Dec

9

2014

Book Auntie Braggery: Happy Book Birthday to Amy Nichols and NOW THAT YOU’RE HERE

Filed under: Book Auntie Braggery, Check-it-out, In the Wild, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

It’s time for some Book Auntie Braggery because my amazing, fantastic, wonderful writer friend, Amy Nichols has a book birthday today!!!!!

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In a parallel universe, the classic bad boy falls for the class science geek.

One minute Danny was running from the cops, and the next, he jolted awake in an unfamiliar body – his own, but different. Somehow, he’s crossed into a parallel universe. Now his friends are his enemies, his parents are long dead, and studious Eevee is not the mysterious femme fatale he once kissed back home. Then again, this Eevee – a girl who’d rather land an internship at NASA than a date to the prom–may be his only hope of getting home.

Eevee tells herself she’s only helping him in the name of quantum physics, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about this boy from another dimension… a boy who makes her question who she is, and who she might be in another place and time.

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Amy K. Nichols has been crafting stories for as long as she can remember. She is the author of YA science fiction novel Now That You’re Here, to be published by Knopf December 9, 2014. The follow-up, While You Were Gone, will be published in 2015. She is mentored by award-winning crime novelist James Sallis and lives on the edge of the Sonoran desert with her husband and children. Amy is a member of SCBWI and SFWA, as well as the Class of 2K14 debut authors. Visit her online at http://www.amyknichols.com.

I can’t wait for my copy to get here!!! If you’re just as excited as I am and want to read NOW THAT YOU’RE HERE, you can find it here…

*Amazon

*Barnes & Noble

*IndieBound

In celebration of NOW THAT YOU’RE HERE it’s time to discuss some important stuff. Do you believe in a parallel universe? What other books do you love that deal with the mysteries of parallel universes?

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Dec

4

2014

Best Books Holiday Shopping Guide–Fabulous Non-ficition

Filed under: Book Auntie Braggery, Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Reading, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

Lots of people groan when they hear non-fiction, especially kids. The first thing that often comes to mind it BORING! But I’m here to tell you that you’re just not reading the right books. Here are some of my favorite children’s non-fiction reads that will knock your socks off.

 

1.  Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World by Nancy Castaldo

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Anyone who has ever spent time with a dog knows that dogs love sniffing! They sniff out hidden food, dirty socks, and the visitor who comes to the door. But some dogs work with police officers, soldiers and even scientists to put their “sniffers” to work. Sniffer dogs make use of the amazing biology behind their noses to protect people from bombs, catch criminals smuggling drugs, or help researchers locate a hard to find snail in a forest.
A dog’s nose is so sensitive that if a human could see as well as a dog could smell, we would be able to see the small letters on an eye chart from four (four!) miles away. Is it any wonder then that dogs can be trained to find missing people in piles of rubble or a certain flower blooming amongst hundreds or thousands of other smells?

In Sniffer Dogs you will meet many dogs and their handlers and learn all about their jobs. Some of these dogs are raised from birth to detect blood sugar levels in their owners. Others are rescued from animal shelters and their boisterous personalities help make them excellent sniffer dogs. Featuring a balance between science and social science, Sniffer Dogs will appeal to dog lovers and science lovers alike.

My boys LOVED this book so much. It’s loaded with pictures, vignettes and so much interesting information. All I can say is that next time I see Nancy she’s in trouble because my kids are REALLY pushing for a puppy and we are considering. LOL! If you already have a dog, you’ll learn a TON about what makes your dog an amazing sniffer. And I’m always a sucker for a book that has inspirational heroes in it. This is an all around great read for kids and adults. My copy is being passed around the family as we speak.

 

2.  Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

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In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world’s most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.

Bomb is a 2012 National Book Awards finalist for Young People’s Literature.

Bomb is a 2012 Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year title.

Bomb is a 2013 Newbery Honor book.

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Steve speak more than once and I loved hearing his transformation from “boring” text book writer to award winning author. He has learned the art of capturing the truly interesting tidbits of our history and is able to weave them together in a story like fashion that begs you to turn the page. Bomb was a captivating read and after finishing it, my boys have gone on to read more about Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust out of curiosity. We’ve also read some of Sheinken’s other books and they don’t disappoint either.

3.  Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka

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How did Jon Scieszka get so funny, anyway? Growing up as one of six brothers was a good start, but that was just the beginning. Throw in Catholic school, lots of comic books, lazy summers at the lake with time to kill, babysitting misadventures, TV shows, jokes told at family dinner, and the result is Knucklehead. Part memoir, part scrapbook, this hilarious trip down memory lane provides a unique glimpse into the formation of a creative mind and a free spirit.

Funny man, Jon Scieszka has always been a favorite at in the Sabatini house and I’ve seen crowds roar with laughter when he gives a presentation, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I had tears running down my face reading the chapter about the Scieszka boys on vacation in the backseat of the family station wagon. I swear it was the best laugh I had in 2014. My kids still talk about it and after we got done reading it together, I kept finding boys in bed pouring over the stories again and again.

4.  Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History by Lois Miner Huey

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In history class, you’ve studied people who lived long ago. But do you know just how gross daily life was in the United States around the time of the American Revolution? • People rarely bathed. • They didn’t wash most of their clothes regularly. • Their teeth were rotting. • Bedbugs feasted on people as they slept. • Lice crawled through their hair (and their wigs) day and night. Ready to step out for a breath of fresh air? Well, look out, because the streets were filled with poop. Don’t believe it? Hop in a time machine and travel back to June, 1770, in the pages of this book!

Just put Lois’ book in my shopping cart for my own boys! I’ve been long over due to read this one and I’m so excited. I was in the audience when Betsy Bird was singing it’s praises and that is all the confirmation that I needed! The boys are going to love this one. Merry Yucky Christmas to Me :o)

5.  Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones

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Discover how Lauren Kate transformed the feeling of that one mean girl getting under her skin into her first novel, how Lauren Oliver learned to celebrate ambiguity in her classmates and in herself, and how R.L. Stine turned being the “funny guy” into the best defense against the bullies in his class.

Today’s top authors for teens come together to share their stories about bullying—as silent observers on the sidelines of high school, as victims, and as perpetrators—in a collection at turns moving and self-effacing, but always deeply personal.

Sadly, bullying can happen at any time in your life, but for kids who look upon their favorite authors as rockstars–this is a powerful book. But it always helps to know you’re not alone. Dear Bully is a heartfelt reminder of how deeply the kid lit community is invested in it’s readers. So proud to be a YA author. <3

If I haven’t convinced you to buy non-fiction with these fabulous suggestions, remember that non-fiction is becoming a very big component of the common core curriculum. And while lots of the things about core curriculum give me hives–I LOVE anything that gets kids to read diverse material. Reading non-fiction with your kids is strengthening an important intellectual muscle that will serve them well in school and in the future. Go out and buy and read these amazing books!!!!!

Are there any great non-fiction children’s books that I need to put on my TBR list? Please share!

I’ll be back next week with more holiday book buying suggestions. Please feel free to share these with all your reader friends. I know all of these authors will be mighty appreciative. You can find more of my Best Books Holiday Shopping Blogs here…

*Best Books Holiday Shopping Guide-Some of Kim’s 2014 Favorites

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Dec

2

2014

Best Books Holiday Shopping Guide–Some of Kim’s 2014 Favorites

Filed under: Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Reading

If you’re like me, you’re spending more than your fair share of hours devoted to staying on top of the holiday madness. Aren’t we all trying to get that shopping done so we can finish the wrapping, sit back and watch holiday shows while eat cookies? Gosh, I wish I had a holiday house elf to help me get it all done.

Santas Elf Sitting on Edge

But I don’t. So, instead of pouting,  it occurred to me that at least I can help you with your shopping. I’ll be your bookish Holiday House Elf. *grin* If you’re looking for some awesome books for your favorite readers, then I have some amazing reads I’d love to share with you…

1. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King

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Would you try to change the world if you thought it had no future?

Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities — but not for Glory, who has no plan for what’s next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way… until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.

A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last—a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.

I need to preface this by saying I ADORE all of A.S. King’s books, but this may be my favorite book of 2014. It’s dark, it’s hopeful, it’s human, it’s edgy and it’s outside the box while being universal. I can’t stop thinking about it. This book may be the closest book to replicate that feeling I had in 10th grade when I read The Giver by Lois Lowry for the first time.

2.  The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson23168945

 

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie’s struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.

The beautiful thing about this book is it’s raw, honest pain intermingled with soulful, optimistic love and humor. When you’re done with this book you’re going to want to hug it. Nelson does gorgeous things with words.

3.  Schooled by Gordon Kormon1025250

Homeschooled by his hippie grandmother, Capricorn (Cap) Anderson has never watched television, tasted a pizza, or even heard of a wedgie. But when his grandmother lands in the hospital, Cap is forced to move in with a school counselor and attend the local middle school. While Cap knows a lot about tie-dyeing and Zen Buddhism, no education could prepare him for the politics of public school.

My absolute favorite Gordon Kormon book to date and I’ve been reading a bunch–my boys adore his writing. Schooled is sweet and hilarious and I’m bound to read it again because I loved it that much. Cap is a character who wiggles his way and by the end you never want him to leave.

4.  Journey by Aaron Becker

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Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship.

A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.

Journey is a wordless picture book that harnesses your imagination and then sets it free. Every time I flip the pages of this book I want to illustrate all the magic of my world. A gorgeous journey of heart and soul.

5.  The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

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The perfect gift for readers who want to be swept away.
The Daughter of Smoke & Bone Trilogy Gift Set includes three hardcovers: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters.

From master storyteller and National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor comes a sweeping and gorgeously written modern fantasy series about a forbidden love, an ancient and epic battle, and hope for a world remade.

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Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Trilogies are tough to write. The first book is always hard to follow. Not for Laini Taylor. In my opinion, each book was better than the one before. This may be my favorite trilogy ever. The world building and character development are exquisite. And there is so much thought provoking depth without preaching. I can only believe that Taylor was able to write such an intricate story because Karou and her world are completely and utterly real to her.

 Now go forth and give the gift of books. I’ll have some more gift giving book suggestions for you as the holiday shopping season continues. Don’t forget to support your favorite authors by spreading the word about their beloved books. In fact, feel free to give suggestions in the comments or link this post to your own Best Books Holiday Shopping Guide. I don’t know an author who wouldn’t be appreciative. <3

Have you read any of my recommendations? Did you love them too? Which one is your favorite?

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Nov

25

2014

Drafting Series: Sponge

Filed under: Drafting, Uncategorized, Writing

Sorry I missed you on Thursday. Boys with half day schedules and teacher conferences were cramping my blogging schedule. But I’ll tell you a secret–I didn’t mind not writing because I’m rather busy with another important aspect of drafting which is being a sponge. I’ve been kicking butt with my writing since buckling down in September and sending those boys back to school. *grin* And it’s been awesome and I’ve been loving it, that is, until my NaNo battery ran out of steam and d-i-e-d.

It was bound to happen. In my excitement to produce prolifically, I forgot what kind of an artist I am at heart. I am a sponge.

Multicolor Sponges

I soak up all kinds of stuff floating around me and then I squeeze it to see what kinds of questions pour out. But lately, I’m afraid that in my enthusiasm to write, write, write–I wasn’t absorbing as much as I need to. Writing can only a numbers game when we have thoughts in storage and I realized I was exhausting my supply faster than I could replenish it. My sponge was on the dry side.

But I’m happy to say that my “break” from word count is not a break from my drafting process. It’s very important for me to day dream, observe, read, ponder and experience. What are the more hidden aspects of your drafting process? What stimulates and feeds your artistic process?

Thursday is Thanksgiving, so I’ll be taking the day off. You’ll all be too busy eating turkey and watching the parade to read blogs. But I’ll be back next week in DECEMBER! How the heck did that happen? Guess I can say…see you next month LOL!

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Nov

18

2014

Drafting Series: NaNoWriMoANoNO

Filed under: Drafting, NaNoWriMo, Pondering, Writing

Well, it’s official. As of Sunday morning, I officially quit National Novel Writing Month aka #NaNoWriMo.

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And I’ve got to tell you, it feels fabulous. But I’d love to share with you why quitting was the best choice I could make.

This was my third attempt at #NaNoWriMo. My first shot at it was in 2012. I was in the middle of debut novel launching and I think I wrote approximately 6,000 words. It was bad timing for me, but I made a mental note to try again. And in 2013 I did and I wrote all 50,000 words. *fist pump* A huge achievement, but I didn’t use any of those words–at all. Even so, I learned a lot about myself and my process and I did a lot of exploratory writing so I felt the experience was deeply beneficial.

Now fast forward to 2014 and this year’s #NaNoWriMo attempt. I was lined up for success. I had a loosely thought out idea with characters that I’d been mulling over for about a year. I’d been increasing my daily writing and consistency for months now and felt I could handle this because I’d been “training” for it. And I’m super competitive with myself and if I did it once, why couldn’t I do it again, right? And I like NaNo–I really do. I’m a huge fan of the collective energy.

I should also tell you, I started out strong. My first two days out, I wrote a lot of words and built myself a little buffer so that I’d be able to miss a day or two in an emergency or my daily word count wouldn’t be quite so high. I was trucking along great until last week. And then something pivotal happened. My story started to rewrite itself. The more I explored the characters, the more I realized that G and C needed to combine and become one character. And I could absolutely not write this story from so many 1st person perspectives, but maybe I should write it from third. So I simply moved forward with these drastic changes knowing I could go back and fix the beginning later. The whole idea was to just move forward with the free flow of ideas. But then 3rd wasn’t intimate enough and the MC was beginning to reveal herself (especially now that she was combined with another character) so I’d write it that way and test out this idea I have for a way to get some intimate information from the other characters. But at this point I am so confused. What I really, really need to do is print it all out and while I reread it, compile all my current information into clear character sketches that would allow me to do a little plotting before starting from the top. But that’s not how NaNo works!!!

So, even though I went from quickly popping off my word count most days, I was now struggling to decide how to move forward. But I felt sure I could still write my way to NaNo success while getting some useful information that I’d be able to mine later. So I kept writing. I left my usual process of writing in consecutive chapters and began to write scenes. And again I unearthed some fabulous information that is a gold mine for this book. I’m so excited I wrote it. And then the well went dry. I had 1,000 words to write by yesterday to hit the halfway mark. I could knock that off easy peasy. But I didn’t. On Friday I only wrote 382 words. Those words took way too long to write. I should have had over 1,000 in that amount of time.

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But I gave myself a 1/2 of a star just for motivation. And even though I was still on track, I wrote nothing on the 15th. I told myself it was still okay–Sunday I could get caught up and this week I could power through. But then I realized I couldn’t–because the truth was I knew I can’t go forward until I go back. And this contest isn’t built for that. Deep in my heart, I knew I had to put a fork in it and call it done, but let’s be honest–I was still trying to find a way to make it happen. I told my husband my dilemma and he looked at me and said it should be about writing words for the sake of numbers. And I smiled and mental quit on the spot. And I ain’t going to lie, it felt great because I was no longer writing what I wanted to write. I wasn’t being true to where the story was taking me and that’s not productive.

What I learned is that the tool I’m using to write should never have more power than the actual writing. And that is why for 2014, #NaNoWriMo became #NaNoWriMoANoNo LOL!

Now, don’t expect me to become a slacker. I’ve still got lots of work I want to do and I believe I even have a couple more Drafting Series posts left in me–at least one for sure. It’s percolating already. And if you’re still doing NaNo–you must keep me updated on your progress. I am rooting for you!!!! But I’m here to tell you that I’m confident that I made the right/write decision for me. More to come on that later.

Are you holding the NaNo course? How’s it going? Did your inner compass have alternate plans for you, too? If so, what are they?

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Nov

13

2014

Drafting Series: Knowing When

Filed under: Drafting, NaNoWriMo, Writing, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

I am enjoying this drafting series way more than I expected, particularly since I’m blogging while doing NaNoWriMo. And I’ve done a lot of talking about the things I’ve learned and continue to learn about the drafting process. But as I’m closing in on my #NaNoWriMo halfway mark (which means that I’m far enough along that the novelty has worn off and not far enough along to see the light at the end of the tunnel) I’ve realized that part of drafting is…

KNOWING WHEN

As in, knowing when to say I would rather sit on the couch tonight and catch up on The Voice while eating a big bowl of ice cream, than think deep thoughts about writing. Especially when my brain already hurts. So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

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When you’re pushing to reach a deadline, how do you “know when?” And what do you need to do to take a small break?

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Nov

11

2014

Drafting Series: Drawing or Writing a BLANK

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

I’m 19,000 words into #NaNoWriMo and one of the things I’m learning about is when to draw a blank, or really when to write one. Normally when I’m drafting and I arrive at a thought that’s related to a previous thought, I take a break to go back and look up the detail. Sometimes I take a minute or two or three to ponder the direction I might be heading with something that’s surfacing from my subconscious. This break allows me to examine a creative thought or remember the name of a character I’ve been fleshing out or keep a place description uniform. It also slows me down. Normally I don’t care, I like my process and it works well for me, but in November, dilly dallying and day dreaming is a luxury I can’t afford when I’m participating in NaNoWriMo.

During my regularly scheduled drafting, slowing down might make my first draft take longer, but in my opinion it does’t really hinder my overall process because I’d have to go back and sort it all out eventually during one of my revisions. Do it here or do it there–it all has to get done in the end, right? And to be honest, I like the practice of taking a moment to look back. It allows me to better “place myself” in my own writing. When a world or it’s characters are new, it’s easy for me to get lost. I can wander around like a girl from the suburbs in NYC. Sometimes I have to retrace my steps to see where I was going.

But during crazy NaNoWriMo style drafting, I’m pushing myself to think less and let go. Stopping is counter productive. It is the fine line between drafting and revision and there’s no room for it in November or any time when you’re speed drafting. So, what’s a girl to do who can’t keep it all straight? Or what happens when I need to spend hours dreaming about what perfect book my MC should be reading in English class? I’m learning to substitute the missing thought with a CAPITAL BLANK. Here’s some of my favorite BLANKS from my draft so far…

BLANK shivered and I was sure she was picturing BLANK’S disgusting butt on the kitchen island.

“I’m not a good liar. My mother knows every single time I tell her BLANK,” I said.

“Remember that Saturday after BLANK, when she had the flu and your parents had to cancel your trip to BLANK?”

I’d seen the school’s production of BLANK and even though BLANK didn’t have a big part, he’d been in that crew of guys who’d had the audience in stitches.

I looked at my plate, there was a table spoon of BLANK in a middle of the dish. I looked at my mom’s plate, which had a serving of BLANK and BLANK that wasn’t much bigger than mine. Dad on the other hand had a large helping of BLANK.

Old Antique Black frame Isolated Decorative Carved Wood

And it works. It’s a hot mess, but it’s getting the job done at the moment. But here’s the big question–will I draft like this all the time? Absolutely not. LOL! It feels like trying to run a marathon in the dark. It makes me anxious and confused. BUT…the experience of drafting outside of my comfort zone has taught me that my natural drafting rhythm, can (and often has) easily morphed into unproductive procrastination. And getting comfortable with pushing over those unnecessary speed bumps is why I always think it’s important to try new things with our writing process. You never know how an experience will clarify your process. How it will make you a better, more flexible writer. Conscious doing almost always evolves into growth–especially when you’re drawing a BLANK.

Do you use BLANKS in your drafting process? If you do, do you find it helpful to your process? Have another method for speed drafting over the rough patches? Please share–I’m always looking for more ways to drive myself nuts LOL!

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Nov

6

2014

Drafting Series: Rewarded with the Horizon

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

Today I’m stepping away from my ongoing NaNoWriMo experience to talk about what happens after Thought Splinters and Monkey Mind and Writing the Wrong Book. If you’ve been following this series, we’ve been talking about making drafting progress by figuring out what’s driving us to write. And we’ve been discussing how to get our publishing-centric, monkey mind to behave so we can writer the right book. And we’re also holding ourselves accountable by setting a reasonable productivity goal and then showing up to write. Hot dog, we are doing great. So, it seems like this is the perfect time to get to a drafting rewards. I like to think of this one as the horizon.

I often hear people talk about how glorious the first third of drafting is. Everything is shiny and new.

Yeah, not for me. Hate those people.

The shiny new part I experience, is the pliable lump of clay in my brain that has a few shiny splinters in it. That’s where my “new draft high” takes place. I’m giddy BEFORE I put a word on the page. But once I start writing I struggle. I find the first 1/3 of a draft like wandering around on a pitch black, moonless night in a place I’ve never been before. Without being able to see, I’m supposed to find all the good stuff out there, without bumping into all the dangerous pitfalls. It’s a scary, hot mess. And it’s slow going, which doesn’t endear me to the process. There are too many options and the whole thing gives me monkey mind.

But then something wonderful starts to happen. About the time I reach 2/3 of the way through my manuscript, I’ve started to figure out where I am. Every time it happens it’s the sun coming up and illuminating my world. I may not see everything clearly yet. There are still clouds and obstacles in my way,  but I get the undeniable sense that everything I need is out in front of me. I can see the horizon and it’s beautiful.

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It’s at about this time my characters start to reveal their true selves to me and I also begin to understand how they interact with each other and why. And the world I’m building begins to solidify and have rules and structure. And most importantly, sentences fly out of my mind and through my fingers that I know speak to deeper truths. They dangle there like vivid threads, brightening my horizon and waiting to be woven together later in the revision processes. This part of drafting is such a gift–enjoy it. Take a moment to appreciate what you’ve done and what you plan to do.

What is the toughest part of drafting for you? What moment gives you the gift of knowing that you’re headed in the right direction?

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Nov

4

2014

Drafting Series: NaNoWriMo

Filed under: Community, Drafting, NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

Officially I’m writing this on October 29th, but you should be reading this post on November 4th. Why am I so uncharacteristically prompt and organized? It’s because it’s National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWRiMo!!!!

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I’m only FOUR days into my 50,000 word drafting adventure, but I’m really trying to set myself up for success. In fact, just doing NaNoWriMo, is one of the important ways I put myself in a great writing spot. I may have mentioned this like a gazillion times, but drafting is the most “painful” part of my writing process. If I could dig into my brain with a hook and pull the ideas out I would. But obviously it doesn’t work that way. Damn. But there are other ways of getting those ideas from brain to laptop. NaNoWriMo has become one of my secret techniques. I love the collective energy and I’m a wee bit competitive. It is exciting to be doing something so energetic with writers all over the world. Just watching the #NaNoWriMo thread on twitter gets me excited. And now that I won last year’s NaNoWriMo, do you really think I want to come up short this year? No, I do not. And another perk of NaNo is that it gives me a sense of writing legitimacy that I don’t have unless I have my editor giving me deadlines. With NaNo, my family seems to join in the collective enthusiasm with me anyway. They ask me if I can do (whatever it is they need me to do) AFTER I’ve gotten my writing in. It’s such a small thing, but it really illustrates how much they value my passion for my job. It makes me want to write better books and make them proud.

 

NaNo has also been helpful in giving me drafting success outside of the month of November. What I used to think I was capable of, has become a completely different thing than what I know I can do. This has been very enlightening to me. I’ve become a much more productive writer since I started doing NaNoWriMo. Now, don’t think it’s a magic fix. I still have days where writing gets pushed to the side for other really important things like my family and friends. And I still have stretches where I dream instead of dot i’s and cross t’s. But I really value those breaks and creative moments more now that my productivity has increased. I need that balance, but it feels better now. Setting realistic goals, based on what I know I’m capable of, has made me a better at drafting and more content with my process.

With the help of Victoria Schwab and her star calendar idea, I’ve been tracking my word count and holding myself accountable with stickers. You can find out more about it HERE, but basically it’s kind of a less intense, personalized, version of NaNo that I can use on a daily basis. It feels manageable, not as wildly all-consuming as the month of November usually is. My goal is to write at least 15,000 word a month. Which means about 500 words a day. That’s something that’s very manageable for me, especially since if I miss a couple days here or there, I can make it up with longer writing sessions at other times. And I’ll be honest, it’s the first 500 words that’s the hardest part. Once I’ve gotten going, I can usually get more words flowing.

Part of my drafting success with my Star Calendar is giving myself the same public accountability that inspires me when I’m doing NaNoWriMo, so keeping it real, here were my stats for my drafting in October…

 

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I’m happy to report that I wrote on 20 out of 31 days (plus an extra mini two where I didn’t make stars) and my word count was 22,689 . *fist pump* Of course, that’s not 50,000 words, but like I said, outside of November, I’m looking for sustainable drafting–not burn out. I hit that mark in October and now I’m all warmed up for NaNoWriMo.

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Hope you’re signed up for NaNo. If you are, we can be buddies. I’m writing under Kimmiepoppins if you want to find me. If you aren’t ready or able to try NaNoWriMo, that’s okay, but hopefully you’re doing some kind of activity that gets you inspired and enthusiastic. At the very least, get yourself your own Star Calendar and start pushing yourself to get your drafting done! Have you been using your calendar? How’s it going? Are you four days into NaNo too? How’s it going? What’s your favorite method for getting that NaNoWriMo feeling?

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Oct

30

2014

Drafting Series: Monkey Mind and Writing the Wrong Book

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Publishing, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style

I didn’t consciously set out to do a series on drafting, but it’s where I am in my writing life right now. Obviously, it’s what I need to talk and think about. I’ve been working like a fiend on a project that’s been elusive for quite some time. In fact, this is a project I drafted for NaNoMriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last year. At that point it was the 2.0 version of my current 4.1 manuscript, meaning I also have dead end 1.0, 3.0 and 4.0 versions of the same project. Shoot me now.

In my last blog post–Drafting Series: Thought Splinters–I talked about the questions that dig into our subconscious and become the beginning of a first draft. They are the irritants that make us so uncomfortable we have to write about them to get them out. For today’s episode in my drafting series, I’m talking about writing the wrong book in order to find the right one.

Don’t be scared. It happens to everyone. And if it hasn’t happened to you…it will.  *Come here–I’ll hold you. Everything will be okay* Here’s the truth, at some point, you’re going to write a book that isn’t working. I’ll be honest, this can happen in any phase of a book embryo’s life, but today I’m going to talk about writing the wrong book in the early drafting stage. Ya know, because this is a drafting series and all.

What I’m about to say is a no brainer, but I’m going to announce it out loud anyway.

It sucks monkey balls to spend a huge amount of time and creative energy putting 50,000 words (give or take) on the page to only discover that you were writing the wrong book.

It’s a nightmare. A catastrophic event like this is the catalyst for some really awful things like binge chocolate eating or insane wine consumption. Pick your comfort vice and insert it here__________. I had to make myself a hot chocolate just to get through this post. *shudders* Once you realize everything has gone wrong–very, very wrong–and you’re ripping your hair out from the roots, there is literally a ticker tape of thoughts running through your head. That tape holds the list of things you could’ve been doing instead of writing the wrong book. My ticker tape was screaming that I could’ve read a hundred books while eating an epic ton of chocolate and then had time to go for a run so my butt wouldn’t get too big. Then it said there would have been time for a massage–that would’ve been nice after all that running. And everyone would’ve benefitted because I could’ve cooked real food instead of using my toes to hand out slices of pizza to my kids while trying to make my word count. And I easily could have done lots of laundry in my spare time and saved all that money I spent buying back-up underwear for a household of five. I know there would’ve been enough extra cash to go on a warm family vacation during the polar effing vortex.

All of that is true, slightly embellished, because after all I am a writer, but still kinda mostly true. *sigh* Almost makes you wonder about giving up writing in favor of chocolate, massages and warm vacations funded by underwear. Yet, here’s the thing you also need to know. I needed to write the wrong book in order to know what shouldn’t be in the book I do need to write. Which I have to write because I have this great Though Splinter that won’t go away. It’s there when I eat chocolate, get a massage or wash underwear. (Although I’m sure I could easily ditched it for a tropical vacation in the middle of the winter LOL!)  So, if I’m so compelled to write out this thought splinter, what went wrong? I was writing my monkey mind. If you don’t know what monkey mind is, you need to read WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg. But Elizabeth Gilbert explains it well…

 

“I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the monkey mind. The thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert   Eat, Pray, Love

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There is always a part of me that writes for publication. That is likely never going to change. I love having my stories on the shelves and in the hands of readers. But I’m beginning to learn that I don’t write the RIGHT books when the publishing-savvy part of me has it’s foot in my drafting process. I can not let my monkey mind cause interference with my inner compass. Once I write down the bones without a monkey on my back, there will be time to put my publishing hat on. Then I can see how to take my authentic draft and incorporate what I know about the publishing industry in order to show case my work to it’s best advantage. Chasing publication, writing with monkey mind during the drafting process, had me swinging from limb to limb. When you let the monkey get the best of you, all you’re likely to end up with for your effort is a bunch of words you think people want to read. But the best books come when we write what we feel compelled to say.

Writing the wrong book is never easy, but after you’ve had your completely legitimate and appropriate freak out, remember you didn’t write yourself into a dead end–you were just swinging past the wrong book to learn how to write the right one. Don’t give up. And get a cage to put your monkey in when you’re going bananas.

How often does monkey mind get the best of you? Have you written the wrong book before? Did it take you to the right one?

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