Greyson was 13 when this was filmed and he now has an official website (and following) at http://www.greyson-official.com/.
I so would have been crushing on this kid when I was that age! (Is this Archie?)
So my friend Vicky and I did a book swap today. We realized that between us, we owned several titles we each wanted to read, so first we stopped by her house (I borrowed three), and then we stopped by mine. And that's when the revelation occurred. I pointed to my orange shelves and said, "Most of my Young-adult novels (age range 13 and up) are over there." After browsing for a bit Vicky said, "Most of these are Mid-grade" (age range 10-13).
Then I started really looking. They may not all have been classified as Mid-grade by various book sellers, but when you thought about the themes, the topics, the overall adultness of the titles, they were mostly on the young side. Maybe not officially Mid-grades, but definitely young "YA's" at best. Talk about a shocker!
I know I'm not into chick-lit, or romances, or so many of the themes that define YA. But I do love magical realism and paranormals and those can oftentimes range up in age. Or not.
So upon really studying my own collection, I have realized that I'm more of a Mid-grade reader than I ever thought. Maybe that's why my novel was going that way. Unbeknownst to me, I was there all along!
Some friends are talking about Michael Hedges on facebook. Nothing like reminding me of my hero to get my inspiration flowing again.
The book tour ended yesterday (for THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA), and teaching ends Wednesday (illustration at UGA). So Thursday I'm back on board with fresh edits from my agent (I did get a new version to her per my previous post - #7) and a slightly new direction... Mid-Grade.
Yup. Seems I'm not dark enough for Young Adult fiction. Who knew? Ummm, apparently everybody except me. Ha!
My agent suggested the switch and although I really wanted to argue with her, the more she talked about it, the more it sounded absolutely right. Like a good hat. And when we talk Mid-Grade, we're talking Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, etc. I could be in worse company!
So off I go again on another version of my work-in-progress novel. And craziness, I'm actually really excited about it.
Wish me luck!
Yeah. Suddenly I'm teaching at the University of Georgia? Filling in for a professor on medical leave and commuting 1 1/2 hours three days a week. Thing is, when opportunities come knocking, they don't tend to check your schedule first.
And so the progress on novel edits came to a car crunching, gut wrenching halt. I told myself 'yeah, well, my agent and I knew the proposed deadline was probably not doable when we set it.' But then the other night my hubbie says, 'you're twelve days late on your deadline.' (We were discussing something that would potentially have even more of an impact on my schedule, so it was pertinent.)
Thing is, I'm a punctual person. I always show up on time (then wait for others to arrive) and I never miss a deadline. Until now. I don't care how ridiculous the deadline was, I'm now late and that bugs me. Big time.
Looking at it that way makes me change how I do things. I'm kickin' it up a notch. I'm attacking the edits. I WILL have this done asap.
Of course, it must be good. So for every three pages forward, I go five back to double check things, tweak language, make sure all threads remain consistent.
Who knew this would be so hard? Who knew I'd have to kick my butt so much to get it done? Um, writers. Writers know this. And to remain a writer, I must WORK.
I received an awesome three page letter from my agent. Lots of changes, but miraculously, no plot changes. More of the "give us more" type which is what I was hoping for. Still, it's daunting to try to dive back in. Here I go circling like a dog again...
Last Friday I sent my novel to my agent. What an exciting, cathartic, disturbing, nauseating relief.
A friend asked how many drafts I'd been through. After some thought I realized I had sent my agent my sixth draft. The first draft was like throwing spaghetti at the wall - a complete mess, but on paper. The second was starting to tell the story. The third received great feedback from my critique group, but also extensive changes. The fourth went to my top two readers. Again, I received great feedback and switched several scenes around in an attempt to fulfill some of the information gaps they mentioned. But in the fifth draft I went too far. The sixth draft was returning the order, but updating the necessary information. That is the draft I sent to my agent (after a sickening realization that it was 'time'). *whew*
It's amazing how much work has already gone into this novel. It's been a year and a half of work so far. And yet I know it has farther to go. I've already received some good comments from my agent, but I also know she has changes. That will be draft seven. And that's before it goes to a potential publisher. I'm beginning to understand the enormity of what I've taken on.
My first novel took four years. And while it got very close to being purchased, in the end it went back into a drawer, waiting for a day when I am a better writer.
This novel has taken much less time, so I am growing. And learning. And understanding why more people don't do this. Writing is gut wrenchingly hard. And yet, I have a story that needs telling.
I edited 100 pages of my novel today. Wow. Only 100 more to go. It's okay, I'm 2/3rds of the way through and I think most of the changes were in that first third. It was hard to work that first portion because I had to squish. Squish all the things that had been drawn out through the book, all to the front. Give the reader all the information they need to become completely invested in my characters and worried about their challenges. It's like a boxing match - you hit 'em with a flurry of punches at the front working up to the big KAPOW! (Or "climax" as it is called in literary circles.) Am I really hitting my readers? Of course not! But I must admit, right now, I'm feeling a little beat up... And victorious! Only 1/3rd more to go!!!
It has to be dead quiet when I write. Why? Because inside my head it gets so Very LOUD. Any outside noise is not only distracting, it's just too much. Thing is, when the writing stops - even for the briefest moment - to switch out the laundry (such a glamorous life) or answer the phone, it becomes scary obvious how quiet it is in my outside world. The interruption is so jarring, I yearn to turn on the radio, a tv, something to create noise.
And every time, when I return to my writing, it takes me a while to crawl back into my head. That place where it's loud. Where all my influences merge together with music, sounds, smells, and atmosphere and place me in the thick of my story.
I call it 'circling like a dog.' It used to take days to get back into my stories, but I've gotten better. Now it takes a matter of minutes (or a break to write a blog post). But it does feel like I inhabit two universes. One is very quiet, and one is Very LOUD.
Pronounced pas-TEET-see-o. It's a pasta and ground meat dish held together with a bechemel cream sauce. It's very Greek and it's very good. And for some reason my protagonist's mother keeps stuffing it down my main character's throat. Funny when a thread develops a life of its own like that. When I realized it was happening I had to sit back and laugh. I have no idea why it became so important, but it did. It's a good thing I happen to adore pastitsio. In fact, I had some just last night at Mykonos Taverna as they celebrated their one year anniversary. OPA!
It's a wonderful thing when you have talented friends. Friends whose feedback you value and respect, who happen to give really great advice. I have several such friends and count myself very lucky. The latest gave me some extremely sound advice on my novel.
The story is there, the characters are there, it doesn't even sag. However, the order is wrong on some things. The actual conflict isn't stated until too late into the novel. We don't know who the antagonist is until too late. And belief occurs too quickly.
So, I will treat my novel like a jigsaw puzzle. I will chop it up and rearrange the pieces until they fit back together in ways that absorb and inform the reader at a proper rate.
And then I will go back through and polish, polish, polish. That's actually the hard part because things get so jumbled in my head - it's tricky to keep it all straight. But this is what I must do to make the novel the absolutely best it can be before I send it to my agent. It's already been a TON of work, but there's still a bit more to get to the gate. (We haven't even made it to the race yet!)
It seems whenever a person mentions a subject, it suddenly snakes through human psyches popping up in seemingly unrelated places. Some would call it a sign, others call it an omen. I call it fascinating. Muses are being talked about at...
One of my all-time favorite musicians, Michael Hedges, and his playing style ("slap harmonics" and "tapping") will figure prominently in my story. That won't be his name in the book, but anybody who knows music will recognize him. Why do I love his music? Have a gander at this - one of my all-time favorite songs - Michael's music set to "I Carry Your Heart" by E.E. Cummings (turn your sound up):
But while "I Carry Your Heart" is wonderful, it doesn't begin to show off what Michael could really do with a guitar. For that, have a peek at "Ritual Dance" (yes, that is ONE man on ONE guitar):
You may recognize the song as it was used in the movie "August Rush" played by Kaki King. Get some previews here. And check out "Bari Improv" which is completely inspired by Michael's style (I'm guessing "Rickover's Dream" or "The Rootwitch"). Here's the clip from the movie:
Unfortunately, as it so often happens with the truly talented, Michael is no longer with us. He died in a car crash in 1997. But I got to see him in concert, completely inspired, several times before he died (boxing shorts and all). Rarely have I ever felt so exposed to completely raw, pure, genius as when watching him play.
Every now and then as I write, I stop and listen to Michael do his thing. It sends chills through me, which I hope I then apply to the page with my words. These are the things that inspire me.