Sunday, August 29, 2010

WIP: Progress? Yes!

Some of you may remember my latest approach to tackling my current manuscript: Push through the first draft. Don't stop to revise--just keep detailed, organized revision notes. Don't check e-mail until x amount of pages are written each day. Take no prisoners! Write, WRITE, WRITE!

It was working for me. I was flying through my first draft. But when it was almost time to write the climax, I realized I needed to make it bigger and better. I soon figured out that in order to write my climax the way I wanted it, I was going to have to stop pushing forward and make some significant changes to my story. Starting at page 1.


Have I mentioned I was on page 187? Say it with me: "Ouch."


After whining a tiny bit (or maybe more than a tiny bit), I brainstormed. Ideas were coming and I saw the book improving, but I kept getting stuck. This is when I got all rebellious. Some mornings, I slept a little later than usual. Also, I kept my e-mail open
all day long. I even started drinking two Frappuccinos a day instead of one. Crazy stuff, right? I was full of angst because I was so close to figuring out my story, but not quite there.

Note to writer-friends: Frappuccinos are available in bulk at Costco.

But don't stress, bloggy friends. Here's the exciting part! I kept working, going back and forth on ideas with critique partners, and I completed an outline that I'm extremely proud of. Yay! I'm super excited about my book. I can see it's stronger, and I'm on fire to get it all on paper with the changes.

Something else? I'm switching from present tense to past. I was already considering it when
Moonrat posted this at her blog, and her post stuck with me. I've since played with scenes written both ways, and I think past tense suits this story better. (My manuscript PERFECT VISION is written in present tense, and I, at this time, still believe it's the best tense for that story.)

Some great news is I'll be able to keep quite a bit of what I already wrote (switched to past tense, of course). There are some darlings I'll have to kill, but I'm cool with it; I'm certain my book is benefiting. I'll try not to gripe when I'm doing the cutting.


An author-friend of mine says, "No writing is wasted." I agree. We learn from the wrong turns, and it's so much easier to make something pretty once there's clay on the wheel, something to play with and shape. I'm neck deep in novel again, and I'm so happy about that.


How about you? How are your projects coming?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The autographed books go to...

This is so fun! Here's where I get to give two autographed books to two of my followers! There's excitement in the air! (Plus something else: my dog Thistle just came into the room, and we all know he has trouble with digestion. That, however, isn't polite talk, so I really wish you guys would behave yourselves better and quit bringing it up.)

Let's start with THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING, TRAITOR TO THE NATION, VOLUME I: THE POX PARTY by M.T. Anderson.


The winner is:
A.L. Sonnichsen!


Next, we'll move on to THE EARTH, MY BUTT, & OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS by Carolyn Mackler.



So right now I'm kind of wishing I could speak another language so I could say "the winner is" in a snazzy, non-English way, impressing all who stop by with my groovy international linguistic abilities. Alas, most of my Spanish knowledge from high school and college has thinned to sentences like "San Juan es la capital de Puerto Rico" and (or "y" for my Spanish-speaking friends) "Lupe es de Mexico." (And how do you make an accent mark in Blogger? Is there a way,
amigos del bloggo?) Well, I won't dwell. And I won't use Google Translate because that's kind of cheating, or as we say in my native tongue, "That's kind of cheating." So without rambling and delaying the second announcement, which we all know I wouldn't dream of because time is money and money is time, and--philosophy is such an interesting subject, isn't it? I really enjoyed my logic class in college, and the professor wrote the book we used in class. I think he was the first author I ever met. Which reminds me. . .I still have a book to give away. I wish you people would focus and stick to the subject. You seem kind of flighty today, but don't take it personally, because I have days like that, too. I know: it's shocking.

The winner of THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS is
Jennifer Shirk!

Congrats, ladies! Amy and Jennifer, please e-mail me with your mailing addresses so I can send you your books.


Possible discussion topics for today's post: You could congratulate today's winners, tell me how your writing is going, or share the names of recent books you've read that you enjoyed. If you speak more than one language, feel free to tell me how to say "the winner is" in another language. If you do so, please tell me what language it is and don't say something that really means "I wear kittens in my sleeves" so if I choose to quote you, we both look impressive. And like animal lovers.


Thank you, bloggy friends, for following and commenting. You guys rock. For reals.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Molly and Dawn's Excellent Adventure: The SCBWI Summer Conference, Part III

This is my final post about the 2010 L.A. conference. As promised, I'm ending with book giveaways! I bought two books to give away, and I had each one autographed.

The autograph party was great because there were so many talented people signing books, and it was fun mingling with other attendees while waiting in lines. I had a tough time deciding which books to buy and get signed for my contest, but I selected two.


The first book is THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING, TRAITOR TO THE NATION, VOLUME I: THE POX PARTY by
M.T. Anderson.


After getting the book signed, I had my picture taken with M.T. Anderson to capture the moment.



Want to know what makes this picture extra special? It was taken by
Jay Asher! As if it wasn't cool enough for me to meet M.T. Anderson, get his autograph, and be in a picture together, right?

I then got a picture taken with Jay Asher!


You know who took
this photo? President Barack Obama! (Okay, that's a total lie, you guys. The photo was actually taken by a really sweet lady who happened to be standing nearby, and I never caught her name. I only threw in the Barack Obama comment because it was really hard to top the Jay Asher thing.)


The second book I'll be giving away is an autographed copy of THE EARTH, MY BUTT, & OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS by
Carolyn Mackler.


I took a picture with Carolyn Mackler, too, but it's blurry. I was tempted to put it up anyway, but I'm thinking that would be silly. So. . .you'll just have to imagine the moment the book was signed. Since you guys are writers and/or illustrators with wonderful imaginations, that won't be difficult.


Now for the rules. To enter, you have to be a follower of my blog and leave a comment in this post's comments before the contest ends. What should you say? Anything, but preferably something nice, li
ke you forgive me for lying since I told the truth right after. What you can't forget to say is which book you hope to win. Each person can only enter one time and for only one book so we can have two excited winners after I do the drawing. Sorry bloggy friends in far away places, but you can only enter if you have a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada. The contest closes Saturday, August 21st at 11:59 p.m. PST.

I think that's it as far as rules go. I'll update the post if I think of anything I've forgotten.


*Remember to be checking out what
Molly Hall has going on over at Writer Mama Dreamer.


Here's Molly, waiting in one of the lines at the autograph party. . . Yes, she also has great giveaways planned to conclude Molly and Dawn's Excellent Adventure!


Now go forth and comment!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Molly and Dawn's Excellent Adventure: The SCBWI Summer Conference, Part II

Now that I've digested more of the conference, I'll follow Molly's lead and share the highlights of what I gathered from the keynotes and workshops I attended.

*
Krista Marino moderated an editor panel, From Your House to My House: What Makes Me Choose Your Book. It was so interesting to hear the editors on the panel discuss things like pet peeves, what they're looking for, and books that inspire them. The agent panel the following day, Literary Agents View the Market Place, was also great.

*During the session
Submission Strategies, agent Josh Adams shared how his agency submits to editors. I enjoyed hearing about the submission process and the thoughts behind the strategies.

*All the keynotes gave me something.
Rachel Vail blew me out of the water. She's incredible! Before she gave her keynote, I'd already been to her informative workshop,
Hearing Your Characters: Creating Distinctive/Contrasting Voices for Each of Your Characters. Her keynote made me laugh so hard I cried, then touched me and I cried again.

*
E.B. Lewis gave us inspiration, sharing his beautiful art
and words. One of my favorite parts was when he shared the paintings he did on unscratched lottery tickets. Each one had a child on it. He said you never know if the ticket is a winner. He mentioned scratching too deep. He said, "We do that with our children sometimes. We scratch, we destroy." He later said, "As artists, what we need to do is fill ourselves up to overflowing and give it all back."

*
Justin Chanda spoke at the workshop Simon & Schuster: The Not So Distant Past, and the Really Fast Approaching Future. The talk was fun and enlightening. He said he tells his editors, "If your face is melting off, we'll buy it. If not, no." He spoke about what a big part passion plays in their work.

*Wonderful quotes came out of the talk
A View From the Top: 4 Publishers Discuss our Industry. For example, Francesco Sedita said, "If you're not making mistakes, you're not taking risks." Justin Chanda said, "If everyone goes home and writes to the trends, the vampires win."

*
Jennifer Rees spoke on voice, and her session was great. She considers a good voice the most important item in a writer's toolbox.


Now...on to Saturday night's party, the Heart and Soul Celebration! There was a costume contest for the "heartiest and souliest" costumes, and it was really fun seeing what people wore. Lots of us just wore red. Molly had a beautiful red flower in her hair, and she looked super glam. Wearing red instead of an actual costume was definitely the best option for me since I had quite the time fitting clothes into my suitcase around all the shoes I'd packed. Seriously. And I'm not even a "shoe girl"; I wear the same three pairs of shoes year-round, and I like
comfortable shoes. I don't know what came over me.

I have lots of fun pictures!


Here I am with
Ashley Bryan.


Something awesome? When I told him my name,
he recited a poem for me! Ashley Bryan, people! Big moment! I won't write the lines on my blog because I don't think I can legally post someone's work without permission, but I'm sure I can name the poem he recited. It was "Dawn" by Paul Laurence Dunbar.


Angela Driver, in the pic with me below, is my new friend from Australia.



In this picture, I'm with fellow SCBWI-Western Washingtonians
Dan Gemeinhart and Kevan Atteberry.



This is Kevan Atteberry with
Kjersten Anna Hayes. For those who don't know, Kjersten is in our region's SCBWI, but she's temporarily living in Kuala Lumpur. It was such a nice surprise when I first spotted her at the conference, and I really enjoyed seeing her.



Here Molly and I are with
Jon Scieszka.



Ellen Hopkins also posed with Molly and me.


My third and final summer conference post will focus on the autograph party, and I'll give the deets on Molly's and my giveaways! Woo-hoo! So stay tuned! And speaking of giveaways, hop over to
Stasia Kehoe's blog and check out her latest contest (Stasia's name is linked to the post with the contest). She has a great interview with co-authors Suzanne Williams and Joan Holub, and they have a GODDESS GIRLS Swag Bag Giveaway.

I'd like to end this post telling
Molly Hall how extra, extra special she made my first ever L.A. conference. Molly, you're a talented writer, an incredibly fun person, a sweet and classy lady, and a true friend. I love ya! I'm hoping next year we can have our second excellent adventure!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Molly and Dawn's Excellent Adventure: The SCBWI Summer Conference, Part I

A huge part of the children's publishing world came together last week in Southern California, and I felt so fortunate to be there. My good friend Molly Hall and I both attended the L.A. conference for the first time, and we've teamed up to bring you:

Molly and Dawn's Excellent Adventure!


Since SCBWI Team Blog did an incredible job covering the conference and the sessions, I'll focus on our view of things as first-time attendees. If you click here, you'll see a short interview with Molly and me over at the official SCBWI conference blog. Keep in mind in real life I don't actually sound like Minnie Mouse. At least I hope I don't.

While the conference ended Monday, we're both still processing everything we heard. (Plus I'm going through major Molly withdrawals.) Molly and I had a blast going to sessions, hanging out with friends (new and old), drinking way too many products from Starbucks, and talking into the wee hours of the night. Or morning, if you want to get technical.


People came from all over the world to attend the conference.
Lin Oliver said there were 1,139 of us. After an impressive intro to the faculty and regional advisors, the hilarious Jon Scieska did the first keynote,
Tales of a Picture Book Writer: Do's, Don'ts, Maybes. He stressed the importance of YA writers reading all the YA books they can, picture book writers reading all the picture books they can, etc. He said to become an expert in your field then to leave all that stuff behind you and write.

M.T. Anderson
's keynote, The End of All Our Exploring: The Journey of Narrative, was also great. I'm going from my notes so forgive me if this isn't an exact quote, but he said, "Literature restores the sense of the unknown in what we already know. In art and literature, we see home and the familiar in a new light." He said we should make the unfamiliar familiar (his example: YOU KILLED WESLEY PAYNE by Sean Beaudoin) and vice-versa (his example: CORALINE by Neil Gaiman). He encouraged us to press ourselves to really pay attention to our words. The ending of his talk was a conference highlight: he sang his version of the Delaware state anthem.

Again, I'll refer you to the SCBWI Team Blog for more details on the keynotes and the sessions. I have pages of notes, but I'm focusing on our adventure. So maybe I should shift gears and tell you more about the social side of things?


I met some lovely bloggy friends in person for the first time!


That's Sherrie Petersen in the front. From left to right in the back: me, Carolina Valdez Miller, Sara McClung, and Casey McCormick. It was so cool!

Friday night was a wine and cheese reception. People from my region got together with people from another Pacific Northwest region, and it was a nice way to wind down after our first day. Here are a few pics from Friday night:


Joni Sensel and Nuria Coe



Jolie Stekly and Jaime Temarik



Brenda Olson, Mary Bell, Lucy MacAlister, and me


I think I'll break the conference into three posts. The final post will have an autographed book giveaway! Molly will also be sharing about the conference at her blog, Writer Mama Dreamer, and she'll have a giveaway too!


Happy writing! :)