Thursday, August 30, 2012

Update on My Writing Tree

Almost a year ago, I shared this post about my writing tree. It was a tiny, broken, but still-growing tree I walked past each day while walking my dog. It taught, inspired, and spoke to me each time I passed. So I wanted to update you on the growth and progress of my writing tree because I still pass it each day while walking my dog. On the left is what it looked like a year ago. On the right is my writing tree today. Hopefully my writing has grown and changed as much as my writing tree has.

My Writing Tree in 2012
 My Writing Tree in 2011







Monday, August 20, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Apothecary

Shannon Messenger, the founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, wrote an MMGM on The Apothecary by Maile Meloy last fall, and ever since, it was on my to-read list. Earlier this summer, I finally read it, and Wow! It's something special. Definitely an upper middle grade read because of its twisty, historically-based (but also magically-related) plot, I'd also classify it as one of those in-between books--somewhere between middle grade and YA. But it's simply awesome. 

The premise: It's 1952 and the Cold War is in full swing, as is the Communist Hunt (the Red Scare) in the United States. Fourteen-year-old Janie Scott moves to London with her parents to escape what the U.S. government is doing to those with suspected Communist sympathies. In London, Janie meets the Apothecary, and he harbors dangerous secrets. He also has a son named Benjamin. And then the Apothecary goes missing . . .

What keeps readers reading: An inventive blend of history mixed with magic. When Janie and Benjamin discover the strength of the secrets Benjamin's father holds--and a sense of why people want him dead--they will stop at nothing to get the Apothecary back. Suddenly, the Apothecary's job, which never interested Benjamin, is very important to him . . . and to everyone else.

What I loved: This is a historical unlike any other I've read--and I've read MANY. The Apothecary has this super cool magic element and it mixes that with historical undertones. It takes science, nature, medicine, and magic and flips it all into something that's designed to help the world. The novel left me with that "if only this were true" and "why does this have to be fiction" feeling.

For more middle grade recommendations, visit the links right here: Shannon Messenger's blog.
Happy middle grade reading!
 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Inside Scoop: Interview with Kimberley Griffiths Little

My daughter once told me that she hopes to open an ice cream shop named "What's the Scoop?" Isn't that awesome? It has absolutely nothing to do with my post today, other than word association, but here is the scoop from author Kimberley Griffiths Little! My questions are in blue, her responses in black.

Welcome, Kimberley! Let's get to business! Do you have a typical writing day?

I wish I had a typical writing day!

Every day is different because STUFF always happens. (I strongly suspect I am not alone in this!) 

But here is the Typical Writing Day I’m always *trying* to have – and in which I succeed about 50% of the time:

I’m usually up no later than about 6:30. Been trying for 6:00 a.m. – which is hard when I stay up late reading!

After gulping down my vitamins with ice water, a banana and yogurt, I exercise, shower, and try to be out the door no later than 7:30 - 8:00 a.m.

Emails and business and blogging and social media take about 3 hours a day in some form or another and I tend to get sucked in first thing. I’m obsessive about my email and it drives me crazy to have unanswered emails in my Inbox!

I also include some form of spiritual reading/prayer, meditation time – hopefully before lunchtime!

Research and/or reading

Lunch

Writing or Revision or Plotting

Break

Writing, etc. Fix Dinner, Errands, appts, meetings, SCBWI schmoozes, bills, take care of kiddos, phone calls from my long-distance family, prepping lessons or school visits or talks or presentations...

My husband tells me that I constantly put too much on my To Do List – and I always wish I could accomplish more each day. Why are we never satisfied? :-)

Whew! I agree with your husband. I need a nap now. *lays down* Can you share a bit about your creative process?

I’m a big 3x5 card plotter. When I’m starting a new idea and brainstorming I throw everything I come up with, ideas, notes, etc into a notebook or Word document; bits of research, potential scenes, character traits, sometimes dialogue, plot points, opening lines, potential climax, etc.

After I’ve spent a few weeks thinking about the story, and usually a brainstorming lunch session with my crit partner, Carolee Dean, as well, (I’m very lucky she is a brilliant brainstormer) I sit down and do 3x5 card plotting. I’ve done this for about 6-7 book projects now. It’s such a fun and easy way to plan your book out and then see your whole *book* spread across the table or floor to organize and develop further.

I’m a guest author at WriteOnCon, the biggest online writing conference August 14-15 – AND I’m doing a video about 3x5 card plotting so don’t miss it! Go here for all the details and to sign up! It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s truly fabulous. Authors, Agents, and Editors. Live Chats. Blog Posts. Videos. Tons of info for aspiring and published writers.
 

Great! I'm 'attending' WriteOnCon and want to hear more about your 3x5 card plotting. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?

I love the research because it is so darn fascinating. My YA debut is the launch of a trilogy Fall 2013 with Harpercollins, a novel about the roots of belly dance in the ancient world and the goddess temples with a sweeping, epic romance. The research is completely engrossing. So many juicy details on every page! I’m also a belly dancer myself and the history and culture fascinate me. I also love Egypt, Paris, Edinburgh, and castles. I stayed in a haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle once. Didn’t sleep a wink!

On the Writing Front: I’m a much bigger lover of drafting rather than revising. I love when the story pours out and I can’t type fast enough. Revision can be daunting trying to clean up a big, huge mess and figure it all out.
 

Hhaaa! I recently blogged about how I didn't love revision but have grown to, but there is nothing quite like the times when writing pours from your fingers. Why have you chosen to write for kids?

Mostly because I never stopped reading children’s and young adult books. Books were my best friends growing up because I was painfully shy (so shy I could hardly talk!). The world of a kid is still so magical and wondrous. I think the world of children’s lit contains some of the best and most groundbreaking writing going on today. The best part is that finally adults are devouring MG and YA books, too. At last they see the light!
 

Yes, hooray for adults reading MG and YA! My blog readers should know how much I love MG, and I do throw in a YA novel here and there too. :-) What bits of wisdom or advice would you be willing to share with other writers?

Most writers don’t talk very openly about how hard and daunting it can be to write an entire novel, polish it, get an agent, and then a publisher. We’re embarrassed to admit it can take years. Decades! It did for me. I also submitted my work much too early. Take the time to learn your craft. Find a critique group. Write a LOT. And I mean write a LOT. And read a lot. Study the best books. Enjoy the journey, too, and friends in the writing community are priceless. My journey has been long and arduous and full of pitfalls and orphaned books and leaving one agent to acquire my dream agent. A dozen “practice” novels. So many rejection letters I’ve lost count. But I kept going and never gave up, even if it meant having a good cry and taking a break once in awhile! I kept writing new work and I kept polishing old work until something *stuck*.
 

Such great words for writers. Thank you! I've read rumors that you have a writing cottage. Can you confirm or deny the rumor for us? If it is indeed true, how does it enhance your writing life?

The rumors are true! It’s about 7 months old now and I’ve been slowly getting furniture and curtains and putting up pictures. After I had a roof, walls and a door, I worked at a card table for 3 months while my desk got lost in warehouses around the country. I love the peace and quiet, the ability to focus. I’ve never had an office, just a desk in my bedroom or the kitchen. To have my own space at last makes my life as a writer all feel more real—as long as I don’t fall asleep on the couch!

When I sold the YA trilogy to Harpercollins the offer was so tremendous I knew that *now* was the time to make my writing cottage dream come true. My husband supported me fully and my brother who is a contractor built it for me—his wife and kids came down with him and we had a blast building it together in only a week (although the wild snowstorm the day he arrived from out of state nearly stopped us. We poured concrete in 15 degrees and the truck froze). It was kind of like an old-fashioned barn raising. Now I even have a daybed for reading - and windows on every single side for views and light.





That sounds (and looks!!) about perfect. I'm sure some of my blog readers now have cottage envy. What has surprised you the most about your writing journey?

#1. How hard it is, and what a slow learner I was! Back in the day I didn’t know any other writers so I just read books about writing. I didn’t know SCBWI existed or writing groups and conferences. They make a huge difference in helping you with your craft, in getting to know the business, as well as providing supportive friends – friends who *get* it on your journey. And friends who will cry with you during the rejection years - and then take you to lunch.


 
#2. I have also been astounded by how truly wonderful and generous and nurturing a good editor can be. I’m blessed with two now (one at Scholastic and the other at Harpercollins). Each editor has a different style, but they are both terrific for me and feed me and support me in different ways.


  #3. The other thing that has surprised me is that the work, the writing, the discipline and dedication has not stopped. In fact, it’s ramped up. No longer can I dabble for months with The Muse and an idea. If I want a book out every year (a MG in the Spring and a YA in the Fall which happens for the first time in 2013) I need to be constantly brainstorming, plotting, drafting, revising, researching, revising again, promoting, and getting ready for book launches with all its attendant 10,000 details.

I’m still learning to enjoy the journey, to not go crazy (at least not more than once a day!), and to keep loving the writing most of all because that’s where it all begins.


Ahhhhh. Great closing words--enjoy the journey. Thank you so much, Kimberley! Don't forget there is a giveaway of Kimberley's Circle of Secrets still open. Scroll to the post below. And . . . I'll leave you with the beauty that is the cover of Kimberley's next middle grade book.