Sunday, June 27, 2010

Unauthorized Guest Blogger: Thistle the Whippet

Before we get started, allow me to share a photo of my beautiful self.

I know, I'm a looker. Plus I'm smart, good with children, and quite athletic. Need I mention housebroken? Yes, I'm all that and so much more.

Mommy (aka Dawn) has been sharing all about her writing life here at "Plotting and Scheming," so I thought I'd take a swing at telling you about my life as a writer's dog. Today's post:

"Plodding and Sleeping."

"Plodding" because Dawn's my running partner (one of us is dead weight, but I'm a gentleman and I won't tell you who...bark/cough: not I) and "sleeping" because it's one of my favorite activities.

Good thing Daddy (Jim the computer guru) wired up a dogputer for me since I have no opposable thumbs and have trouble with things like typing and origami. This is through no fault of my own, of course; nature can be cruel. I'm hoping Jim will sell the technology to Microsoft so he can stop selling--oh, my. I guess I can tell you, Dawn's bloggy friends. Just keep it between you, me, and the nearest fire hydrant. When we go on runs or walks and I "do my business,"
they put it in a plastic bag and bring it home. Horrible, isn't it? My theory: they must be selling it to pay for groceries. I know. So very sad.

Speaking of unfortunate things: each day, I must guard my home and family from the evil squirrels that lurk in the trees, in the bushes, up and down the streets . . . they're EVERYWHERE, I tell you! Even in my nightmares. The worst of them:

Chester eats at least half the bird seed in the feeder. One day last winter, Jim and Dawn didn't notice the bird feeder was empty and
Chester came to the back door and knocked on the glass. True. Story.

Yet Dawn thinks Chester is cute. How will she ever get published with such a soft mind?

Dawn and I write in the den. I lie really still in my dog bed, concentrating so hard the untrained eye might mistake what I'm doing as sleeping. But Dawn knows. I'm creating an atmosphere that allows her to work.

Unfortunately, my sister Pepper often joins us. It's fine if she sits still, but she's a bit of a troublemaker. She likes to bark, and she sometimes chews my face. Here's her picture.

I love her, but she's a few kibble pieces short of a full bag. She likes walks, but can't go on runs. Why not, you ask? If she runs on a leash, she thinks something scary is chasing her. Again, true story. Even though we're littermates, I moved in with the family two years after Pepper did. She was normal as a puppy, so I wonder if something traumatic happened before I got here. My guess: the squirrels got to her. Either that or she breathed in too much catnip at PetSmart.

It's summer now, which means Kid #1 and Kid #2 are around more often to scratch and cuddle me. Dawn doesn't always notice when I need an ear rub, but the kids are on top of things like that. The kids are my best friends. They're way more fun than Jim and Dawn.

I better end this post so I can get an e-mail out to Obama. The dogputer seems to be coming apart and I just thought of a health care solution that will make everyone happy. And world peace! I think I know how we can achieve--

*transmission ends*

Monday, June 21, 2010

We are Works in Progress

We are constantly learning, aren't we? We're learning about craft, the business side of writing, and ourselves as we push toward publication and beyond.

Here are some of the things I've learned lately (though a few are ideas I've touched on before):

  1. I'm way more productive when I require myself to write a certain amount of pages each day instead of a certain amount of time. This may not be true for everyone, but it totally is for me.
  2. E-mail is a huge distraction! Cutting e-mail out until my work is done each day makes me more efficient. I realize this isn't possible for people who receive work-related emails, but it's a luxury I'm taking advantage of right now. Confession: I got weak today and didn't wait. I'll forgive myself and start fresh tomorrow. Aren't I kind?
  3. Keeping good revision notes instead of revising as I go will make me more productive. I realize from comments to past posts that I'm a little different from many of you because I turn chapters in to my critique group as I write the first draft. I used to revise before writing the next chapters, combing details through my pages. With this manuscript, I quit doing that because I'm focusing on pushing forward faster. I plan to finish the draft, edit in the revisions based on the initial feedback, then set it aside to let it breathe/chill/ferment/whatever-you-want-to-call-it-that-we-do-to-get-fresh-eyes-and-insight-before-the-next-level-of-revisions-begins. Since I'm a perfectionist, this is a big deal, though it doesn't feel as big as it did a month ago.
  4. I think I love the people at Starbucks for creating so many fabulous ways to drink caffeine. D + S = TLA (Dawn + Starbucks = True Love Always)
  5. Even though I intellectually embraced Anne Lamott's "sh**ty first draft" philosophy long ago, I have to repeatedly give myself permission to suck during the first draft. Samuel Park wrote a great post on first drafts that everyone should read.
  6. Days off are extra sweet when you've been working your asterisks off. We had a blast last weekend! Here are pics of a sea gull's nest my son spotted from the ferry. I've lived near the water my whole life, but I don't remember ever seeing a sea gull's nest.
Isn't he or she* cute?!
I had "she," but my husband said, "How do you know that's a she? It may be a stay-at-home dad."

How about you? What have you learned lately?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Congratulations to Stasia Kehoe!

I want to congratulate my friend Stasia Kehoe on her ginormous news! She recently signed with agent Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management! And the news doesn't stop there! Ms. Drayton then sold Stasia's YA verse novel, AUDITION, at super human speed to Viking! Wow! Read Stasia's post about it. It's so exciting--totally worthy of all the exclamation points I've put in this post!
Stasia and I in New York last winter
Note: we're not actually giants--the person who took the pic was seated. ;)

I'd like to tell you something else too. Do you guys remember the post I wrote when I read a friend's manuscript and was swept away with inspiration? Stasia had asked me to be a beta--it was AUDITION that I'd read, and I knew it was golden. Talk about exciting, bloggy friends! I'm thrilled for Stasia, and I'm so honored she trusted me with her beautiful book.

I'd like to note a few things about AUDITION. As you read my list, think about what agents say when you're at a conference and someone asks, "What are you looking for?"

*AUDITION hooked me at page one and never let go

*the characters were three-dimensional--I could see them, and my heart was immediately invested

*Stasia was concise--there were no extra words

*I loved the words she chose (being written in verse, this must have been all the more challenging--and the result was gorgeous)

*I've never read anything like it--it's fresh

*I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to tell everyone about it

*it stayed with me--I still think about it

Congratulations to Stasia on a job well done. Stasia, thanks for the friendship and inspiration. I'm sending hugs and best wishes your way.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend, Children, and Workout Clothes

*Before I share a couple moments from Memorial Day Weekend, let me warn anyone with spandex allergies that this post contains spandex.*

When I woke up last Saturday, I got ready for a run. My husband asked me to help him find something in our files, so I went into the den. My son came in as I was searching through a drawer.
son: Is there a reason you're filing in spandex?
I'm about to go for a run. I'm just helping Dad find something.
(Son leaves room complaining about having to wash his eyes because of the damage caused by seeing his mother in spandex.)

The next day, the whole family was in the car. We were talking about taking a train trip down to Portland this summer, but my husband said we should just drive since we'll need a car.
me (to husband): Why don't you take the train with the kids? I'll drive the car and meet you guys there.
Can Mom FIND Portland?
(Kids and husband crack up laughing.)

And to think I taught those kids to speak. ;)

I should note some sappy stuff, too, since most of you don't know my family, and I don't want to give the wrong impression about them. Let me start by saying my husband and my kids take supportive to a whole new level. They arrange their schedules around my writing time and conferences without complaint. They stick with me through the ups and downs, and believe in me wholeheartedly. Whenever my son reads a book he enjoys, he looks in the acknowledgments for the agent's name and passes it to me. My daughter told me the way I never give up inspires her to do the same. I love them, love them, love them!

So why should I complain? I mean, spandex
is pretty creepy, and I can handle a little mocking. Besides, someday when I'm much older and wiser, I'll become a grandparent. You know what I'll do? I'll help teach my grandchildren to speak. I wonder what workout clothes will look like in the future...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Some Thoughts on Critique Groups

I recently attended a Field's End writers' roundtable titled Ways to Make Your Writing Group Really Work. The speakers were authors George Shannon and Carol Cassella, and they had so many brilliant things to say. I'd like to share some of the gems I picked up from their talk.

When George explained how he knew he found the right people for a critique group, he said,
"We tended to see the world through the same window."

Another awesome George quote:
"Writing groups should make people check their egos at the door."

Carol listed some important things writers need to think about:

*Your writing group may need to evolve as you evolve.
*What is your time commitment?

*What are your goals?

She said a writer should think about his or her time commitment and goals before joining a group so he or she can find a good match/like-minded critique partners. She suggested people define the group before launch.

George talked about his motivation to have pages every time he meets with his group. He said,
"I have this chance to get feedback. Why would I blow it?!"

The whole presentation was excellent.

How about you? Are you currently in a critique group? Do you have advice you'd like to share?