors, seek to be successful. Oh, and don’t forget to exercise confidence!

 

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There is something incredible about writing a book. Not only do I spend time reading and researching, writing and rewriting, there is the moment when the book is finished and I expect a ticker-tape parade. Every time I’ve finished a manuscript, there has been no trumpet blare, no pat on the back, and I am always alone. Writing is a solitary activity – for the most part.

That’s why I’m enjoying these interviews so much! I can offer a virtual celebration of work well done, an Internet pat on the back, and we can come together, however briefly, as members of the writing world.

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Julie Krantz, fellow writer, mother of four, and author of several books geared toward our world’s youth. I feel like I’ve meet a kindred sprit! We have much in common. Julie shares her story, her writing, and her experiences with us. Enjoy! You are going to love her!

Moms Headshot - 4 x 6

What inspired you to begin writing?

Oh, boy, that’s hard to pinpoint. I’ve always loved to read—as a teenager and an adult. And I guess that’s what inspired me to write—admiring those fictional worlds created by the amazing writers I read as a youth—Madeline L’Engle (especially A Wrinkle in Time), Carolyn Keene (yes—Nancy Drew’s author!), JD Salinger (everything he wrote, not just Catcher in the Rye), among others—and wanting to create some of my own.

 

I loved reading as kid, I think, because I grew up in a small town on the Delaware River in South Jersey. We didn’t have a library in Palmyra, so I’d ride my bike to the Riverton library. I loved going in that tiny yellow Victorian house and heading for the children’s room—followed by forays into adult fiction, poetry and reference books. (Remember when we had to go to the library to research stuff? Wow—that seems so antiquated now!) I also loved stopping in the ‘Sharon Shop’ with my girlfriends for ice-cream sodas on the way home.

 

What keeps you motivated?

 

I’m not sure how or why or what, but I am motivated—and hope to stay that way! I guess it’s got something to do with loving to read, wanting to write my own stories, and being fascinated by human nature, especially characters I met in fiction. Some of my favorites were, for instance, were Pip and Ms. Havisham in Great Expectations, Jerusha Abbott in Daddy Long-Legs, and Francie in and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. And, of course, Holden Caulfield and Franny and Zooey and the rest of the Glass family.

 

Can you share a favorite quote or a mantra that you might have posted near your workspace?

 

Oh, boy, this is embarrassing. I don’t have anything posted near my workspace because my workspace is in a nice, cozy recliner next to big windows overlooking piney woods and a rushing creek.

I did recently come across a quote I admire, though. It’s by fellow-North Carolinian Daniel Wallace, the author of Big Fish:

 

“I wouldn’t advertise my experience as one I’d want anyone else to have – to write for 14 years before you publish a book. That’s absurd perseverance. If your son or daughter were working on something for 10 years, wouldn’t you say, ‘Maybe it’s time to work on something else’? But “perseverance really is an outgrowth of passion and desire. … I knew I could succeed at something else. But [that] wasn’t important for me…. I would rather fail at this than succeed at [anything] else.”

 

I guess this pretty much sums up how I feel about writing, too.

 

 

In terms of marketing, what have been some of your more successful efforts?

 

Hahaha—now that’s a funny question! I’d say I’ve spent the better part of the past two years trying everything and anything I could (within reason and on a zero to none budget) to market my books—only to meet with great—shall I say—un-success? But it’s been fun. Now I know about how to leverage categories and keywords on Amazon, how to use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and WordPress. Sad thing is, there’s something new to learn everyday. So I hope my efforts pay off at least a little soon so I can get back to writing!

 

Did you make a business plan for yourself and your writing?

 

The only thing I’ve ever made a business plan for was a kitchenware store a neighbor and I were thinking about opening in New York. I thought I did a pretty good job, even though we never opened the store—my neighbor wanted 51% share of the company without making any sort of monetary contribution at all. Hmmm. Maybe it wasn’t such a good plan after all.

 

As far as writing, I’m not a very business-oriented person (as you can probably tell from the above scheme), but I do have to thank my husband for supporting me in all my writing efforts. I keep telling him they will pay off someday….

 

Tell us about  your book, Stella Bellarosa: Tales of an Aspiring Teenage Superhero.

 

Ah, now that’s my favorite question! Stella Bellarosa (that was the original title. I added ‘Tales of an Aspiring Teenage Superhero’ to increase its discoverability on Amazon. Keywords, remember….) is about two teenage girls who get caught returning a stolen wallet (which is already kind of a silly thing—one of them didn’t even steal it) then decide to run away to midtown Manhattan rather than tell their parents they’ve been suspended for 3 days (they devise a story to tell to cover-up their suspension/disappearance). The novel is set in the 1960’s, which was totally fun for me to write about—as were Stella and Pin Pin’s adventures in midtown.

Stella Bellarosa Watercolor Orange Arch Option 3

 

I guess you could say the story came to me for a few reasons—like Stella and Pin Pin, I went to Catholic School and had vivid (sometimes silly, sometimes scary) recollections of the discipline code as well as the nuns and priests and religious rules in general. Secondly, I wanted to explore certain issues I’d encountered as a teenager—isolation, alienation, uncertainty-of-being-loved, etc.—as well as other things I knew were (and still are) important to kids today, like prejudice and immigration and poverty.

 

If I had to sum up what I want readers to walk away thinking about, I guess I’d say it’s mainly about familial love and acceptance, as well as love from other sources—like friends and friends’ families. And it’s about doing what you believe in even if it’s not always the ‘right’ thing to do, as is, sadly, sometimes the case. I also want kids to laugh—at Stella, at me, at life—really laugh, because I think that’s the best way to handle tough situations.

Isabel Plum Cover 11-16-2013

 

Your stories have appeared in various publications, including an early version of YOSHI’S YUCCA, in Spider Magazine. What kind of prep work did you do before writing and submitting to Spider?

 

Well, nothing for that submission in particular, but I did spend lots of years writing other stuff before Yoshi’s Yucca. I also spent lots of time before (and mostly after) Yoshi’s Yucca reading books about writing, reading and studying all the great fiction I could, and taking all sorts of courses and workshops—online and at graduate school. Oh, and getting rejected. Yes, lots of time getting rejected.

 

How has your family impacted your writing? With four children, I’m sure they always inspire ideas.

 

Oh, my family has impacted my writing in huge ways. The kids were fun to raise and I think that’s why I started writing for children. I love little kids—who they are, what they do, how they think. I’m a little like Holden Caulfield that way—wanting to catch them and keep them like that before they leap into the affected fields of adulthood.

But my family-of-origin has played a big part in my writing, too. I remember Pat Conroy talking about Prince of Tides, I think, and saying something about all writers coming from interesting—read ‘dysfunctional’—families. I don’t believe mine wasn’t as dysfunctional as his, exactly. But let’s just say—they were ‘interesting.’

After two of my maiden aunts died without anybody in the family knowing, I decided to dedicate all my books ‘to my family—on both sides of the river,’ by which I mean those who lived east and west of the Delaware.

 

Are you published through a publishing house or have you taken the role on yourself to self-publish?

 

I came to self-publishing reluctantly, though I have to say I’m a real proponent of it now. And I don’t think it’s sour grapes. I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, renegade, iconoclast, whatever-you-call-it (like many folks who grew up in the ’60’s), and have enjoyed seeing traditional publishers get shaken-up. I don’t dislike them, per se, I’m just glad e-publishing has leveled the playing field a bit by opening publishing up to the non-celebs and non-paranormal-dystopian-romance-writers.

 

What is one writing tool that you believe is a must have?

 

Wow, I have to think about this. I guess the first thing that comes to mind is the computer (especially the laptop, since I umm-errr write in a recliner). I also love my i-Pad, though I don’t use it for writing. I’ve written a bunch of children’s poetry and picture books, and, new to illustration, I’ve been having lots of fun drawing pictures on my i-Pad. I’m not sure they’re fun for people to look at, but they’re fun for me to draw. I know it goes against conventional wisdom to illustrate your books if you’re not a trained illustrator/artist, but I don’t care. I love doing it and think it’s good for me. Plus—who else would illustrate my books for free? Natalie Goldberg’s got a new book out on this very subject, I believe.

 

Julie, thank you for sharing your writing and your life with us! To learn more:

Visit Julie’s blog @  juliekrantz.wordpress.com/

Follow her on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/juliekrantzbooks

Visit her Amazon Author page: www.amazon.com/Julie-Krantz/e/B00996YNZ4

 Julie has more than Stella Bellarosa: Tales of a Teenage Superhero. Her other books include:

Isabel Plum: Ichthyologist

Tip & Oliver: BFFs

Stella Bellarosa: Tales of an Aspiring Teenage Superhero

Forthcoming this summer on Amazon is

Yogabets: An Acrobatic Alphabet

 

A message to the reader: If you are an Indie Author or are published by a Small Publishing House and would like to be considered for an interview, click on the picture below…

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

 

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It’s March and we’ve long forgotten our New Year’s Resolutions. The fervor with which we planned the success of this year in January is probably frozen solid…we’ve certainly had the weather for that here in Michigan. (FYI – It was 14 below zero this morning…a temp so common now that school wasn’t cancelled despite the fact that it was when the temps were 10 below zero in January.)

Shake off those March doldrums, pour a glass of something you normally drink in the summer, and roll up your sleeves. It’s time to gear up and resurrect the goals for this year.

Speaking personally, this means that the novel I thought I could wrap up in December needs to be complete by the end of this month. I set an unrealistic deadline for myself during the Christmas season. It happens.

To keep myself on track, I did this for the month of February:

A Plan: Create an editorial calendar for the next month. Write down 5-10 things you want to accomplish and schedule time to  complete those takes on a calendar. At the end of the month, be honest with yourself and reflect on how you did. What worked? What didn’t? Repeat for the next month.

Writing Time isn’t always spent writing. Much of the time, I stare out the window as I need to first visualize a scene before I can write it. Although I appear to be day dreaming…well, that’s exactly what I’m doing, except I do need to come back to my desk to write down my day dreams. That’s where a plan is handy.

In February, I did well planning my journaling and blogging, but novel writing took a back seat. I’m going to work on that this month by spending my Wednesday writing time making notes for scenes. Thursday is my big writing day. Thursday is the day my husband is home in the afternoon, giving me from 1:00 – 9:00 PM to write. I do take breaks, but I’ve set a goal to have close to 3,000 well-written words every Thursday. Lofty, I know.

I’ve taken this exercise a step further and I encourage you do to the same. We’ve all heard that if we want to be a writer, we must write every day. It’s common sense that holds true for anything a person might want to accomplish: runners must run, athletes must practice, students must go to school. My obstacle has always been finding balance with my writing and my family. The solution that is working (for now) is to focus on one thing each day based on how much time I can devote to writing and reading.

Here’s the breakdown:

Mondays are the days I crank out my blog posts for the week. I don’t publish them all on that Monday, but schedule them for later in the week. Each day, I return to the posts to re-read, edit and revise them. By the time they are published, my posts have improved. In order to keep the blog posts as fresh as possible, I keep a notebook on my dining room table to collect ideas.

Tuesdays are reading days. No writing except in the form of notes, comments, and ideas that stem from what I’ve read.

Wednesday are scene plot days in prep for…

Thursdays. As I mentioned, this is my big day each week when I really make progress.

Fridays are too crazy with homeschooling groups to even think about writing. It’s my “Day of Rest”.

Weekends must be spent with families, but I coordinate with my husband to set aside a few hours a weekend to read or write.

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A Pro: Spend time reading Joel Friedlander’s blog/website.

Joel’s website is a treasure trove of information. Set the timer, otherwise your entire day will be spent on his blog and you’ll starve.

A Genre-Mash: Just for fun, re-imagine your novel as a picture book – or your picture book as a novel. Write a few scenes and see what happens.

I’ve done this a few times during my weekend writing hours. It’s refreshing to simply puzzle out a story in a different format. Writing styles, patterns, and techniques mature with exercises like this. What may seem a simple exercise will soon become your power yoga.

Why?

Because my favorite children’s books have quirky characters, surprising plot elements, and very often, rhythmic & rhyming verse. Stretching my thinking muscles to write in such a different format allows me the time to play with words. Instead of formatting sentences and paragraphs to show the story, I can pattern the story into rhythm patterns. Not much I do with this exercise is publishing-quality work – but that’s not the point. Trying something new…that is.

It’s very easy to feel that the success a writer creates is determined by the number of words written. That’s a trap. Don’t fall in! Writing success rides on the back of every unpublished word. The stories that don’t hold up, the sentences that fail, the characters so flat that they can slide under a door – those are the obstacles in writing we must overcome before we publish.

Writing exercises that specifically work on something we have no intention (or pressure) to polish and publish are necessary.

Enjoy the writing fun! Please let me know how these exercises work out for you.

Peace,

Jessica

Other Writing Exercises:

Vol. 1

Vol. 2

Vol. 3

Vol. 4

Vol. 5

 

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How did last week’s exercise feel? Are your creative muscles sore? Shouldn’t be too bad, you watched a movie! :)

This week’s exercise might feel a little, well, it will remind you of the good ol’ days of high school English. What? Those weren’t riveting classes where you devoured the book that was assigned to you? Yeah, me neither.

Exercise 1:

Of all the books you had to read in high school, what was your favorite? No favorite? Well, you’re older now. Go pick the first book you remember being assigned to read and re-read it. (Or read it for the first time.)

For me, the first book I read in high school was A Separate Piece by John Knowles. I enjoyed it… a little. I think I read the entire book, but that was…let’s just say it was a few years ago. I have the book on hold at the library. Apparently, people are still reading it. I’m on a list and should have it sometime in April.

Now, the book that really turned me on to reading was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. A great part of falling in love with this book had to do with the excellent teacher I had in high school. The other part was obviously Dumas’ superior story-telling.

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Exercise 2:

Make a brainstorming graphic organizer (think bubbles, boxes, and lines) for your current story, or a story you are thinking about. Reflect on how this exercise did or did not (because, let’s be honest, it might not work for everyone)  help you think about deeper layers for the story.

This is how I start every story – with a gigantic sheet of paper on the dining room table, a stack of colorful pens, and an idea. In the center, I’ll start with whatever idea I have. It could a simple scene, an over-arching theme, or an idea for a setting. As I brainstorm, I write everything down, connect ideas with common color-lines, and just have fun with it. In the background I play fairly loud music…that part is optional.

This is a great way to set the story ideas down on paper without fussing for sentence structure or feeling the need to organize things too quickly. Let the ideas fall where they will. Once it’s on paper, you can’t lose it.

Exercise 3:

Write a one-page synopsis for your story. Don’t hide the ending. Tell all in a short and interesting way.

Why do this? Many publishers and agents will ask for a synopsis and they are darn tough to write. As much effort as you put into writing your story, almost as much will go into hacking your story into a one-page synopsis. Hint: Don’t look at this as hacking. Make the one page synopsis fun to read. If you can’t shine up your writing to keep a potential agent or publisher interested through one page, they likely won’t ask for an entire manuscript.

Starting next week, I will be interviewing authors who are self-published or published by smaller houses. It’s been fun to read their work as I prepare questions for each of them. There are still a few spots left, so if you are published and are looking for a fresh and fun way to market your work as well as the books of other authors, check out Pay-It-Forward for details.

Did you miss the other writing exercises?

Writing Exercises Vol. 1

Writing Exercises Vol. 2

Writing Exercises Vol. 3

Writing Exercises Vol. 4

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I have only two writing exercises for you this week. I’ve tried these out over the past several months, and have enjoyed it immensely. I’ve also used these techniques with great success with my home-schooled children. Once you read the exercises, you’ll understand why these are such a hit.

Exercise 1:

Watch a movie. Outline the scenes into the following categories:

When the main character is the: Orphan, Wanderer, Warrior, Martyr

The Orphan stage of the story is when the main character is either an actual orphan (Oliver Twist, Harry Potter, Will of Ranger’s Apprentice) or in a state of living or mentality that screams ‘Orphan’ (Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz). This is when the author sets the stage, hints at the conflict, and brings the main character to life with several short vignettes that allow you to sample the character’s every day life.

The Wanderer stage occurs when the character is forced or accepts a challenge that will ultimately lead to change. (Harry leaves for Hogwarts, Will starts his apprenticeship as a Ranger). There is much to learn for the character to learn, great opportunities for trial and errors scenes. In this stage, the antagonist makes a stronger appearance. Hints toward the final conflict are strategically placed. As a wanderer, the main character will sometimes succeed in slipping away from trouble, but more often, he or she falls into it. The Wanderer stage ends with a highly tense scene that forever changes the character. At this point, the main character must give in and die or become a Warrior.

The Warrior stage is the result of that scene. Now the main character is angry, vengeful, or struggling to live. Now is the time to learn, perfect, journey, and prepare for the final battle. The antagonist is more visible, formidable, and success is unlikely for the main character. Although success seems impossible, your character is learning and growing, becoming more resolute in his or her plight. No longer is he wandering from situation to situation, but has an end goal in mind.

The Martyr Stage is the final stage, which includes the climax of the story. Here, the main character is prepared to die in order to prevent the antagonist from winning. This doesn’t mean death in a literal sense, but can mean that he will forever lose that great career (think of the movie, The Firm or Anna in My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult) or lose something else of great value to them.

After practice in identifying these four stages in a movie, take a look at your own story. Do you have these in your plot? Are they each about 25% of your story?

If these four stages are new to you, I highly recommend The Story Template by Amy Deardon. It’s a good read, breaks down the parts of a story in clear language, and gives you a basic structure in which to frame your own story.

Exercise 2:

Listen to an audio book. How is it different from reading?

Record your story/novel/poem and listen to it. Does it have the same ‘ring’?

This exercise takes far less explanation and is great for road trips, during dinner prep, and while exercising. One of my favorite books to listen to is The Willoughby’s by Lois Lowry. If you haven’t listened to this yet, rent it from the library. It’s hysterical!

I cannot stress enough how important it is to ‘hear’ your story.

Reading it aloud to yourself is only step one. You’ll make changes and are ready for…

Step two: Read it into a recorder then listen. Make edits, switch scenes around, revise weak areas of your story. Then you are ready for…

Step three: Have someone else read it to you. This will showcase areas of your writing that don’t flow well. While you do need to take into consideration the natural ability of the narrator, if two people both stumble over a section, it indicates that it isn’t ready. Also watch their expression; frowns and a decline in the pace of reading are bad.

When you are finished with both of these exercises, you will never see a movie in the same way again. And the way you write your first drafts will be challenged by the need to write the scenes smoothly. Don’t shy away from that challenge. While the common encouragement for writers is to write now, edit later, don’t believe that your three hour word-dump on your latest story means it’s ready to submit.

Writing is an art – make it beautiful.

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I’ve just returned from a mid-winter break – a concept I’ve fully embraced! For almost 10 years, my family and I have taken a few days in February to stay at a lodge in Northern Indiana that was built in the 1920’s by the CCC and is still the family-oriented destination that features woodland animals but no Disney princesses.

 

This photo courtesy of the Potowatomi Inn.

This photo courtesy of the Potowatomi Inn.

 

As we walked the halls toward the pool, the craft room, or the common room, I was aware how much my children have grown. Our first years at the lodge were spent corralling toddlers and a preschooler. Swimming was a two-person tag team for my husband and I of keeping them above water and in the shallow end. The craft room wasn’t even an option as my middle daughter always painted her face with anything (and I mean anything! Vaseline was the worst.)

This year, I walked those halls with young women. We swam together, painted little cars and wooden statues in the craft room, we put puzzles together. We watched the Olympics at night and read together in the common room in the morning. I thoroughly enjoyed the calmness of their spirits, their willingness to be together with me, and the memories we shared as we wandered the lodge and surrounding grounds playing, “Remember when we…”

As they mature, I’m constantly in awe by their changes. The interests they had just five years ago have changed, as one might expect. From horses, mood rings and dolls to books, musical instruments and, well, horses. I guess, not everything changes.

I wonder what will that lodge be like for me five and ten years from now?

And tonight I’m home. Sitting at the table for the last several hours, I’ve been polishing a poem and drafting a synopsis for a novel that I’ve finished and feel is ready to send to publishers. I started this poem years ago as a short story, but realized that it works better in rhyming, rhythmic meter. The novel began at least five years ago and has grown from an awkward tale about awkward middle schoolers to a poignant reflection on innocent times, changing times, and war times.

Everything around me is growing and maturing.

Day by day my daughters are becoming women.

Word by word my writing is developing from scenes to chapters to books.

And that’s the point: If it’s valuable to you, put your time into it everyday.

My children are my greatest source of joy, pride, and yes, hardship. As any parent, I would give every ounce of my life I have to them. Some days I feel like I really do that :)

My writing is not quite as important as my children, but I still manage to work it into each day. Some days, like today, I have hours to write. Every other day, I have about an hour or two to devote to reading and writing. It’s not much, but word by word, it’s happening.

Perhaps the writing you did today is in the toddler or preschool stage – messy and surprising. As you develop your skills, you’ll need a training bra or maybe you notice your voice is cracking, then deeper. When the time is write, you can marry that writing to a publisher and a great union is formed.

Whether you are a writer, a parent, an artisan, or a crafter, spend time doing the things you love. Little by little, those small efforts lead to a great outcome.

 

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On this Sunday afternoon, take an hour or so and give one of these a try. It is a good practice to hone your skills as a writer on something other than your masterpiece. Why? For the same reason professional athletes cross-train. Running, weight-training, stretching, yoga – it all leads to a stronger body and mind.

Writing is no different.

Read every genre, write poetry, practice outlining a mystery, give a picture book a try. Warm up with these exercises and then turn toward your current work. Ask yourself: Can I bring anything new to my story? How did these exercises help me discover my writing voice? Are the results of the exercises worth exploring further?

 

  1. In Writing Exercises Vol. 2, you printed a few pages of your most recent work to focus on how you begin each sentence. With those newly printed pages, put a box around the verbs (action and linking). How many weak (linking) verbs do you have? Play around with stronger verbs and see if it enhances the visual effect of the story.

For example: John walked into the room holding a gun. I have your attention with the word ‘gun’, right?

Now try: John stormed the room, eyes wild, his hand trembling as a gun slipped from his sweaty palm. Very different. The action is generally the same: John enters a room. With the second sentence, John is unsure and in way over his head. Stormed vs. Walked.

How about this: John kicked the door open and aimed the gun at Stewart. “I never miss,” he said. Totally different John.

I don’t normally write about men storming rooms with guns…kinda fun. Stories I read to my son are more about trucks with spinning wheels and little bunnies saying goodnight to everything in the room. Which leads to the next exercise…

  1. Go to the library and ask for a popular children’s picture book. Copy (by hand or on your computer) all the text. Note how the illustrations break the story apart. Do the same with your work, using illustrations or chapter breaks. How does that change your story?

My son recommends Good Night, Good Night Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker. I love the rhymes, but it’s the illustrations that seal this book as a family favorite. With over 1,000 5-star reviews on Amazon, I’m not alone! Check it out – you’ll never look at construction vehicles the same way again.

3. Read the book that was on the New York Times Best-Seller list the day you were born. Search “New York Times Best Sellers” and “the year you were born”.

Write about the book – different than you normally read? What did you like and dislike about the book? Will you read more by this author? Leave a review on Goodreads, Shelfari, Amazon, and the like. Don’t forget to make mention of reading this book in your writer’s journal. A well-documented list of what you’ve read will be invaluable.

In the year and month I was born, JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL, by Richard Bach was #1. Time to search the library shelves!

May your writing time be filled with lovely music in a quiet atmosphere with rich dark chocolate and strong coffee nearby. Peace!

Jessica

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