Sunday, December 29, 2013


It's been quite a year, 2013.

I am looking back now, although I really don't want to look too hard because it is late and I am tired.

But before I sleep, I want to think about my writing, the highs, the lows, and all that jazz.

The Highs--I wrote a LOT of stuff.  And I have some exciting news about some of it, but I am not allowed to share yet, which makes the whole mention of it seem kind of mean, so forget I said anything.

The Lows--I do not think I have ever been so tired as I have been this year.  Ever.  Not necessarily because of writing, but because life just doesn't slow down.  And because Honors Geometry is hard. Very.Hard.

Hmmm...well....maybe it is too much to ask of my feeblish brain to coherently reflect on the whole year--that's 365 days.  Maybe I ought to just come clean about my NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo projects instead. That's only 30 days. NaNo project got off to a swell start.  I hadn't hoped to finish it, but thought if I got around 20k I'd be feeling pretty great.  HA!!!!!!  (That was the loudest, most explosive HA you can imagine.)  Needless to say, I did not get that far.  you want to know how far I got?  Well, starting a book is hard sometimes, you see.  You need to make sure you begin it the right way, or the next thing you know, you are skipping down some path you never intended to go and it turns into a forest, a dark forest, with gnarled trees and witches and you are thinking Hey, I am not writing about trees and witches!  How did those things get in here?  And the story you wanted to write is gone, gone gone.

Well, that did not exactly happen to me, the witch part and all.  But I did discover at about 10k that I was dreading the writing of it.  I had such a hard time "getting into it" each time I sat down to work.

Not good.

So I tinkered a little, tried a section in a different point of view and BAM!  I realized the story couldn't be told in third person.  It HAD to be told in first.  So, back to the drawing board.  But better to know by 10k, right?

Yep.  Still working on it. I call it MYHP or TULOTA. Both are acronyms for possible titles.  Okay, only one is, the other is a little inside joke I have with myself. You can guess which is which.

As for my Picture Book Idea Month challenge, I was supposed to come up with an idea each day for a month.  I was finally brave enough to open the file today to see what I'd come up with.

It's not pretty, folks.

Out of 30 days, I managed only 20 idea.  And 17 of them stink.  I mean, really, truly stink.

But there are three that are workable, which is three more than I had at the beginning of November, so there is that. My possible stories are M, C and P, and B.  I wish I could tell you more, but if I start to talk about them and they sound dumb, I will never write them.

So, I've got some work to do in the next bit--continue on a Middle Grade Novel, and try to flesh out three picture books (although one might be an easy I'd love to do another easy reader!)

Okay, so more soon--and more coherent, I promise.



Monday, December 23, 2013

Magical and Bookish

Merry  Christmas!  This is our fabulous Book Tree.  I have wanted to make one since last year.
 I think I need to work on height for next year, though.
It is when you think that things are going to get easier that they actually get harder.  Life is funny like that.

I keep thinking I will have time to post a blog, especially since I am now on break, but things haven't let up much around here.  Lots still to do to make Christmas happen.

However, I wanted to show you how magically bookish my students and I were as we prepared for the holidays this year before it was January and posting about Christmas in January is just, well....

Anyway, here are gifts we made for others.  Bookmarks, of course!!
That's a washer wrapped with embroidery thread.  Cute!

Love the creativity and use of color!

Ta-da!  Here is one being useful in our class read-aloud.

We had visited the "olde" parts of our city last week and decided to create our own little village, taking a tip from my favorite pop-up author, Robert Sabuda.

A tiny tea-light inside adds warmth.

The village grows.

I think that is a reindeer in the yard!
And now for the truly magical part.  I took my class to Legoland on Friday and they got to play in this:



Wishing you a holiday that is both magical and bookish!!



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Trinket Gets a New Look in Paperback

The Seven Tales of Trinket is getting a new look for the new year in paperback form!  I am super happy!!  Don't get me wrong, I loved the original cover, but it is so much fun to see the book re-envisioned in a different way.  I believe the paperback will be available in February.

Erwin Madrid did the amazing artwork!
Also, I will be at Barnes and Noble in Oceanside for the annual Jefferson Bookfair Night on Tuesday, December 3rd, from 4-8.  This year, I believe there will be a bit of Zumba, a visit from St. Nicholas (who I am told is in 5th grade, so don't sit on him or else you might squish him), and folks, ukuleles!  UKULELES!!  Of course, the usual hula-along will happen, as well as scavenger hunts, bookmark making and if you come early, you might just get to eat an Oreo with Oreo.  
No, not you, Baby Dragon.  I know you like cookies as much as the next puppet, but the tradition is to eat an Oreo with Oreo, the monkey.  Get it?

Oreo the monkey telling everyone how much he likes Oreos.

So, come if you can!


Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Week That Ate Me

So, I was chugging along with my NaNo, slowly of course, but at a steady pace, and faithfully writing down my one picture book idea a day when THIS WEEK HIT.

And everything went kerplunk.  Or kaput.  Or something like that.  At this point, I don't even know.

What was it about this week that killed me?  I am not sure, but somewhere about last Tuesday, the fatigue I had been fighting off since September came crashing down.  I was falling asleep in my supper (which was unusually late each night, even for us) and something had to give.

So I gave myself a few days off from writing, thinking I would hit it hard again when the weekend came.  But when my fog lifted this morning and I got a good look at my house, well, there was stuff I had to do or else.  It rained so there was dog-tracked mud, and the dog hair, dear lord, THE DOG HAIR!!

But now that things are better, I am not sure what to do.  I think I will let my NaNo simmer for a few days more before I go back to it.  There is something not quite right--the narration seems tentative.  This will not do.  However, I am rarely a quick problem solver.  I need time to hear the voice again and capture it in the right way. I think what it getting me is that I love the idea so much I am afraid I will mess it up with the writing of it, and as I go back and read it, I get a sense of that fear.

This story needs to be fearless.


That's the lovely thing about writing, it always keeps you guessing.  Once you think you know what you are doing, guess what?  You don't.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day 2013: Tribute to Sergeant Fred D. Lee

Sergeant Fred D. Lee, Company B, 342nd Machine Gun Battalion, American Expeditionary Forces.

That is a long title, although Fred's story is sadly much shorter.  As a young man in 1917, Fred had asked Sina Juanita Angerman, a girl he had courted for several years, to be his wife.  Fred had been playing baseball in Arizona and Juanita moved there to be with him after their wedding in August.  However, in October of 1917, Fred was drafted into the Army and sent to Kansas.  Juanita went with him to his training in Kansas, where he was able to see her on weekends.

Juanita found out she was pregnant and moved back to her home in Oklahoma to have the support of her family.  Fred had planned to take a few furlough days upon the birth of his child, but that was not to be.  Instead, two days after his daughter, Mona Katherine, was born in May of 1918, Fred was shipped out to France.

What followed were a series of beautiful letters, from Fred Lee to his wife and daughter, some with the location censored altogether, some that just said, "France." Fred Lee could not tell his wife or daughter that he was stationed on the front lines of the battle, at St. Mihiel, and later at Meuse Argonne.

On November 1, a major offensive had been planned, to commence at 5:30 a.m.  Though the fog provided excellent cover, "Sergeant Lee was wounded with a German Artillery shell in one leg just above his ankle at about 6:00 a.m., November 1, 1918."

Fred sent one more letter to his wife and daughter on November 9th, but Juanita did not receive it until much later.  In it, he said he was in "Base Hospital 77.  Am feeling better today. Will be out in a few days."

The next communication regarding her husband Juanita received was not a letter.  It was a telegram.


Fred Lee never got to see his daughter, Mona Katherine, who also happens to be my grandmother.

Armistice Day is celebrated every year on  11 November to commemorate the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiegne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning--the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918.

Roughly 20 million people died in that war, including my great-grandfather. I think of him every Veteran's Day, the good-natured, twenty-four year old young man who never met his child.  And of my great-grandmother, who not only raised her daughter alone, but went on to have a career as a teacher and a principal, later traveling the world to see the places she and Fred had dreamed of seeing together.

Thinking of all veterans today.  Your sacrifice is deeply felt.

RIP, Fred D. Lee


Monday, November 4, 2013

Because Sometimes You Jump in Even When You Know the Water is Cold

So, although I have not officially signed up (because I am official enough in my "real" life that I try very hard to be unofficial in all other aspects) I am participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time in...forever.  Maybe.  I can't remember the last time I did it.  November has traditionally been a very hard month for me.  In the past, when my daughters competed in Irish Dance, the competition which qualified them for the World Championships was always in November. It included travel and lost of driving to practices, lots of "team mom" responsibilities, etc.

Thus, in the past November was mostly about survival. (If you are a dance mom or a team mom, you know what I am talking about.  If you are not, well, count yourself lucky!)

True, I would occasionally work on revisions, or attempt to finish something I'd already started, but I've never been a full-on participant.

But I am now.

But that is not enough.  No.  I am doing PiBoIdMo, too.  (I must come up with one Picture Book Idea each day this Month.)

(That's where the jumping in cold water metaphor comes in--even though I know it is crazy to commit to TWO month long writing projects--I am doing it because if you don't jump into the crazy cold water sometimes, you will find that the pool (or lake or whatever) has frozen over and you have to dig through the ice just to get there.  Ice digging is hard work.  Far better to just suck it up, hold your breath and cannonball in.)

Now, to be honest, I don't expect that I will finish my novel.  But if I can get about 30k over the span of a month, I'll feel pretty good about it.

And as for the picture book ideas, I might just end up with 60!!

Any other fellow NaNo-ers out there?  PiBoIdMo-ers?


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Importance of Reading Aloud

Recently, I was polishing up some manuscripts--giving them the final go over before they go off into other hands.  I have to be honest here.  It's always a little hard for me to silently read a story over and over and over again.  My brain thinks it is already perfect and therefore tends to skim. Skimming leads to missed errors!

I hate sending off something that is less than it could be.

So, in order to slow my brain down, I read the manuscript aloud to myself.  When my mouth has to form the words, I automatically go slower and my eyes can sift through the words more carefully.  Another added benefit of reading aloud is that I get a much better sense of the flow of the book.  The flow of the story, the sentences, the individual words all become more apparent when you are HEARING them, as opposed to just seeing them.

There is one particular book that I ended up reading aloud ten times before I sent it.

Ten times.

And it was not  a picture book, folks.  It was a novel.

Had I not read it aloud, I am certain I would have missed some pretty major mistakes (oops!!!) as well as not caught certain places where my word choice caused me to stumble.  (Much like the sentence I just wrote!)

Anyway, my writing advice for the day is: Read it aloud. Whatever it is, read it aloud.

What are your last minute polishing tricks?


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why We Do What We Do

It is so easy to forget.

It is so easy to get caught up in the daily struggle of work, life, everything, etc., etc., etc., that we don't remember the real reasons why we do the things we do.

Ten years ago, I got a letter in the mail from a child.  Aside from making me cry a little, it reminded me exactly why I do what I do, why I write stories for children.

I kept that letter with me in my writing book for a long time. Years, actually, until one day, I couldn't find it. I was heartbroken that I'd lost it, for it had become my talisman in dark writing times.  Because I had the strength of this one letter, I must be doing something right.  It had become my flashlight.  My lightsaber (and you know how I feel about those!!) And I had lost it.

And then a few days ago I was cleaning out a bookshelf and a white paper floated to the ground.

 And so you see, my book, GOOD NIGHT, GOOD KNIGHT was the first book little Wesley A. Orred read by himself.

And that is why I do what I do.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013


The thing about seasons is that they change.

Finally, it is Fall.  My favorite. But it is still too warm here for boots or hot cider. Still too warm for the leaves to drop with a shhhuuuussh  and await my forthcoming ccrrruuunnnccchhhh.  Still too warm to smell Christmas in the wind.

But then it will change again, quicker than a blink.  Winter will come and nature will go into hiding.

That is how I feel right now, in my writing life.  My writing is hiding within me, like a seed in Winter.  Frozen a bit perhaps.  Snuggled down deep, waiting to awaken.

And you know, it's not a bad feeling, really.

I rarely ever, EVER take a break because the IDEAS are always THERE and they are very persistent.  I've been tinkering with some things, but not starting anything new really.  I mean, I know what I want to work on next, but it feels like it's still in the seed stage, and the warming sun is a ways off.

And I hadn't intended this little mini-break.  But it feels quite good to merely drag my toes across the surface of writing and not cannonball in just yet.

But soon.  Soon.

Because the thing about seasons is that they change.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Books I Wish I'd Written

I've shared the following books with my class in the last few weeks and truly, I wish I had written all three of them!!!

This is just adorable, and below is the adorable illustrator.

And this is just so clever!!  It made me fall in love with punctuation! The clever book trailer is below.

And then there is the next one.  I mean, what can I say about Alvin Ho except that my class is totally loving it.  (There might be more, I can't remember:)

Alvin Ho might be one of my favorite fictional school kids of all time.  He is right up there with Matilda.  This book is so sweet and funny and TRUE.

Wish I had written the lot of them.

Any books you've read recently that you wish you'd written (Harry Potter notwithstanding.)?


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hodge Podge

It's been more than a week since I've blogged and I am not feeling good about that.  I used to post twice a week, then once, and now....?

Anyway, the beginning of the year is always a whirlwind of stuff and I never know quite what to expect.  In the good news department, I have a lovely class this year.  I mean, all kids are wonderful.  That's just part of being a kid--the wonderfulness.  But this class seems to be one that already works nicely together.

That is a gift, my friends. Believe me.

On the downside, I got a package from one of my publishers today with some copies of HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GOOD KNIGHT inside, accompanied by a letter saying the hardcover is going out of print.  A bit of a bummer, but it came out in 2006, so it's been in print for seven years.  That's forty-nine in dog years. Arf.  The good news was that the paperback edition (part of the Penguin Early Reading Program) will come out in the summer of 2014.  I am really happy about this, seeing as the paperback of THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET comes out in February.  TWO NEW EDITIONS IN 2014!!

My desk is a hodge-podge of randomness right now. For example, my desk now holds:

a turquoise necklace

an old camera

a butterbeer mug filled with pens and screwdrivers

a broken lightsaber

business cards that I thought I had lost

a squashed straw hat

six empty notebooks (?!?!)

a remote control for a fan

a stack of books seven high

and too much paper to deal with

And somewhere among the hodge-podge is my brain.  I know it's there.  It has to be. Small, gray...perhaps you've seen it?  If so, could you just pop it in the mail?  I mean, it probably won't go willingly.  You'll have to wrangle it in a box and duct tape it closed quickly, because an escaped teacher/author brain is a wily thing.

Has your brain been wily as of late?


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Books I Want to Write

There are two books that I really want to begin writing.  They are very different from one another.  One is set in the future.  One is set in the past. I am having trouble deciding which to start, even though at the same time I am loving not having started either.

I love the part before you begin a tale--like standing on the edge of a cliff in terror.  But you've strapped some wings to yourself and you are pretty sure they are going to work.  Yeah.  They will work.  That cocky confidence mixed with utter fear--that is the best feeling.

That sense of  not knowing mixed with an intense desire to discover pretty much sums up what I love about writing.

So, here I stand on this precipice. Waiting.

I should just start.  I know it.  But see, I've spent the summer rewriting one thing and revising another and anyone who tells you that rewriting and revising are easy are either lying or crazy or both.  To revise (or rewrite) well you have to get out of your own head, which is hard for a writer because WE ALL STAY IN OUR OWN HEADS a lot.  It is hard work.  Hard.

And one day I took a little break from it all and wrote a picture book which pretty much stayed exactly the same from first draft to last.  In other words, it came out right the first time. I know I was lucky and it was a gift, because it just doesn't really happen that way usually, and MAN OH MAN did I ever need it.

I needed to remember the ease of writing.

And now it is midnight and I have lost the thread of this post. Ironic, considering that is  exactly what I fear when I am on that edge that I spoke of--the loss of the story early on, or worse, the inability to take the idea and find the story within it at all.  The feeling that the idea, while amazing, is still too nebulous to become a story, and all of the coaxing in the world will not summon it.

It is sometimes much more fun to dream about the quest than to pack the bag, get on the safari jeep, and just go.



Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Weirdo Writing Process--Middle Grade Edition

So, I finished a draft for In the Kingdom of the Selkies. (*confetti cannon*). This story has been calling to my heart for a long, long time.  I thought I'd just talk kind of generally about how I write a longer book--you know, what goes through my mind and all as I tackle the beast. I was inspired by similar a post by Maggie Stiefvater, but I cannot find it anywhere. If you know the post, let me know in the comments and I will link it.

Anyway, here goes:

Before I even write a word:  I have a document (the manifesto) in which I write down all the dreams I have and ideas about the story.  This is a fun time, a time when I won't allow myself to  write the book because usually I am busy drafting or revising something else at the time.  This is my playground when the revision/drafting of another book has got me down.  Sometimes, I might write something like this:

 I want this story to be beautifully imagined, tinged with sadness and a touch of magic, but not too much.  I want to feel, as I am writing it, that the writing rings true and honest.  That there is really no way the story could have happened any other way.  I want the bits and pieces to fit together like a mosaic, not woven together all nice and tight like a rug or cloth, but like a stained glass window, so that when you look at it from far away, you can see the art of it, but there are places in between, places that leave the whole thing up to interpretation. The spaces in between are important.

(I wrote this about In the Kingdom of the Selkies^)

At this point, I am not writing the story, but writing about the story, which are two different things altogether.

When I am ready to begin the book but and much too scared to actually do it:  At this point, I have convinced myself that this book could be GREAT if only I WAS GOOD ENOUGH at WRITING to do it right.  I am far too petrified to actually face a blank page, so I keep playing around in the manifesto.  Often, I'll start playing with tag lines, or one paragraph pitches, so I can get myself excited about the story.  Sometimes, I will write snippets of dialogues I can imagine characters saying.  And I have created LISTS of possible character names, trying them out, writing sentences with them together to see if they "go".  I am not outlining here, repeat I AM NOT OUTLINING, I am playing.  It sounds much more fun because it is.  Eventually, I try out some opening lines or paragraphs--just to see, you know? Somewhere along the line, I find a sentence that leads me into the story.  It's like going into that room with a hundred doors and you have to find the one that opens to the tunnel which will lead you...away.

0-1,000 words   I am still not sure if I am going down the right path for this story or not.  I am really scared I am going to mess it up, and then come to the realization that the idea that I loved is really dumb.  I am still writing in the manifesto, for I am not confident in it enough yet to put it in its own document yet.

1,000-5,000 words At some point, I have cut and pasted the best parts of the manifesto into an actual DOCUMENT.  The moment is usually a little different for each story.  It's where I think, "YES!  I want to work on this for the next couple of years!" (Because that's how long it will take before it will be published, if it is good enough, of course).  I am pretty confident about the book, even though I have little idea where it is going to go.  It is all about getting to know my characters and letting them drive the plot.  Sure, I'll throw some things at them to see how they will react...and I love it when they surprise me.

6,000-10,000  Planning my outfit for the Newbery banquet.  This book rocks!

10,000-17,000  Whoa. Wait a minute.  Is my pacing off.  How long do I think this book is going to be, exactly?

17,000-20,000  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where I pause, take a gigantic breath, and write a synopsis.  (If you are thinking, YUCK, then you are right.)  But since I don't outline, once I know the story and am about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through, I need to figure out where I THINK I am going.  (I have been wrong before.  I have gone down one path when I meant to go down another.  Somewhere before the 20,000 word mark is usually where I make some deadly mistakes, if I am apt to make one regarding this particular book.)  Sometimes my synopsis will say something like :

"And then something happens which makes the character change their mind.  I don't know what it is yet, but I think it will happen around here...."

At the midway point of a book, I am really considering the structure.  Am I writing short chapters?  Is that working?  How is the POV holding up versus the pacing of the story?  (I really do ask myself these things...usually I will answer myself with, Fine, fine, it's all fine...because reworking what isn't working stinks.  But it is often necessary.)

Sometimes things are chucked here.  Big things.

20,000-30,000 Oh yeah.  I see where this is going.  Wait! Wha?  Where did that come from? (major amazing epiphany or major amazing surprise!! Yay!) or Wait! Ugh!  I just stepped in something (major unamazing plot hole.  Poo.)

Sometimes things are chucked here, too.  Big things.

30,000-35,000 Sloggity, sloggity, slog.  I can see you, ending.  Yes, hiding behind that bush.  Nice try.  I just can't seem to get to you.

35,000-40,000 Will this book never end????

40,001- Oh, well, it just ended, I guess.

Now, since I write middle grade, I am usually shooting for something between 35-45k. Sometimes the story is longer, sometimes shorter.  And I tend to be an underwriter in terms of detail sometimes, so I know I usually have to add stuff during revision.

So there it is.  The Shelley Moore Thomas Weirdo Writing Process.  Such as it is.

Is your similar?  Different?


Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Hermit Emerges from her Cave...or Lair....or Whatever

Occasionally, I do leave my desk in the summer.  

Last weekend, I went up to LA for the SCBWI international conference.  The first time I attended this conference was last summer, so I knew to expect that I would be completely overwhelmed.

Which.I.was.  Even though I knew what was coming.There is just so much good information and inspiration.  Many, many things to ponder, but little time to ponder it, because you are quickly off to the next session!  Aaaaiiiiiii!

But I had two main reasons for attending this year.  The first was to have a meeting with my agent, Joanna Volpe.  I had never met her in person, and she was just as cute and adorable as she sounds on the phone.  She gave a couple of presentations and spoke on the agent panel.  Let me just tell you how utterly proud I am to have this woman represent me.  And we had a little time to discuss a story I'm struggling with and to pinpoint exactly what and when something major (in terms of character arc) needs to happen for the story to hold together and gel at the end.  (And when I read her the synopsis, we both got a little a good, um, I hope.)

And I stupidly did not get a picture. Boo.  (But I am just going to admit that I am really lame at remembering to take pictures.  Just ask my children:(.)

I did, however, manage to get a picture of this guy:
This is Richard Peck.  As in THE Richard Peck--multiple Newbery Winner who gave THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET the following wonderful blurb:  "All storytellers have special powers, as Trinket learns on this incantational Irish odyssey to find her fate and her father."
When I heard Richard Peck was going to be at the conference, I knew I had to go and hear him speak.  He gave an amazing workshop entitled, You are only as good as your first line, and gave all of us pointers we will never forget. (Except that I am pretty sure he would disapprove of the first line of my new book--too long.)

So, those two people, Jo and Richard, are responsible for dragging me from my lair all the way up the coast to LA.  But, and this is a big but, there were even more amazing folks there!

However, I am afraid that will be a post for another day.  Somehow, it became August, and I have a love/hate relationship with August.  Right now, I am loving having some time to finish up a few things before school starts.  But soon, I will hate how rushed everything will become...alas.

I am getting ready to crack open Richard's new book:  THE MOUSE WITH THE QUESTION MARK TAIL and marveling at the wonder of summer--where I can sit down and read and not feel one bit guilty about it!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Writing With Kids

This past week I had the extreme pleasure of writing with some junior authors in the Carlsbad Educational Foundation's Book Writer's Club.  It was only a week, but three hours each day.  All in all, it was awesome.

The kids really cared about their writing, just look at the covers of some of their books below:
We took some pre-made blank books and water-colored our covers.  Love the brightness!

Although the kids worked side by side, everyone's story and cover was completely different!

My students ranged in age from 8-13, which seems like a huge gap, but when you are as passionate about writing as these kids were, we really didn't notice that some were older and some were younger.  It was just about the writing.

And the laughter.  Oh my gosh, we laughed so much.

I have been in the revision ravine for so long, it was good to remember how important it is to have a great time when you are in the middle of it all.

But last night, I started thinking of some of the things I wish I had remembered to tell them.  (I mean, you think a week is long enough to impart all of your pearls of writing wisdom onto the next generation, but NOT SO!)

So, if you will indulge me, here are a few things I forgot:

1.  Finish what you start. Even when you don't really want to.  And you don't have to finish everything you start (see #2), but you will learn a lot from getting to the end, as in, figuring out how to write an ending!

2. It's okay to start something else sometimes.  Just not all the time.  I mean, I would be a happy camper if someone just paid me to start stories and someone else would finish them.  But that's not realistic.  Nor would the book be as good as it could be if I had committed myself to learning from it and seen it through.  So, finishing is good (see#1).  BUT, and this is a big but (inside joke!!!), if what you are writing is boring to you and you just can't think about writing it anymore without your brain wanting to vomit all over (another inside joke!!!), please for the love of toast, write something new!

As you can see, we were full of inside jokes this week.

We ended the last couple of days doing something with  my book THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET that was so much fun.  Most of the kids were unfamiliar with it, so at the end of the day, I'd let a few kids pick a random page and I'd read it.  I usually like my stories chronological, but it was cool to see all of the things they picked out and understood from the story just hearing snippets here and there.    I highly recommend Random Page Selection as a way of getting kids excited about a book.

And they made me melt when they asked if I could stuff them in my suitcase when I go to SCBWI next weekend.  You're going to meet real authors??  Can we come??

So in the end, although there was less work getting done (revising!) on my end, my heart was filling up and that is always a good thing.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Breaking Points

In the Winter of 2010, I almost gave up on my book, The Seven Tales of Trinket and shelved it.

It's not something I talk about much.

I don't quite understand breaking points--the whole straw that breaks the camel's back kind of thing.  I don't know why it seems easy to deal with something one day, then the next, it is completely undealwithable.  (Yes, I just invented a word.)

But that happens in writing sometimes.  You go along and you go along and you go along and then, for some reason, you just can't go along anymore.

Trinket was being queried. I was a methodical querier, but not a fast one.  I'd been sending out about one query a week since October.  In the mean time, I was working on other things.  One of these other things was a YA.

I know. Seriously.

It was a funny little YA about a teenage girl who worked at a renaissance faire and fell for a boy who actually WAS from the 16th century.  I had such fun writing that book, and it gave me the freedom to not worry about Trinket.  But, as Trinket was not getting the nibbles I had hoped for, I started thinking that maybe, if nobody wanted it (even though it was my heart and soul between those pages), I would "trunk" it.  Then maybe I'd polish up the YA and we would see.

I was at the breaking point.


Because when you get to the breaking point, you have to be REALLY honest with yourself.  It's a big decision, to toss something aside.  It's big.

So, I was brutally honest with myself and reread my query.  Did it sound like a query should sound?  Yes.  Did it describe my book, really give the feeling for it?  meh.

I had work to do.

So I rewrote the query, following none of the rules, but describing my book much more truthfully.  And I gave her one more chance, all the while polishing up my little YA. One more chance.

The gist of this story is that Trinket was not shelved.  And agent requested it from the new query and then it became a book (eventually).

Yay!  Confetti and all that!

But I think the important thing here is that sometimes, although the breaking point is a scary place, it forces you to confront your writing in a very honest way. A way that you wouldn't really otherwise, (because it is hard!!) unless you had somehow stumbled into a breaking point.

I am there now, at the breaking point.

I am struggling with a story that I believe in so much.  So very much.  But I am close to the point of, "maybe I ought to just shelve it," because I have not been able to make it work in the right way.  Not yet.  And I've been at it a while.

But I know I need to give it that honest eyeball before I decide.


Okay, as for the YA, it has not been "shelved" necessarily, just put in a stated of suspended animation.  Only two friends have seen it, and neither is an agent or an editor.  But right now, I don't feel like I am a YA author.  I have to find a way back to that voice before I can give it what it needs. That is what the honest eyeball says.

Maybe I ought to make an Honest Eyeball--kind of like a Magic 8 Ball....hmmmm.  What do you think?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

National Writing Project and All That Jazz

This morning I presented at the California State University San Marcos branch of the National Writing Project.
It's called Cal State Stair Master for a reason!

My talk was on balancing the life of a writer with that of a teacher--something I struggle with all the time!  I am no expert, and preparing the powerpoint really made me think about what I do and why I do it, and what I would do differently, and what I would never change.

Self-reflection is very powerful and good.

I also met a lot of great folks who are like me, teacher and writers.  That's what's so amazing about the NWP.  Some really smart people realized a long time ago that if we want kids to write better, we need to support the writing efforts of teachers.  I mean, I would never ask someone who had never skydived HOW TO SKYDIVE!  I can teach writing better (though I am far from perfect) because I drag my butt to the computer (or my writing notebook) and make it happen every single day (mostly.)  I understand how sometimes it is hard for kids to get their ideas across the way they want because, guess what?  It happens to me, too.  There are ideas kids have that they can't seem to let go of in their writing, themes or topics that they visit again and again and that we as teachers really hope they'll get over soon because, sheesh.   Well, that happens to me, too. (I am looking at you, Chicken Wizard.)

If you are a teacher reading this, check out the NWP.  If you are a parent, see if any of the teachers at your child's school are fellows of the project.  If not, maybe they would be interested...there's lots of teaching folks who love writing.  

And if you are a student reading this, (and you are nearby) my class for the Carlsbad Educational Foundation is almost full.  It's from July 22 to July 26.  

Well, off to the movies.  

What summer movie has you lined up at the door?  You WON"T believe mine!


Monday, July 1, 2013

In the Name of Research

Oh, hello July.  Fancy meeting you here.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  I am supposed to re-visit my June goals and make some new ones.  But the truth is, I just don't feel like it right now.  One of my goals for the year was to have a little more gratitude about things in general--and what better way to appreciate the lazy days of summer (where I have more freedom-of-time than usual!!!) than to NOT stick to my schedule? (I pronounced schedule as "shedule", as one does.)

Anyway, instead I thought I'd share a few things I have done in the name of writing research. They weren't all on the same book, and some were a few years ago, but here they are, in no particular order:

Met with a guy and his falcon to see how the whole falconry thing works

Attended a joust

Climbed to the top of Blarney castle to kiss the stone

Timed how long it would take to write a sentence ten thousand times using a quill (I didn’t not actually write the sentence ten thousand times, just a few, then extrapolated)

Sampled various types of spiced cider

Visited a heavily seal-populated cove

Watched a couple of episodes of Ancient Aliens (they have the SAME scientist guys every time, but their hair looks different—like they are trying to trick you into thinking there are more scientists who subscribe to the ancient aliens theory.  There are three.)

Watched a documentary on Area 51…but I can’t tell you about it because…well…

Watched the Curiosity film clips from Mars

Doodled a picture of a Viking dragon boat

Visited the Air and Space Museum

Visited the Star Wars exhibit at the Discovery Cube

Spent hours perusing the illuminated manuscripts at the Getty

Just to name a few.  So how about it?  What strange things have you done in the name of research?


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hard Parts and Easy Parts

I just finished an intense revision a few hours ago.

And I am nervous.

There is nothing like feeling like you "nailed it" to make you worry that perhaps you hadn't a clue after all.

Because the truth is, as an author, I am only bringing fifty percent (okay, fifty-five percent) of the meaning to the reading experience.  The other half comes from the reader.  The other half is what they bring to the reading experience, which is why some people like some books and other people hate them.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am all about diversity in reading choices.  I love reading what I want to read. Other people don't have to read the same stuff as me. It's all good. But, and here is the BIG BUT, when you give your heart to something that you've written, you kind of really want people to "get it." (Even if they don't love it.  Maybe they could at least understand it, right?)

Honestly, I used to not care.

No, that is not true.  I have always cared if readers were connecting with my stories.  It used to be easier to know, that's all.  When I was writing books of less than 1,000 words and reading them aloud to kids, it was pretty easy to tell if there was a connection or not.  I would know QUICKLY if I had, indeed, "nailed" something.

But now I write longer things (okay, not always....but I cannot say anything about that, yet) and it takes TIME for readers to read it, and time for them to respond.  It is no longer the microwave method--Beep! The child is laughing at the funny part--of immediate feedback.

Now I am in the crock-pot of "wait", where I have to simmer and stew, wondering if my words will be understood...or not.

The waiting does not seem to get easier.

What does get easier is the actual work.  Revising, the unweaving, reweaving, snipping away, stitching together again of a story actually DOES get easier. The more you do it, the more faith you have that it CAN be done.  (Of course, the double-edged sword of this is that you ALSO know how much time and effort are involved.  Not for the faint of heart.)

So, I think I am going to paint my toenails while I wait.  I am thinking of a very pale blue shade, even though it will probably make my toes look frost-bitten. Or zombie-esque.  Oh well.

And I just finished this:

A cool, re-imagining of Les Mis by Marie Lu.
VERY well done.

Cannot wait to start this one! 

Heard many good things about this--looks like
I found my road-trip read!
So, it's not like I am going to be sitting here doing nothing while I wait.  I've got stuff to read.

Oh, yeah...and I've got another revision to tackle. Yikes!

So, what's got you simmering and stewing this summer?


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stop the Summer Slide

Hi everyone.  Happy Summer!!

Just a quick note to say I'll be helping my local Barnes and Noble (Oceanside) kick off their Summer Reading Program this Sunday, June 23, at 11:00 a.m. There will be crafts and I'll tell a tale or two.  Of course, Elvis and Oreo are bound to make an appearance, as well a Baby Dragon and Anty.  Not sure which book I'll read yet, but I guarantee a fun time will be had by all.

And the best part is this.  If you fill out this little reading journal, you get a FREE BOOK from B and N!  All you have to do is to read 8 books.  That is an awesome deal, folks.


Here's the thing, kids, all of you have worked hard during the school year. Very hard.  If you read a few books over the summer, you are LESS likely to have a case of the dreaded Summer Slide.  (That's when your teacher asks you at the beginning of the school year to do something and your brain goes Wait! What? Hmmm...I used to know how to do that....ooohhh, what's that word?....DRAT!  WHY CAN'T I REMEMBER??)

Don't let Summer Slide happen to you!


So come and see me if you can on Sunday morning.  I might have a giveaway or two myself.  I mean, if B and N are going to reward readers, I should probably follow suit.  (Although everyone knows that reading is a reward in itself.  Duh.)


Saturday, June 8, 2013

June Goals

The first goal is simply to get through this next week.

End of school year.

Eight grade promotion.

College graduation.

Grandparent visit.

And right now I am sitting at my dinner table with the laptop open, looking at the messiest kitchen int he history of all kitchens, trying to open the website to finish my report cards (but not having any luck), smelling some dying flowers to the left of me and hearing the muffled sounds of a dog's teeth grating on a plastic bone to the right.

My brain is so clogged.

But I know I will be cranky all weekend if I don't make a teeny bit of progress on my WIPs.  And I will be even crankier if I don't get some goals made.  So here goes:

June writing goals:

1.  Write 40 more pages and a synopsis for this strange middle grade science fiction book I am playing around with.  I am working in reverse order, writing the synopsis before the book, but I enjoy trying things in different ways. The working title is HOW IT ENDS.

2.  Write 40 more pages of IN THE KINGDOM OF THE SELKIES.

3.  Begin a revision of KEELIE OF THE LAKE.  I have some chapters from a different point of view I'd like to insert.  I reread this book the other day and I really still love it. My timing on it was bad--as Trinket's primary editor left right after I finished it:(

4.  Finish a picture book with a title so awesome I can't mention it here, but its initials are TANDITB.  Think of it what you will.

I've got some summer things planned--a class for kids, a couple of appearances at junior author camps, a presentation for the NWP to put together--but really I just want to wake up in the mornings, pour myself into my chair, write until the ideas dry up, eat something, maybe run, write some more, pretend for a little while that I actually am the author I pretend to be, and not all of these little bits of a person pulled in so many different directions.

I think it is already June 8th!  Seriously.  Maybe my goals were a little lofty for 22 days...

Okay, so reduce everything by 1/3.

Hope your summers are starting off well.  I'll be joining you all soon!!


Monday, May 27, 2013

May Goals and Such

I don't even think I posted at the beginning of the month what my writing goals were.  I might have even forgot to make any.  Bad author.  Bad.  But such is the way of things somehow.  This has definitely been the month of stolen moments for writing.  Half an hour here, fifteen minutes there, and the occasional huge chunk of time that leaves me wondering exactly how to fill it with the words my story desperately needs.

The book in question is the one I wrote about selkies.  I have been struggling internally with the direction I want the story to go.  Originally, I had a vision of it, then I wrote it and let the story go where it wanted, but I am haunted by that first vision.  And I really want to try and make that happen.  Because the long and short of it is that I want this story to be beautiful.  I want it to be beautifully imagined.

Thus, I have been mired in struggle, but I've kind of liked it.  Strange to admit, but I am so attached to this story that the work of making it better, of making it "right" just makes me feel...good.

So, onward I write.

But just to prove how strange life is sometimes, here are some highs and lows of the week:

High:  I found out (via internet) that a little girl named her pet worm "Orla" after reading THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET and falling in love with that character. I can't tell you why this made me happy, but it did.

Low:  One of my students used his creative writing time in class to create multiple choice questions.  This hit me harder than I want to admit.  I know we just had state testing, but still.  STILL.

High:  Trinket made the BANK STREET COLLEGE BEST BOOKS 2013 LIST with a designation of Outstanding Merit.  The rocks my socks because when I was in college studying education, Bank Street was "where it was at" in terms of educational research and doing what was best for children. I am hugely honored.

Low:  The replacement air conditioner in my classroom broke.  Of course, I needed a replacement air conditioner because the original one broke, too.  It is supposed to be hot tomorrow.  So, I hereby designate tomorrow as the day of Dread and Sweat.  whoop.

High:  STAR TREK did not disappoint.  All I can say is that for the first time, I am totally excited about the proposed new STAR WARS movies.  We are in good hands with JJ Abrams.

Any writing highs or lows--or ups and down of general life?


Sunday, May 19, 2013

What's Been Going On

I blinked and then it was May.  Just like that.

I am trying to slow down and enjoy moments this Spring, but instead it's more like diggings my heels into the ground and attempting to skid to a stop while being pulled by a rope attached to a crazy bull.

It's not that effective.

But it's quiet here on this Sunday morning so I can take a sip of tea and be a bit reflective before everyone wakes up and the roller coaster starts up again.

So, here's life as I know it:

1. At the end of April, I found out that THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET was a finalist for the California Book Award.  I was blown away and very honored.  The gold medal ended up going to THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, which I could not complain about because, well, IVAN was awesome.

2.  My team of teachers just won an "Outstanding Education Program" award for that cow eyeball dissection lab we organized. The award includes funding so that we can continue the project next year. 

3.  I have two graduations looming (eighth grade and college), which begs the question, how does one make fajitas for fifty people without losing one's mind?

4. I've been thinking about writing more than I have been writing.  This has not necessarily been a bad thing.  Since I am in the midst of reworking a chunk of a middle grade book, I kind of feel like I am laying each word down, brick by brick, ever-so-slowly, so that they don't topple over.  I know the weight that they need to hold up, I know the pattern they must make so that the structure will be sound and stable. It is a gift that the only deadline I am under to make it work is self-imposed.

5.  Everyone keeps asking me what I am doing or where I am going this summer, but I don't want to really go anywhere or do much of anything. What I really want are huge blocks of unstructured time. Here's hoping.

6. I've read some great books:

This is such a beautifully written book--very reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling--at least to me--and I love Kipling.
If you want to write middle grade and you are not reading Rebecca Stead, you should stop everything you are doing and read one of her books.  I insist.

Creepy. Scary. Gritty. Hopeful. Wow.
So, there's life as I know it.  How are you getting yourself ready for Summer?


Friday, May 10, 2013

Influences: Star Trek

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to watch reruns of Star Trek* (the original) with my dad.  Sometimes we would stay up late, waiting for a special episode to came on after the ten o'clock news, sometimes we'd find one broadcast on a Saturday afternoon, but regardless of when, for that hour I was a TV zombie.  I couldn't take my eyes from the screen.

And naturally, I daydreamed about it all later.

Except, I always had a small problem with the whole Star Trek mythology.  Well, maybe not so small.

You see, I never identified with the female characters.

I wanted to be HIM^.
Now, don't misunderstand, I liked Uhura.  And I thought being a communications officer on a starship could actually be a fun job.  But seriously, she never got an adequate amount of screen time nor an acceptable amount of adventure. As for Nurse Chappell, well, she kind of annoyed me, so I didn't want to be her.

And then there was some lady with blond basket-weave hair that was on from time to time, but I can't even remember her name...Janice? Maybe?  I am going to google blond basket weave hair lady from Star Trek and see what comes up.  Give  me a moment.


Whooop!  There is is!  I found her.  Google, you are amazing.
Seriously she wasn't on that often, and if you wanted to go adventuring across galaxies, then that hair would take way too much upkeep.  (Remember, these were my thoughts as a ten year-old...and I was not far off the mark!)

See, if you wanted to go "where no one** was gone before" then the character you HAD to be was Captain Kirk.  I loved him.  Not in a "I have a crush on you" kind of way, but in an "I want to be you" kind of way.  I mean, he always seemed like he had a plan, even when he didn't.  And he lived for adventure.  

(I didn't pick up in his jerky womanizer tendencies as a kid. I suppose that made him a flawed, multi-dimensional character, who knows? Regardless, I am glad my dad didn't tell me I should be identifying with basket weave head. She didn't  get to do much of ANYTHING!)

But oh, the adventurous Kirk!! 

This need for adventure has influenced my stories greatly.  My characters need to go somewhere, do something within their tales for me to be able to follow their stories to the end.  Every one of my characters has a teeny bit of James T. Kirk living inside of them.   (However, NONE OF THEM ARE JERKY WOMANIZERS!)  

Yes, I am dying for the next Star Trek movie, in case you were wondering.

Is there a childhood show or book that influence your writing?


*I always had to explain to my friends that it was Star TREK, not Star TRACK.  Sheesh.  Didn't their dads stay up late to watch it with them?

**Yeah, yeah, I know, on the old series he always said, "Where no MAN has gone before."  So glad when they changed it for NEXT GENERATION.  I'll have to post another time with all of my love for Captain Picard!!  Love you, Jean-Luc!!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

What I've Been Reading

Confession: Sometimes I am afraid to read books that tell you How to Write in fear that I'll find out that I am doing it all wrong.

Really.  It's true.

But I was browsing in Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago (yes, people still browse for books in a bookstore!  It still happens!  Please save our brick and mortar stores!) and I stumbled upon HOW TO WRITE IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT by Mary Kole.  Mary Kole is a literary agent who runs a blog called which I enjoy reading.  I remember when her book came out, thinking that I might check it out, but I was a little scared--what if I found out that my method for writing children's literature is all messed up?  (Okay, really I am not this insecure about my writing all the time, but I have my weak moments.  And right now, I can't afford weak moments.  Weak moments usually involve a pity party with some form of chocolate, or maybe french fries, and walking around my house in a my-writing-stinks funk.  I am beginning some new projects and funks can kill a project dead.  Like BANG! POW! YOU ARE DEAD, NEW PROJECT!)

So, with trepidation, I put down my bag, sat on the Barnes and Noble carpet, and cracked open Mary's book to give it a test run.

Three pages in (and a quick thumb-through), I stood up, picked up my bag, and shelled out the $19.99 cover price.  (Yes, I probably could have ordered it on-line and saved some money, but I had to have it right THEN!  Also, see above^ Save our brick and mortar stores!)

I don't want to tell you too much about her approach, for I think you need to read it for yourself, but I will tell you that she does two things that I really, really liked:

1.  She gives the opinions of other editors and agents about what they find compelling in children's literature.

2.  She gives examples from real, actual children's books which reinforce what she is talking about.

In other words, she tells you what is important, she tells you why it is important, then she gives you some great excerpts, as well as suggested readings.

Well done, Mary!  YOUR book is irresistible, too!
I think this is a great book for writers who are just now discovering the desire to write for children as well as folks like me, who have written for kids for YEARS, but want to examine their own methods and delve deeper into their craft.

Highly recommend.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Great Read Aloud Experiment Part 2

Wow.  Sometimes it's like the Earth swallows you up, you know?

It isn't the Earth, actually, it's my job.  In the past, when my work got stressful, I found I would blog a lot.  I needed to keep that write part of me alive and not let it slip away.  However, right now most of my brain cells have been overtaken by 32 third graders, and instead of needing to escape from the situation, I find I really like it.  I greatly enjoy these little people and thinking about ways to make our time together as meaningful as possible.

A part of me will always be a teacher, I suppose.

So, as I blogged about before, I thought it would be interesting (exciting, crazy, maybe stupid) to read my middle grade novel to my own class.  We are a little more than the middle of the way through, so I thought I'd share some thoughts.

1.  There is NOTHING like writing a special part of a book that you HOPE that kids get, and then seeing the light bulb go ON and hands shoot up into the air with comments!  It.was.awesome.  Today I was reading the fifth tale, A Pigboy, a Ghost, and a Pooka, and I got to the part where one of the characters may or may not be what they seem.  Oooooh! The gasps, the looks, the questions.  I'll never forget their faces.

2.  It made me hope there would be an audio-book of Trinket someday.  I actually like hearing this story better than silently reading it.  I think there are those books that lend themselves more to be read aloud, and some that are more private, and better savored in solitude. Trinket is the former.  

3.   Would I change anything about the book?  Short answer:  No.  Long answer: Truthfully, there are a few phrases that I read differently than I wrote them.  I don't know why my brain makes the change, but it does.  So there is that.

4.  It makes me itching to write!!  My writing time has been small lately, and focused mostly on revision.  I really want to write something that surprises me.  I just wish I knew what.  (Of course, then it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?)

So, I have a few minutes which are not packed with anything, so I think I will open a word document and see where it takes me....


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Unless: A few thoughts about Dr. Seuss

It struck me the other day that the genius of Dr. Seuss is not his rhyme or his rhythm or his invention of the perfect word to fit into the perfect verse.  It is not his creation of unusual and almost impossible creatures in hues of pink, yellow and green.

The genius of Dr. Seuss lies in the heart of his stories--or more basically, the simple fact that his stories are full of heart.

Example #1:  I was reading THE LORAX the other day to my class. We were near the end of an IB unit entitled I Need the Earth and the Earth Needs Me so it seemed appropriate. The kids were there--right there-- with the good doctor as the Lorax bemoaned the loss of the truffula trees and the brown barbaloots.  All was lost for this corner of the world until I turned the page and in largish letters was the word UNLESS.  Our world will go the way of the Lorax's world unless we make a choice to change things.  Unless.  I will admit, I got a little teary when I read that word, mostly because my kids totally GOT IT.  They know if the world is to change, it is up to them.  Dr. Seuss knew that almost 50 years ago.  He knows that our only hope is children.

Example #2:  My daughter was in a production of Seussical  a few weeks ago.  She was the Sour Kangaroo (the villain, which she played well--almost too well:).  Anyway, there is a part in the musical near the end when the egg that Horton has been sitting on finally hatches and durn it if it didn't cause a big lump in my throat and tears in my eyes!  This was a mid-school production, and Horton was a 14 year-old boy in overalls and a trucker hat with elephant ears and I am crying!  Crying!

And Dr. Seuss would probably say:

And it should be,
     It should be,
           It SHOULD be that way.

So much heart.  Reread HORTON HATCHES THE EGG, or THE LORAX.  You'll see.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

What I Did Over My Spring Break

It ends tonight.  *sniff*  *sniff*

It is not that I don't want to go back tomorrow and see my lovely students.  I do.  But I would be a liar if I didn't say how much I enjoyed not having to get up in the dark of the morning, and having nice chunks of unstructured time.

It is hard when you are a wife and a mom and a teacher and a writer to NOT feel like there is always something that you SHOULD be doing.  Every moment that I am doing one thing, I worry that I am not getting something else done that I should be.  Sheesh.  That is why Spring Break is so nice.

So, here is what I did:

1.  Saw a production of Seussical (which I need to blog about in detail, soon!)

2.  Prepared a very easy Easter dinner for my family and my visiting folks that was very tasty.  I sometimes forget how good simple can be.

3.  Shopped a little, but not much.

4.  Went to the San Diego Zoo (with about everyone else in San Diego!!!) It was so crowded.  But I saw the most adorable otter, and it reminded me of a shape-shifting otter I once wrote about.  Such a beautiful day, too.  My youngest daughter has a fancy camera, so it was really a photography excursion for her.  But for me, it was just amazing to be in the presence of wild animals.

5.  Spent time with my daughters, just goofing and watching junk TV.

6.  Wrote a lot.  I finished a completely new version of Nix the Naughty, my wacky medieval romp which stars a trouble-making boy and his adventures in a scriptorium. Think if Jimmy Neutron wrote the Book of Kells.  I also started two new middle grades (while Nix simmers and awaits revision).  Well, only one of them is new.  The other one is a rewrite of In the Kingdom of the Selkies which I have decided to take in a new direction.  It is hard when you finish writing something and know that if you made a different choice early on, the book would be stronger.  So, I have been putting off the revision until I could figure out what the new first lines of the book should be.  And finally, I think I've found them.  (Crosses fingers.)  What?  Oh the other new middle grade?

Well, I think it is sci-fi.

I know, right?

We'll see.  I plan to write two books side by side until one takes over.  I know it sounds crazy, but it allows me to write more freely if all-of-the-pressure-of-the-world is not on one book.  I guess it's like not putting all of my eggs in one basket or something.  I dunno.  I just know that it helps me to start things if I start two completely different pieces at the same time.

Oh, and I drafted a picture book, too.  (I am just waiting patiently for the right ending to come along....)

7.  And I read!!  Several books that touched my brain and my heart.  Will post a recommendation list soon.

But for now, I have to prepare myself to go back to school.

Which of course means a trip to Costco.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013



I have a lot I'd like to blog about and just haven't had the time to do it--so soon.  I'll do it very soon.  I mean, I've got to reflect on my March goals and then I had a very insightful experience with Dr. Seuss.  Oh, and I've got to update my progress on the Great Read Aloud Experiment of 2013 (in which I am reading my book to my class).  However, today is Tuesday, the second official day of my Spring Break and thus far, I have written nothing.


And I'd like to finish a draft this week, begin a revision (in which the first page must be totally reworked and if I don't capture the right voice within the first few lines, the manuscript if done for) and draft a very short picture book that has been kicking around in my brain for three weeks.

It seems like a lot--but I've got a week!  A week with no extraneous work!

So, to make myself accountable for today, I am going to live-blog my progress today.  The manuscript I am working on is currently 15,222 words.  I'd like it to be around 20k (about the length of a Wimpy Kid book).  I have fortified myself with a breakfast of a blondie with browned-butter icing, topped with a piece of Irish bacon. (This may be the best breakfast ever!!)  And tea.  Always tea. I let myself have a rare sleep-in this morning, so I can't say that I am tired.  No excuses.  I think I'll start with a 30 minute timed writing and see how far I get.

Wish me luck! Start time:  11:22  Total: 15,222.

(The last line I wrote in this ms is:
     I hear the rocks and dirt crunch under his feet.
     He is coming towards me.)

End time:  11:58  New Total:  15,819

Just did a timed writing for 30 minutes.  Not a bad start.  I got through a scene that I was struggling with (as in having no idea what was going to happen.)  Yay!  Now, I am going to get dressed for the day, maybe read a little, then try another timed writing in a little while.

I decided to do a 1k1hr on twitter with some other authors.  I began at 1:30 and finished at 2:26.    A little over 1,100 words! I worry that I am moving too quickly through some scenes, but I think I can go back and flesh them out if they seem sparse on the re-read.  I am just excited to feel the momentum of the story moving forward to its climax.  I'd love to try another timed writing for an hour in a little bit.  My fingers seem too sloppy to tackle it now.  I am about to enter a battle scene with Vikings, a couple of monks and a very inept knight.  

End time: 2:26  new Total 16,925!

Spent a good deal of time reading.  It is so nice not to fall asleep and have the book hit my face, which happens most nights because I am sooooo tired by the time I finally get to read.  What a gift, to read leisurely.  I was reading Gayle Forman's new young adult novel, JUST ONE DAY,
which was really, really good.  I thought I'd do another timed writing for an hour, but life intervened (in the form of an epic lightsaber vs watergun battle right outside my window.)  I only got about 400 more words.

New Total:  17, 372!

So that makes more that 2k in one day, which is fairly awesome for me.  I might try one more after dinner, which I think will be leftovers from Easter dinner. 

More later, perhaps.