Archive for the ‘Writing Style’ Category

Feb

18

2017

NY 2017 SCBWI Conference Part 2

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Kim Sabatini, Kimberly Sabatini, Pondering, Publishing, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style

I’m back for Part 2 of my NY 2017 SCBWI Conference Recap!!!

And like these two guys, I’m a bit confused…

(Scott Hammon and Justin Brancato)

I can’t remember exactly when, during the conference a few of these pictures happened.

So–I’m gonna go with it and just kick off with them.

This is just a shot giving you an idea of how big the conference tribe is.

Some of our SCBWI Faculty getting ready to go on stage and take a bow!

And over in the corner was all our fabulous RA’s who volunteer their time and experience. <3

We love you RA’s!!! How did I not get my conference picture with my RA Nancy Castaldo?

And then it was officially the Sunday Morning Conference Kick-off…

I love the awards!!!

Student Illustrators

Art Portfolio Honors

Art Portfolio Winner

Then we had the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grants for talented Mid-List authors who have stalled in their publishing career. This is to remind them of their talent and how much we all still believe in them.

Only one of our Mid-List Author Grant Winners was in attendance. I think the weather kept many people from making it. But you can see what this kind of recognition from your peers can mean. <3

We were all choked up.

Next up was the Tomie dePaola Award for Illustrators. I’ve been watching talented artists receive this award since I’ve been coming to the NY SCBWI Conference and I was shocked to learn this was going to be the last time it’s given.

Moving forward, it will now become the Narrative Arts Award and it will still have “Assignments” <3

So, for this year’s winners–it must be extra special.

And there was another big announcement. On the horizon, the SCBWI will be doing a new project called BOOKS FOR READERS.

Two times a year, the tribe will come together to bring books to readers in need. The room was energized at the idea and now we are all waiting to hear more about the new project.

And then it was time to get down to the business of the day–The Current Landscape of Children’s Books

Moderator–LO–Lin Oliver

KG–Ken Geist (VP, Publisher, Orchard Books, Scholastic Press Picture Books, Cartwheel Books, Readers, Branches and Little Shepherd)

AH–Andrew Harwell (Senior Editor, Harper Collins)

CH–Carrie Howland (Senior agent, Empire Literary)

EK–Eileen Kreit (Vice President and Publisher, Puffin/Penguin Young Readers Group)

EN–Edward Nescarsulmer IV (Agent, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency)

Here’s the highlights…

AH–Yes, literally everything about children’s books is more important than ever.

EK–Pointed out the changes (cuts) occurring related to the NY Times Best Seller List are due to relocated resources needed to meet the current demand for political news. (I guess the politicians are getting us coming and going.)

KG–Authenticity matters. You can’t lift a flap on an ebook. Picture Books are here to stay.

AH–MG and YA readers are already discerning. Many of 2016’s award winners were already becoming best sellers before their win.

EN–Your brand is your name connected with excellence.

KG–Ha! We “actually” have a wrestling mat in Acquisitions. (On fighting for books you love)

EN–Mergers in publishing have happened for a reason–Penguin/Random–they were digging in. They were announcing to everyone–“we are here to stay.”

And, much to my delight, I found a friend of friend in the audience while waiting

for my next breakout session to start. His name is Hamlet <3

Next up was a Sunday Workshop–this was something we hadn’t done before and I really enjoyed having another fabulous break out session added to the conference.

This session was two pronged and packed in a HUGE amount of intense information.

Writing Within and Across Identity Elements with Cynthia Leitich Smith

AND

How to Write About Difficult Subjects with Ellen Hopkins

Can brought her information at a fast and furious pace in order to give us as much knowledge as she could in a short time. Here are some of the things I was able to capture…

Cynthia:

*51% of children today are people of color.

*We are all related.

*When writing, non-human characters are sometimes the ultimate diversity.

*Everything you write will be criticized. Be diligent–be brave.

*Books that feature diverse characters are not there just for a specific type of reader. And the diversity is not there just to teach you something.

Then Ellen mesmerized the audience with her personal stories, letters from readers and samples of her own writing…

Ellen:

*These are the kids we don’t wan to believe exist, but it’s true.

*Never self-censor–tell what needs to be told.

*Be TRUE TO CHARACTER!

Sara and I signed in at the front desk right after the UPS delivery LOL!

And for the last Keynote of the conference we were privileged to hear from Sara Pennypacker. And I was even luckier than most, because Sara made a stop at my boy’s school before the conference and I got to see her in action during a school visit and got some quality time to hang out with her and my friend and Pop-up Engineer Courtney McCarthy who was the book fairy for all the magic that happened for Book Fair an Drop Everything and Read Week.

I wrote like a fiend, trying to capture the best of Sara–here it is…

*We are all doing the same thing–in our own way we are trying to make order out of chaos.

*People who are passionate about what they do (in any area of life) never fail to inspire me. Surround yourself with people who walk with light instead of darkness.

*Write a HELL, YES manuscript–one that makes the agent, editor, publisher and reader say HELL, YES–I must have this!

*Creation is a river and rivers become stagnant if blocked. The best thing a river does is flow. We are all part of the river.

*Story illuminates in a way facts never can.

*Children are the best audience–children are free of adult boundary issues.

*Kids build bonds through characters they love. If an author loves a character. And a kid loves a character. Then ergo–the kid loves the author. This is why Ellen Hopkins stays in the parking lot for 2 hours after school visits because those teens know she doesn’t judge her characters–that she loves them–meaning they can trust her because they will be safe with her. They find her in the parking lot. <3

*Writing Tip–leave room for the reader. Don’t do it all yourself, it’s not a monologue.

*Writing Tip–The story is the boss.

*It’s not about me–story serves the reader.

*No proselytizing!

     -Say it with Sara…”If I were God’s own spiritual advisor–I would understand it’s not my job to preach.”

     -Authors are not parents.

     -Our job is to allow children to safely experience things we don’t actually want them to experience.

*Kids need to hear stories.

*Sometimes the problem exposes the wound that is REALLY the problem.

*Story is a template for kids.

*Children need to tell their stories.

     -“There is an evil in the world because people aren’t allowed to tell their stories.” Carl Jung

     -I write for children because they can’t write their own stories for themselves. Now I write to give the child a template to use to say…THIS is my story.

     -All those people who allow children to to tell their stories may never know what a great and impactful thing they have done. (Thank you librarians and teachers and those who encourage voice)

*Join the SCBWI and then go out and persist!

*Go out and subtract a measurable amount of evil in the world. <3

And get your books signed by the authors and illustrators who have spent the conference teaching you and inspiring you…

Illustrator, Brian Floca and MOONSHOT

Love his art work in this book!

Totally, NOT BORED hanging out with my bud Debbie Ohi <3

Me and Sonya Sones

Signing for the readers at GUFS

The fierce and fabulous Ellen Hopkins!!!!

Lin Oliver

And Tomie DePaolo…an incredible picture book team

And as we were leaving the autograph room one of my friends pointed to the floor and said…

“this is where the magic happens.”

And my response was…

“then let’s be where the magic happens.” <3

Never be afraid to put yourself where the magic happens.

And that doesn’t change when the conference is over and you head back home…

Remember there will be snow on your windshield and a million other things that would like to keep you from your work.

But don’t let it stop you.

Every conference I attend, I realize that a word or a theme usually floats to the top of my conscious and reminds me what I need to know about myself, my writing and my process.

My take away from New York is PURPOSE AND PERSISTENCE!

I have a purpose in this writing world and I must work to fulfill that.

I believe that the myriad of obstacles that have been put in my path are not there to dissuade me from my work, but have rather been designed to ensure I do my BEST work.

I know I might never reach my own excellence if the world accepts my mediocrity.

This means my challenges are my gifts.

I believe I have a purpose and I will persist and my world will be a better place because of it.

In the comments, feel free to share your own writing manifesto.

Remember–your words have power and magic happened when you put them into the world.

And if you are able–come and join me in LA in July. There can never be too many Lobby Rats at a conference. <3

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Apr

14

2016

Write Daily 30

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Stuff I Love, Writing, Writing Style

This month I am participating in Linda Urban‘s Write Daily 30 (#WriteDaily30) challenge. This has been wonderful for me. You set your own goal and try to meet it every day for the month of April–but you do it in a hard working, supportive group.

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Here are my list of reasons why any writer should grab a group of friends and do a Write Daily 30 #WriteDaily30 Challenge…

*Checking in and knowing your friends are watching helps you stay accountable.

*Setting your own goals allows you to do exactly what you need to do. Your choices can be specific to you and the project your working on. My goal is to show up for 15 mins and work on my WIP. This is a great goal because my problem is STARTING, but once I begin I almost always do a lot more than I expected. Score!

*Having to check in everyday creates a new view of scheduling–you WILL carve out the time you need to meet your goal. Even if it means bringing your lap top to Little League practice.

*You may make wonderful discoveries–like how much you get done at Little League practice when no one else is bugging you or interrupting you. You may begin to wonder why your child hadn’t signed up for Little League earlier.

*You”ll probably learn or be reminded of some important lessons about writing in general because you consistently engaging with your work. The biggest for me so far, is about the importance of staying in a close relationship with my manuscript. When you do this, you spend less time working to place yourself back into your work. When you stay in the moment, you improve your writing. Time away from your manuscript is important at other times in your process but not when I’m trying to complete that MS.

*I’ve also discovered that the small bits add up. When I look at each individual day, more often then not, I find myself wishing for bigger numbers. But a funny thing happened when I stopped and added up those word counts–I realized that even if I only did a little bit on some days–those numbers were adding up and I’m pleased with the results. Not doing anything, because you don’t think you’ll get enough done, is just plain stupid. This is a much better approach.

 

Since it’s only April 14th–I’m almost at the halfway mark of Write Daily 30 (#WriteDaily30.) I’ll try to check back in at the end of the month and let you know how I did and tell you about any other additional insight I gained by participating.

Have you done this kind of group writing challenge before? I’ve done #NaNoWriMo (a monster challenge) and #JoKnoWriMo (which is very similar to this one.) What works for you? What are some of your best tips? Planning on getting involved with a writing challenge or starting your own? Have any questions?

 

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Feb

25

2016

Know Your Process

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Revision, Running, Writing, Writing Style

Yesterday I headed to the gym to run on the treadmill. While I was there, I learned it was an advantage to know your process. I went to the gym, not because I hate running in the rain, I kind of like it actually. But I didn’t think I’d want to run in the rain AND THEN go back out and play ball IN THE RAIN with the dog. Plus, I may have wanted a strawberry smoothie with flax afterwards.

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But, I digress.

As you may have heard me mention in the past, running on the treadmill is not ideal for me. Why?

  1. I get bored.
  2. I spend a large amount of my run trying to convince myself not to get off earlier than I should.
  3. I get a strawberry smoothie with flax afterwards. Yum! But let’s be honest, it’s not a lunch replacement.

Know your process. Running outside combats these three treadmill challenges rather nicely.

  1. Lots to see–nature and wildlife–never bored.
  2. If I run out as far as I can, I still have to come back. No one is going to give me a lift back home. I’ll get there quicker if I just run it out.
  3. After running, I’m way too lazy to make a smoothie. And the dog isn’t going to wait for more than a shower and pouring a cup of coffee to go out and play ball.

So, in general I’m aware of what works for me–I know my process. But sometimes, even when I know what’s good for me, I end up on the treadmill, despite my best intentions. As I listened to music I could barely hear in my broken headphones (asking for new ones for my birthday) while watching the really bizarre closed captioning that used to be so much better when humans did things, I realized that it helped to know my  process in a different way. Or maybe the best way to phrase it is I needed to create a process for the situation I couldn’t avoid.

As I pushed myself through my treadmill run, I pictured my favorite outdoor run route–the one that I do so often I no longer need to hear a voice in my ears telling what mile I’m at. Envisioning this was helpful to me. Instead of selling myself on the benefits of getting off the treadmill, I over layed my outdoor run process, on top of the treadmill run I was struggling with. I knew When I hit the one mile mark I knew I’d only gotten to the top of the very first hill and quite honestly, I’ve never in my life run that route and turned around at that point. Or the two mile mark for that matter. Why would I do it now? There was no reason to stop running.

I made it to 6.3 miles by knowing my successful outdoor process and using it to inform my treadmill process. Hey–whatever gets it done, right?

Additionally, part of my process when I’m running outside is to think. I realized I could still do that if I stopped some of the noise pollution around me, like the Live with Kelly and Michael Show subtitles which looked something like this…

Kelly: That tat two back is Adam Levine.

Michael: 6 mthdsa….hurt…xdhxdnl

Kelly: Never had–

Michael: Pain…

Kelly: Yeah, Buddy–childbirth! yahdl.,,sxsss

You get the picture. Or maybe you don’t. Instead of trying to follow the Adam Levine, tattoo, childbirth indecipherable subtitled conversation, I started planning this blog post. And the more I thought about my running process, the more I also thought about my writing process. How could I carry over the idea of…know your process…from one activity to another.

Here’s the facts. I’ve heard hundreds of authors, more experienced than me, talk about how every book is hard in it’s own way. I believe that.

Businessman overwhelmed by paper

We all struggle at some point–or at many points in the journey.

But I also think that if you know your process–your writing process–you have a template you can use to help get you through any manuscript. It’s all about being aware of your mile markers. Do you struggle with getting started? Do middles make you mad? Is the wrap-up your biggest hurdle? Is character development killing you? Or maybe the plot fairy never shows up to your house. Knowing what obstacles make you want to get off the writing treadmill isn’t a quick fix for your speed bumps, you’ll have to put in the work in the area that challenges you, but it is still helpful. The more you know about where you get stuck, why you get stuck and how you got unstuck in the past–the more likely you are to keep pushing through the miles of drafting and revision you have ahead of you–no matter how much they make you feel like a turkey on a treadmill…

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Do you know your process? How does it help you through the tough spots? Is your process always evolving? How does it change with each manuscript you write? Any runners in the house? Treadmill or open road? And by the way, who likes strawberry smoothies????

 

 

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Jan

26

2016

Draftvision

Filed under: #lifeofriley, Chasing Adaptation, Check-it-out, Critique, Drafting, Family, In the Wild, Pondering, Revision, Writing, Writing Style

On mornings when I’m not running or running errands, after I get the boys all off to school, I look forward to plowing through my emails and knocking out a blog post so I can spend the lion’s share of the day working on my WIP. Doesn’t that sound delightful? Yeah, yeah–I know it’s not that easy. After all it is Monday (I wrote this yesterday) and every person in the house managed to drag a laundry basket upstairs in retaliation for my subversive parenting techniques…no one eats chips or watches football until their clothes are put away, their rooms are clean and their bathroom isn’t gross. So, now I have chores to do in-between my projects. But that’s not my only problem, there is also this guy…

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By rights, he should be in a snow coma at the moment. He’s been outside non-stop for two days playing in the snow with the kids or by himself if every other human was exhausted. I figured by today, his get-up-and-go would most likely be his got-up-and-went and he’d pass out quietly in the corner, providing me with a quiet writing day.

No such luck.

Why doesn’t the dog understand that I NEED this writing day!!!!  I’ve been a bad, bad writer and I’m in the middle of DRAFTVISION????

Wait, you don’t know what draftvision is? You do–your just blocking it out. It’s when you’ve drafted 75% of a manuscript and because you’ve struggled with some aspect of plowing forward to the end of the draft, you’ve started to revise the front end while still drafting the back end. Draftvision. It can be a cold mess. Ugly on the scale of the 2016 Blizzard Jonas.

I do have good news. Besides the fact that Jonas only dumped a mild 10 inches in my yard. (Thank you mother nature for the pass) I’m very pleased to announce that I’m no longer stuck on my work in progress, spinning my wheels on the big expanse of white page. I know what to write to get out of draftvision. But here’s the thing, even when you’ve finally been able to plot your escape–you’ve still got to shovel yourself out of that shit. There ain’t nobody coming along with a word plow who’s going to do it for you. Which ultimately leaves you with lots of work to do on your WIP, plus a blog post and mountains of laundry to climb and whether you want to be or not, you ARE outside with the frisky snow pup who just wants to play ball.

My compromise is to brainstorm my blog post while running the dog silly. Sometimes this means “mind-writing” a topic I’ve already been thinking about. And other times, like today, it means I’m hoping to be struck by inspiration while I’m hanging out in the good old outdoors.

Today my connections started firing when I tossed that first neon orange tennis ball across the field and into ten inches of snow. I hadn’t really thought it through. White snow. Orange ball. This was going to be easy. That’s what I thought until this happened…

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Gone. I hadn’t expected snowball hide and seek. And it quickly became apparent (to me at least) that playing ball in the deep snow was a lot like struggling through draftvision. One minute your tossing your best stuff into the air and the next minute–BOOM! Ball is gone and you can’t find it anywhere. But you don’t panic because the snow is pretty pristine and there is a ball shaped space letting you know where to start digging to fix the problem.

But the dog isn’t close to being done yet and you realize you are still playing ball in the snow and the more you play, the more foot prints, dog paws and old ball holes there are lying around. Take your eye off that ball for a minute and you suddenly have to change your strategy for finding what you need. Now you have to begin looking for new clues to solve your problems. But eureka!  You realize that as the snow packs down, initially it’s harder to see where the ball went, but now it’s easier to search by color. You wander around until you spot what you need to throw the next ball.

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But now your sweating. Deep snow is tiring to trod through and the whole yard is starting to look a bit off. It’s just when you’re on the edge of leaving that ball out there until the spring thaw that you have to dig deep. You must get in there and start poking around until you find what you need. You do not have time to let that manuscript sit for a few months and lose momentum. Start moving stuff around until you make some progress. If you stumble around long enough (trust me–i know) you’ll eventually find something you can toss around, under all that mess.

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And incidentally, as if finding these disappearing balls isn’t hard enough, you should also know that the balls you’re throwing  aren’t traveling as far as they usually do. I’ve never been a major league pitcher, but momentum has always been my friend. I’ve relied on a little bounce, bump and roll to get some distance. But in draftvision, that ball stops where it lands, without getting a lot of milage or tiring out the dog and now you still have to go find it. Grrrr. After awhile, you may realize that even though you’re trying very hard, nothing seems to be working. In this case, you just might want a little help.

You NEED a critique or two to help you sort out what you’ve got going on. Sometimes that critiquer will tell you things you didn’t know, which is pretty freaking fabulous. Yay for new insights that solve old problems. But usually, the critiquer will do the same thing you are doing and tell you what you already know. Yup–it works like that sometimes. Believe it or not, you’re smarter than you know. But even though you’re a bright light, the black hole of draftvision has sucked the illumination out of your life. There’s no shame in it, some times it helps to have someone else flip your switch. It can help to see your process laid out from a different perspective…

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Oh, that’s how you do it????

See–it isn’t magic. Do the work and you end up with a cold, orange ball at the end or a finished manuscript–whatever you prefer. Either way, you too, can get everything you’ve ever wanted. Be persistent. Believe in your story. Be willing to try different approaches as the rules for what your throwing on the page keep changing.

And so you’re aware (because tough things exist even if we don’t acknowledge them) none of this process guarantees you anything, other than the completion of your art to your satisfaction. No matter how hard you work at writing or how diligently you learn your craft–publishing is a wild card. No one can predict it. You can work hard to stack the odds in your favor like an arsenal of snow encrusted tennis balls and that’s a great thing to have in the fight to get published. But it’s important that your goal is always to write the best book you can write, regardless of where that takes you.

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And there’s  another important reason to have your own measuring stick for your work. Sometimes we do not know when draftvision turns to revision, which then turns into TOO MUCH revision. It can be a slippery, ice encrusted, slope and once we are on it, we start moving ass-fast downhill and don’t know how to stop sliding and get off.

At the end of my blog post plotting, I pocketed both bright orange balls for another day, trading them for a large stick that I tossed up into the woods. Somewhere between the toss and the run to find said stick, the pup forgot what he was looking for and spent the next umpteen minutes looking for his ball in every conceivable place. He was completely unaware that the orange ball part of his story was already over.

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It’s important to know that all good games of fetch and stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Looking back I’ve realized that sometimes draftvision is completely unavoidable–like snow. It’s one of mother natures challenges. But when we find ourselves walloped by the blizzard of draftvision, it’s great to have some tactics to help you shovel out of there as quickly as possible…

  1. Look carefully at what you already have for the clues you need to move forward.
  2. Be tolerant of where you are in your writing and forgiving of how you got there.
  3. Then be positive about where you are going.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go digging, no matter how big of a mess it makes–journeys are important.
  5. Keep your eye on the ball. But if you lose track of it, don’t be afraid to ask someone else to help you. Perspective is key.
  6. Know the real reason you are playing ball in the first place. Understand what is in your control and what is out of your control.
  7. Don’t keep playing when the game is clearly over. There is a time to stop or you end up chasing the wrong things. Send that work out when it feels done, not when you think it’s perfect. There is no such dog.
  8. Drink hot chocolate–it makes everything better.

Have you spent time in DRAFTVISION before? What are your tips for getting out? Do you have a dog that makes you throw balls in the snow? What other pets mess with your writing time? Aren’t you glad dogs don’t wear clothes and don’t add to the laundry pile?

Hang in there and keep tossing balls in the snow and words on the page.

 

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Jan

14

2016

Flow, Frequency and Continuity

Filed under: Pondering, Writing, Writing Style

I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say life is hectic. Hell, it’s bat shit crazy for most people most of the time. I ain’t special. There will always be something or multiple somethings that will dig into your writing time and often your sanity. I’m a firm believer that if you wait for things like inspiration or the perfect conditions to write–you won’t get a lot done.

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But even knowing that, over the years, I’ve noticed the way I balance my writing with my cray-cray life, tends to change over time. It’s a fluid thing. Sometimes I find myself being rigid with structure because I need that self imposed task master. Other times I find I’m forgiving of my inconsistencies because, at that moment, I need that too. Some days life has beat me up and I really don’t need to add to that. It thrills me that I’ve arrived at a point in my life where I can reinvent myself every day if I need to. I’m very proud that I’ve discovered the benefits of flow. I spent many years of my life being flowless and struggling with the need to seek a perfection that I’ve discovered does not exist. I’m more flexible than I’ve ever been.

Yesterday I had a kickass writing day. And the day before yesterday I had a kickass writing day too. *fist pump* And what I stumbled upon in my post-holiday-back-to-focusing-on-writing-spree, is that at this moment in time and with this manuscript, the thing I need the most (to finally complete what I’ve working on for so long) is continuity. I finally know my story. It’s inside me–I’m not searching for it any more. And I understand how to make it happen. And to do that to the best of my ability, I need to be immersed in the world I’m creating. Long periods of time would be ideal, but more importantly, if I don’t have that option (remember the bat shit crazy life stuff) I think it’s necessary I be there frequently. It feels necessary to keep my wheels greased and moving in order to keep all the bits and pieces of my story in my focus. So–right now–my goal is to visit this story as much as I can every day. And if I can only stop by for a brief period of time, then I shouldn’t berate myself. Instead I should be really proud that I’ve showed up that day, despite all the other really important things that are happening around my writing.

My focus is to have flow, frequency and continuity until I send this piece out to my critique partners–and to be proud of it–the work and the way I made the writing happen.

What is your writing strategy for 2016? Does your approach to writing change with the place you are in your work and with the outside forces in your life? Are you too hard on yourself or not hard enough? Do you have your own version of flow that helps you navigate a bat shit crazy life?

 

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Sep

22

2015

Working Like a Dog

Filed under: #lifeofriley, Family, In the Wild, Pondering, Writing, Writing Style

Traditionally, when writers hear the phrase Working like a Dog, their minds go to coffee fueled, butt-in-chair, word sprints with fingers flying over keys. We picture grabbing a hold of the task at hand and refusing to let go until we find a book on the other end.

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But having observed my pup, Riley, walk a half a mile down to the bus stop the other day, I’ve discovered there’s more to working like a dog then one might expect…

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There’s exploration.

And it resonated with me. Sometimes part of working like a dog means needing to explore the world around us. When we do some mental meandering, we might find the spark that ignites our next story. Or, if not the actual spark, we may be filling our mind with all kinds of creative kindling. Which is just as important, because when the spark does arrive, it has something to ignite. There must be dots to connect–ideas to set aflame.

Dogs are smart.

It’s as important to give ourselves as much time to fill up, as we give ourselves to empty out between the pages of a book.

This is the balance of art and life.

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And naps–don’t forget the importance of naps! Trust me, Riley knows what he’s barking about.

As a thanks for the canine guidance, tell me your favorite dog book. It can be anything from picture book to novel. I think mine is The Art of Racing in the Rain.

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Sep

17

2015

The Boys in the Basement Found Their Groove

Filed under: Chasing Adaptation, Drafting, Pondering, Stuff I Love, Touching the Surface, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

When I wrote my first book, TOUCHING THE SURFACE, I was obsessed with my musical playlist. I hardly ever wrote without it playing in the background. When I was brainstorming parts of the novel, I listened to certain songs over and over again. To this day, any of the songs on that list evoke very strong writing/book memories for me.

And then I stopped. Cold turkey.

I haven’t listened to a thing while writing since. And I’ve tried. I’ve made playlists for books I’ve worked on, but they never took on the life of that TTS playlist.

But… There’s always a BUT, isn’t there? Recently I found myself turning off my audiobooks while I’ve been running and listening to my workout music while giving the boys in the basement (my inner creative genius workhorses) time to day dream.

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It’s been very helpful. I’ve had things I’ve been stuck on (for a thousand years) come bubbling to the surface. In excitement, I’ve done silly little dances of gratitude mid-run. Luckily I run on back mountain roads where there’s a limited amount of people witnessing my foolishness. Eek!

I’m not sure if these music fueled runs, or something else entirely, piqued my curiosity, but recently something possessed me to pull out the old, hardly been listened to playlist for my work in progress, CHASING ADAPTATION. Part of me wonders if it may have been morbid curiosity that caused me to dust it off. This novel has been written and rewritten so many times and with so many changes, I couldn’t even imagine the playlist being connected to my current scribbles.

But, as I listened, I found myself more than a little surprised at how perfect the songs were for the book I’m writing NOW. It seems a part of me has always known what I’ve been trying to say. The emotions, the questions, the feels and the wonder haven’t changed at all. Perhaps, the truly hard part is finding the RIGHT words to connect the dots between what’s always inside me and what gets printed on the page.

In honor of the boys in the basement, finally finding their groove, I thought I’d share one of the songs from the CHASING ADAPTATION playlist…

 

FIX YOU by Coldplay

When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above or down below
When you’re too in love to let it go
But if you never try you’ll never know
Just what you’re worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face
And I

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Do you have a playlist for your writing or any of your creative ventures. How does it work for you? What ignites your bones?

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Mar

12

2015

Perception Descriptions

Filed under: Pondering, Writing, Writing Style

Attitude is so often a product of our perception. Glass half empty? Glass half full?

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But yesterday morning I discovered that writing description is also a product of our perception. Let me explain…

I did not want to get out of bed yesterday. Sat/Sun was spring forward Daylight Savings Time (which I personally think needs to be abolished because internal clocks are REAL!) I was tired and cozy and wishing to stay that way, for at least another hour, if not more. But, not wanting to be a complete Debbie Downer, I reminded myself how happy and cheerful I was in the evening when it’s still light outside.

Perception.

But you know me, this train of thought was a delightful slippery slope. I bustled around getting the kids ready for school, reminding them to wear rugged shoes, because now that the snow was melting–EVERYTHING is muddy. I know this because I can’t keep the car, the floors or the dog and boys clean. Very quickly I’d fallen into complaining mud mode. Wasn’t it just days ago I had begged for this warm, muddy weather because I was sick of the cold and snow? It was. So now I needed to adjust my expectations and my perception. *sigh*

Since I’m a bit of a weirdo, the self analysis got me thinking about how awareness of perception is involved in how we write descriptions. And suddenly I realized that the seasons were a great way to concisely illustrate how to avoid cliche and use your unique perception to write great descriptions.

Cliche Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Seasons Negatively described: Mud and Allergy (Spring), Bug and Humidity (Summer), Raking and Gray (Fall), Frigid and Shoveling (Winter)

Seasons Positively described: Warmth and Flowers (spring), Fireworks and Ice Cream (Summer), Cider and Pumpkins (Fall), Hot Chocolate and Pine (Winter)

Seasons by color: Pastel (Spring), Green (Summer), Earth Tones (Fall) and White (Winter)

Seasons by food: Irish Soda Bread and Easter Eggs (Spring), Fruit and Veggies from the Garden (Summer), Turkey and Carmel Apples (Fall), Christmas Cookies and New Years Champagne (Winter)

I could go on and on and on, finding new ways to use words to capture the seasons in a non-cliche way, but I think that gives you the idea. I would love to hear your perception description of the seasons in the comments.

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Mar

3

2015

Take That Flag and Shove It!

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Writing, Writing Style

I wrote just over 2,000 words yesterday and I’ll be honest, it was relatively easy. Don’t get me wrong, it was still the, I have to force myself not to fart around on social media kind of hard, but the words came easy. And as I danced around happily while sticking a SILVER star on my March calendar, a piece of me still couldn’t be happy, in between dancing, because, obviously I can do this 2,000 word a day thing when I want to. Right?

But then I reminded myself where I am in the manuscript. I’m over 50,000 words into the draft and I’m a detailed drafter, not a slap it on and fix it later kind of a girl. At this point, characters have started to become familiar, the world has good definition and there is a light at the end of the tunnel akin to spring after a long, cold winter. I want to get there. I have a beginning, a middle and by golly I want and end. I don’t even care how messy that end might be. I just want one so I can stand on the top of a mountain and plant my revision flag.

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I love the revision flag. I LOVE revision. *sigh* But if I spend too much time blogging here, it will take me further away from the day when I’m shoving that flag…well…you get the idea.

Which do you prefer, drafting or revision? Do you write at a steady clip or are some areas of your process more lucrative than others?

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Feb

19

2015

The Best Things Happen When You Aren’t Looking

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

Sorry I missed you on Tuesday. I was thawing out.

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The whole family was away on a ski trip that was awesome but very, very cold. How cold you ask?
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Yeah, about a -24 on the top of the mountain. It was a mighty breezy gondola ride LOL! I felt like I was frozen half the weekend. Thank the stars for hot tubs. But, when I did get home, I was rather occupied. I had a long lost puppy to hug.

IMG_0418 It was the first time the little fur baby stayed with someone else. He did great but once we had him back, there was lots of hugging going on. And don’t forget that when I arrived home, I had a whole different mountain to climb–Mt. Laundrious. I think I’m still out there on one of the permanent press peaks. Bleh!

But today, even though it was still cold, the kids went to school on time. There were no weather delays, which allowed me to do something fabulous called writing. *sigh* It was wonderful to have an UNINTERRUPTED chunk of time with my manuscript. I hammered out over a 1,000 words in a reasonable amount of time, but it isn’t the word count I’m writing about. (Although it makes me very happy.) Rather, what’s worthy of a blog post is the unexpected thing that happened…

BAM! One of my characters blindsided me right along with my MC.

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We are both still reeling from the unexpected development. He did what??? I’m still baffled. I NEVER thought this character would do THAT. But he did. I knew it for absolute certain even though I don’t know exactly what that means for my MC at the moment. It has rattled my cage, but it also makes me content to be a pantster. The truth is that some days I panic, being a fly by the seat of my pants kind of a girl. When I hit a tough spot, I’m SURE  if I could just outline, my life would be complete. COMPLETE!

But then a moment like today happens and I bask in my creative process. This development could have never come from an outline. At least not my outlines. Those are nuttier than an peanut factory. The simplest way I can explain the joy of this thing that happened, is to say that it’s a small moment of confirmation. It reminds me that I’m not really crazy–not THAT crazy anyway. *shrugs* I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, y’all.

And of course, tomorrow or maybe next week, I’ll be back to wishing I had a road map for a book, instead of just headlights, hope and instinct to guide my way. Traveling in the dark can be hard and even kind of scary, but that’s why I wrote this post. It’s to remind me that sometimes the best things happen when you aren’t looking.

 

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