Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Just a quick note to all my friends to wish them a Merry Christmas!  Hope you have time to squeeze some writing in.  I know I'm taking my laptop with us to NC in the hopes I can pass the kids over to eager grandparents and write for a while. 

My newest way to get writing in?  Using the voice memo feature on my iPhone to record sections of the story.  Funny, huh?  Whatever works, I say!

Safe travels and happy holidays to you all!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Just the Boosts I Need (plus a cool pic of me as a bug!)

So the past few weeks, I've been asking myself one question: "What in the world have you done?"  Why?  Because I went back to work after five years at home raising children and writing.  And while they told me it would probably be 10 hours a week, it has turned into more like 15 inching up toward 20.  And my writing has suffered.  Much.  I'm hoping after my initial orientation period it will settle down, but I suffered some major stress last week trying to juggle it all.

Then two days ago, I got two much needed "shots in the arm."  I won Corey Schwartz's blog contest and will receive a bug caricature of myself from artist Neil Numberman.  How cool is that?  Here's my rendition:
Okay...Neil's will be much better.  But you get the idea.

Then, after many, many weeks, I got a follow-up letter on a submission.  Now, it was a rejection, but it was a personal letter.  EEEEE!  A really nice editor took the time to write me a long reply to my submission and pointed out where it needed some tweaking.  Sure, it was a smidge disappointing, but mostly it was the little pat on the back I needed to help me feel that I am getting closer, even when it seems that I am as far from my hopes and goals as possible.  I'll consider it my Christmas writer's gift!

May you get a gift of positive feedback, or even better, a full-blown acceptance letter this Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Squeezing It In

Do you feel the pinch this December?  Not only did I start a new job last week, we also have home repairs going on.  Christmas shopping is an afterthought.  I don't think I've ever felt so discombobulated at Christmas time!

But I have had time to squeeze in a great book: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  My husband, God bless him, has started the tradition of buying me the Newberry Award winner every year since I have started writing, and When You Reach Me is this year's winner.

I love fantasy, but I had no idea as I started reading that the book would take a science-fiction turn.  The repeated illusion to Madeline L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time should have clued me in, but I'm a little slow!  The book follows Miranda, a 12 year-old New Yorker, as she starts to receive strange letters from an unknown person.  The letter alludes to an impending crisis, and Miranda has to figure it out before its too late.  I won't spoil it for you, but the book has some great twists and unexpected turns.  It's a well-plotted piece (that's probably an understatement).

What is great about this book is its ability to question really deep matters of the human condition, while at the same time exploring the kids' feelings about friendship and their day-to-day coping as preteens in a not-always sympathetic environment. 

To me, the best writing for kids does just that.  It acknowledges the daily grind of being a kid while also exploring the bigger questions of life that kids are only beginning to grapple with as pre-adults.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Storyboarding's not a new way to to torture a close friend.  It's a writing technique.  Ever since I read Pam Calvert's post on her use of storyboards to write a picture book (, I've been intrigued.  But I've also been broke.  So I made my own template on my computer and gave it a whirl. 

I used it first with one of my PiBoIdMo ideas, Romy for Hire, about a dog who runs away from home and finds a string of jobs that are better-suited to his unique talents.  It was a visual book from the beginning anyway, but scoping out the pictures concurrently with the text really made it pop in my head.  It also helped make my beginning more visual, which has been a problem of mine since I started writing picture books.

If you want to give it a try, I'll let you download my version for free.  Just reference my page if you share it with friends, please.  You can find it at

By the way, I think we all know we don't have to draw to use it.  Even stick figures count!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hungerin' for The Hunger Games

I recently picked up The Hunger Games, a book that I had been meaning to read for ages.  Not only because I had heard it was good, but also so I could finally raise my hand at all the writing conferences when asked if I've read it or not.

Now, it wasn't a hard sell.  I'm a fan of dystopia since way back.  As a teen I read George Orwell and Ray Bradbury.  As I've gotten interested in kid lit, I've really enjoyed Lois Lowry (Gathering Blue) and Jeanne DuPrau's The People of Ember.  Cormac McCarthy's The Road made me sob way into the night.  (I've even written a dystopic picture book which I haven't had the guts to tell anyone about since my critique group heard it and went, "huh?"  Well, except for a certain agent who raised her eyebrows in sincere interest at the last conference I attended.  That reminds me...I need to work on that...).

But talk about dystopia with heart.  The Hunger Games was a hard read to put down.  Sure, there were things that bothered me (most of all that one of the major characters was named "Peeta" and he just happened to work at a bakery...never quite got over that one...), but overall I really enjoyed the book.  In fact, it's the first book I've read into the wee hours of the night, in spite of my aging body's disapproval.  Katniss is so tough, while at the same time being so very fragile.  In other words, a great and complex character.  From the first few chapters, I was hooked into her story and wanted to know what would happen to her.

Any book that can work that magic is a winner, indeed.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Somehow I Missed Thanksgiving

A critique group friend said casually at our meeting this morning, "I hope we can meet again before I leave on the 22nd." 

I just as casually replied, "Oh, are you leaving for Thanksgiving?"

"Kristen, Thanksgiving was last week."

Uggh.  Mentally, I have missed a whole holiday.  This month has been busy, for sure.  I participated in PiBoIdMo, I interviewed and got a part-time job (go, me!), we've had to juggle some family issues, I've had meetings out the patootey, we're doing some home remodeling, and yes, I do recall cooking a turkey on Thanksgiving.  With Christmas in the headlights, and not a sole present purchased to date, I can feel my heart race into next year.

BUT I promised myself today that I would not let my writing suffer.  I have at least two great ideas from PiBoIdMo, and several good ones that may, with tender attention, blossom into great ones.  (And a bucket of oh-my-gosh-what-was-I-drinking-that-night ideas that are best not mentioned here.)

So, I wish all of you happy writing as you try to get through the season.  Ask the kids to watch Rudolph one more time while you work on that Thanksgiving turkey of a story.