Monday, September 15, 2014

Frances Foster

Tomorrow I'm heading to New York for the memorial service for my editor of 18 years, Frances Foster.

She was the best of the best.

I was blessed.

So today I'm reposting this Macmillan blog about:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Things I Do (But Am Not Saying You Should, Too)

So, a while back I had a blog post called Things I Don't Do (But Sometimes Wish I Did).

You can read it HERE

I was surprised and delighted that I made a lot of folks feel better and maybe saved you a little money on therapy. You're welcome.

But in that post I promised to write about some things I do do. 

First and foremost, however, it's important to note that I am not telling you that you should do these things.

They are things that help me.

They might not help you.

So feel free to just roll your eyes and move along.

1. I make what I call a story map. You can read about what it is and why I do it HERE.

2. I often draw an actual "map" of my main setting. Clearly, I am no artist (as evidenced below). But this visual is useful when maneuvering a character around the setting.

A map of the setting of On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

Ironically, when the brilliant artist, Greg Call, was sketching a map of the setting for the interior of the book, my editor, Frances Foster, asked me if I happened to have drawn a map. I reluctantly told her I had, but it was, um, a bit primitive. (For a brief moment, I considered redrawing it - or better yet, having someone else draw it.) But I sent my silly map and, magically, here is Greg's version:

3. I use Scrivener.  I think most of my writer friends do, as well. There's so much to love about this program, but one is that it  provides a number of ways to organize a novel visually.

For instance, the corkboard, on which index cards can be arranged, rearranged, color-coded, labeled, etc.

This is The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis
I also love the Outliner feature, which can be customized to include whatever elements are important to you and your novel.

This is a work-in-progress. I've included a brief description of each chapter, along with setting and timeline. You could add characters or emotional arcs or whatever.
I had a computer crash a while back and lost my Scrivener version of On the Road to Mr. Mineo's. Dang it. I'd love to show you that because, since it had 10 points-of-view, Scrivener was invaluable to me. I was able to color code each point of view. I could also take them out of the manuscript and group them together to see how they flowed. (That probably makes no sense, but, trust me, it was very useful.)

Monday, September 8, 2014


Happy Adoption Day to Martha!
Two years ago....

All the way from Indiana

Car ride home

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Things I Don't Do (But Sometimes Wish I Did)

I've been reading this awesome book called Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo.

It's a compilation of LOTS of interviews with amazing songwriters, such as Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Carole King, Randy Newman, Frank Zappa, Carlos Santana, Dave Brubeck, Brian Wilson and on and on and on.

One thing I love about it is reading how different their writing processes are.

Some write every day.

Some don't.

Some write only when inspiration strikes.

Some force the writing.

Some write the whole song at once.

Some write part of it and let it stew for a while.

Some need total quiet.

Some write on tour buses or in hotel rooms.

So, that got me to thinking about writing PROCESS.

And I've come to the conclusion that.....different strokes for different folks.

There should be no RULES, because everybody is different. are the things I DON'T do, even though I've heard that I should:

1. I don't write every day. Some days I'm not inspired. Some days I'm in a school. Some days I'm watching Judge Judy reruns. But I've written 10 books, so I do, eventually, get the job done.

2. I don't outline. I would LOVE to outline. I'm a super organized person whose favorite possession is a label maker. But they just don't work for me. I develop the story as I'm writing.

3. I don't keep a writer's journal. I want to. So. Bad. I want to write really cool stuff like Linda Urban does. OMG. I LOVE her journals! I love reading how her thoughts and ideas turn into novels.

When I'm in schools, I want to tell students that I keep a writing journal. I want to tell them I carry a little notebook wherever I go. I've considered lying, but I'm a terrible liar. 

And I love journals. I buy lovely leather ones with handmade paper. And then I write stuff like, "Ate too many chips today. Dang it!" or "Got the cutest sweater on sale at Nordstrom! Yay me!" Maybe I'm just shallow like that. *shrugs* But journals just don't WORK for me. I journal in my head. Seriously.

4. I don't use color-coded Post-It Notes on the wall, rearranging them for plot and scenes and characters and all that stuff. I WANT to! Really bad. But that just doesn't work for me.

5. I don't create character sketches. I HATE them. You know the ones: What's your character's favorite vegetable? What does your character's bedroom look like? *Shudders* Before I put pen to paper, I know my characters really, really well. My characters tell my story for me (after a lot of prodding).  

But I know them in the context of the story. I don't give a rip what she has in her backpack or what her favorite ice cream flavor is - unless it has something to do with the story. I know my characters in the context of the story. That's all I need to know.

6. I don't write in airports or cafes or hotel rooms. Trust me. I've tried. I need a quiet, still, private, personal space. Just because. (Although I did write a great deal of Moonpie and Ivy on a train. It's never happened since.)

So what's my point?

My point is that you should do what works for you. 

Try some of the techniques other writers use. They might work for you. They might not.

Write on a train.

Write in a car.

Write in a bed.

Write in a bar.

Outline, journal, post-it, too.

Just do whatever works for you.

[My poem for the day.] 

BUT - there are some things that I do do that help me - coming in a later post.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Yoohoo Boats!

Love that students from a school in Oconee County, Georgia, made Yoohoo boats after reading The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

I've never read Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson books.

I mean, so many books, so little time, and all that.

But I've made no secret of my love of her writing.

And now I've just finished Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (a spin-off of the Mercy Watson series).

I fell in love with that little cowboy dude and his trusty horse, Maybelline.

I mean, that Kate is all about VOICE.

I finally quit highlighting because, what's the's all so dang good.

But here are a few of my faves:

I hope he is a fast horse, he thought. And I hope that he is strong. I will call him Tornado. Leroy found this name so pleasing he had to stop walking and hold himself very still and properly consider the glory of the word.

Patty LeMarque helped Leroy Ninker up on Maybelline's back, and right away Leroy Ninker noticed that the world was different from the top of a horse. The colors were deeper. The sun shone brighter. The birds sang more sweetly.

You got to listen in this world, Hank. You got to pay attention to the informational bits that people share with you.

This is the worst night of my life, thought Leroy. If there is anything worse than being a cowboy without a horse, it is being a cowboy who had a horse and then lost her.

Okay, I'll stop there.

You get the point.

I loved this little book.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Author Visits

I've fallen off the blogging wagon for a bit for lots of good reasons (two of which are writing and summer).

But I'm trying to ease back into the swing of things. (Emphasis on the word "ease.")

I refuse to say the F word on this family-friendly blog.

Oh, what the heck....

....I'll say it:



Somebody had to say it.

It will be here in a blink.

So I know many authors and schools are thinking about author visits again.

I thought I'd resurrect some blog posts I wrote a while back (um, five years ago? Yikes) with advice for authors and schools.

The first four are aimed at authors but schools might find something useful in them, too.

The last one is for schools.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hello Revision, My Old Friend

....I've come to talk with you again.

[cue music of The Sound of Silence here in case you're confused.]


So much more fun to look at a page with words vs a blank page!

*Dives in head first*

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Island of Time

I had a super busy school year with school visits and conferences and such. 

After that I hit the ground running, or rather sitting, pen and paper in hand. (Yes, I write longhand.)

I had a wonderful jumpstart at a writers retreat with my home girls.

(l to r) Kirby Larson, Winston the Wonder Dog, Susan Hill Long, Augusta Scattergood, me)

Came home and stayed focused despite the gorgeous New England summer weather and my gardens and other distractions calling to me.

My only breaks have been a stroll at beach or bog with the dogs. 

But today I'm floating on a little island of time.

I have no idea exactly what that phrase means, but I like it, so I'm using it.

My work-in-progress is temporarily simmering on the back burner, ready to be buffed and polished and Bo-toxed into shape.

So today I'm free floating and it's been bliss.

Started the day with a 5:30 bog walk. (I have to time my visits so there aren't any other dogs for my shelter dog to fist fight with. She sometimes has, um, issues.)

Then I came back and picked fresh flowers from the garden (which look a little limp now but, oh well).

And THEN, I've been hunkered down with this all day.

Song Writers on Song Writing by Paul Zollo

Writers, songwriters, readers, music lovers, and anyone who isn't dead would love this.

It's a big fat book full of interviews with the BEST songwriters.

Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Carole King, Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Frank Zappa, Carlos Santana, Lou Reed, k.d. lang, Merle Haggard.....on and on and on.

I find myself whipping out the yellow highlighter every few minutes.

Feeling even more inspired to get back to my simmering word pot.

Signing off from my Island of Time

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bats in the Band

Now THIS is how you throw a book launch party!

Holy cow!

I have the good fortune to be in a critique group with the uber talented Brian Lies.

I'll let the photos speak for themselves, but trust me, this was an AMAZING event for the launch of the glorious Bats in the Band.

The event was coordinated with the South Shore Music Conservatory, who provided amazing musical performances to enhance Brian's reading of the book.

Brian MADE the bats on the car, y'all!

Brian had a giant version of the book to read from. He thinks of everything!

Brian's talented and beautiful daughter

Brian signing books (a lot of them!)

Critique group - Love these gals (and guy)!!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

How to Steal a Dog Movie Pics

A few more pics from the filming of How to Steal a Dog in South Korea

Mookie with director Kim Sung-ho

That face!! Love.....


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Check-in

Hey, y'all!

I know this blog has been quiet this summer but I have a good excuse.

I've been here:

And here:

And here:

With these folks:

(l to r) Kirby Larson with Winston the Wonder Dog, Susan Hill Long, Augusta Scattergood and me

Doing what, you ask?


And now:

Light at the end of the tunnel (sort of)