Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Writing With Music

A question I get asked a lot is: Do you make a music playlist when creating a new novel?

The answer is yes! The playlist usually evolves during the second or third draft, which is the period when I really begin to see what the story is all about. For Mayday, the playlist was very inspirational. The story has a deep, patriotic thread running through it. Music that conjured love of country and dedication of servicemen and women was a big part of my process.

So on this Veterans Day, as we remember the service and bravery provided by our military, I thought I'd share one of my favorite songs from my Mayday playlist. I hope you like it. It's called The Soldier and The Oak and it's by Eliot Park.

Monday, November 2, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Kick-off

I had the privilege of attending a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) kick-off event yesterday, along with Kay Honeyman, author of THE FIRE HORSE GIRL. We chatted with aspiring writers about how each of us had tackled the month-long writing challenge. It was a fun, encouraging way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo three times. One of my NaNo novels has since been published. I worked on polishing and revising that draft for about a year and half. It would ultimately grow into my first middle-grade novel, SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY. I'm not formally participating this year, but I will be using this month as a motivator to finish writing the first draft of my work-in-progress.
So what advice can I offer to this year’s NaNo participants? 
Well, the main thing is to use this time to really experiment. Try to turn off your inner editor and use the blank page to over describe every single thing in your story world. That is actually a fun exercise. For my first NaNo effort, I gave all my characters four names. And yes, each time they appeared, I typed out that extra-long name. I described trees and nature and used all the senses much more than I normally would have. You also have permission to write notes to yourself in between paragraphs. Something like, “I will come back to this part later and write a better transition because I don’t know how they will get to Idaho, just that they will.” Don’t be afraid to write scenes out of order. If you are really pumped up about the story’s ending, go ahead and write that down. If you get stuck, you can also write journal entries from your characters. This is a great way to learn their voice and their manners and opinions. To achieve word count, it’s a good idea to write 500 words, take a break and come back two hours later to write another 500 words. When all else fails, introduce bad weather into your story. All people – fictional or actual - get up and get moving when dangerous weather threatens. And finally, watch the film FINDING FORRESTER at some point during the month. Once you watch it, you’ll know why it’s great for NaNo writers.
Good luck!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Teaser Tuesday: NEVER BROKEN by Jewel

Hey, friends,

Long time, no blog from me. Today I thought I'd hop back into the bloggy world because I just finished reading one of my favorite books of the year. NEVER BROKEN by Jewel.

"I should probably not be here today. I should probably not even be alive. Being alive, I should have become an addict, knocked up as a teenager, or stuck romantically in a cycle of abuse." - NEVER BROKEN, p. 3

This was such a compelling read. It's a memoir, but there's a lot of interesting encouragements that read as a sort of self-help book/advice your best friend might give you. I really enjoyed getting to know Jewel's history and her stories about growing up in hard-scrabble Alaska. After her dad used her favorite frilly pink scarf as a filter for the faucet (bugs and worms would come through the pipes), she writes about how she learned that no possession of hers was precious.

She writes with a lot of humanity about her parents' lack of parenting and comes full circle to where they are now in life with a full understanding of forgiveness and letting go. She writes about her writing process and also how she always got recharged by the natural world.

I really loved this memoir. Jewel passes the grit test in my book. We need more song-writers with grit. In fact, after reading about her life and re-listening to many of my fave songs of hers, I can no longer really listen to some, but not all, Taylor Swift tunes. I guess I like my lyrics with weight and resonance. I don't want everything all smoothed out for my listening enjoyment. Give me a little sandpaperey sound and poetry that comes from life knocking you around and living to tell the tale. Just my preference.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Middle-grade author panel

I was fortunate to participate in a middle-grade author panel in Dallas last week. Half Price Books hosted our merry band of authors.

From left to right, author Kate Hannigan, Polly Holyoke, me, Jennifer Ziegler and Jeramey Kraatz. 

Thanks to all who came out and talked books with us!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Spirit of Texas Reading Program and me!

Hi friends,

I was so honored to be named to the Texas Librarian Association's Spirit of Texas Reading Program earlier this year! Both of my books, COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS and SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY, were named to the list. I'm told this is the first time the program has selected two of an author's books in one year! So honored and delighted!! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Spotted at the Scholastic Book Fair!

A friend spotted COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS at her school's Scholastic Book Fair! I still can't believe my book is at this fair and in the Scholastic catalog. I remember studying this catalog as a kid and circling all the books I pined for!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hello friends,

I am so excited because I just received the final proof pages for MAYDAY, out next May from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. It's been about five or six weeks since I last read this book so I'm hoping it will be new and fresh during this final read. I love this story. It's about a young boy who struggles to find his voice - literally and metaphorically - after he's injured in a plane crash and cannot speak for weeks. The story illuminates his evolving relationship with his super patriotic military grandfather and his immature, unreliable father as he tries to find his own place in the world.

I'll share something interesting with you about this book. When I set out to write it, I thought I would use a piece of advice from author John Irving. Irving once said that he doesn't begin writing a book until he knows the last sentence of the story. Years ago when I read that piece of advice, I decided I'd try and do that one day. For Mayday, I did. I conceived of the final sentence before writing Chapter One. When my editor read my first draft of the story, she wrote to me that she was "obsessed with the last line!" (I hadn't shared my Irving experiment idea with her.) Now, that final line remains in the book. Of course, you're going to think I'm a big tease because I'm not going to share that line with you right now. :)

Have a terrific week!


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The scobberlotching blogger returns

Hello friends,

Allow me to blow the dust off of the blog and tidy things up a bit. Phew!

It's been a long time since I've visited my own blog. But I've been busy writing a new story so the time was well spent. The story is finally done and so now I don't feel like I have homework every night.

The new book is called MAYDAY and it will be out, appropriately enough, next May from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. I just got to see the cover and I can't stop staring at it. It is truly special and conveys so much about the spirit of the book.  Flight. Patriotism. Finding your way through the clouds - real or imagined. I love this story.

There was a time when I thought that SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY might be my one true heart book. But the story of MAYDAY, which came to me in full like a gifts, made me feel for the main character the way I felt for Sarah Nelson in SIGNS. I call myself truly blessed to be able to say that.