Thursday, December 29, 2011

Benny Prasad Kandukuri - Shout to the Lord

I can't find this in iTunes, so I can only enjoy it via video. Benny Prasad moved onto my radar from DailyDawdle. Turns out he's won a record, and I don't mean the music kind. He traveled to every single country in the world (sharing his music and peace) in six years. What an inspired and inspiring guy!
     By the way - his method of playing is called 'slap guitar,' immortalized by my hero, Michael Hedges.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I am a NaNoWriMo Victor!!!

I did it! I wrote a novel in 26 days through the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge! The NaNo goal is 50,000 words in one month. My personal goal was 60,000 or until I reached the end of the story.
     Well, yesterday I reached 54,641 words and "The End"!
     Of course, now the fun part begins - revisions. I think the first draft is the hardest part - revisions are FUN. That's when you slick up, tighten, and polish all points of the story and I could do it for much longer than it took me to write the original. But here's hoping I get it to a point where it's ready to go to my agent before the end of February.
     That's my personal goal anyhow. But I seem to be doing pretty well with those. Wahooooo!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Keep on keeping on

As I wait to hear on my novel, I did the only thing you can do - I worked on a new project. Something completely different, a very short picture book. I actually worked on it while hubbie was away on his Iron Butt Motorcycle Rally (48 states in 11 days + the 5 days out to Seattle and home from Los Angeles, another 4 days). Happily, my agent loves it and it went out to publishers Friday. So I now have a novel and a picture book being shopped. What to work on next? :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Waiting to Hear...

Scary, scary, scary. Why did we have to submit around a holiday? Everybody's on vacation. Probably for the next three months. Gads. Okay, well probably at least through this week. Don't they know I'm waiting? Don't they know I'm a nervous wreck? Okay, okay, so everybody in the slush pile is going through the same thing. I'm lucky I have an awesome agent to get my manuscript through the door. Still. They should all step away from their sandcastles, replace their flip-flops with business shoes and READ!!! Right? Right? Gads.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A book takes flight

My novel is going to publishers. Yup. Two and a half years worth of work - finally going out the door. My agent emailed me while I was on vacation in Seattle. I knew she'd be getting back to me soon, but wasn't sure if it would be a 'sign off' or another revision request. I was beyond thrilled to read it was the first!
     So now my baby is on its way into the world, to stand on its own, to be judged objectively and with luck, found to be worthy. Send good vibes!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

"Success" has been on my radar lately. Especially with the challenges, not only of getting published, but of this industry in general in the current market. I have to ask myself, if this career doesn't make me rich, is it still a worthy pursuit?
     If not, why? How many careers are really about money these days? The numbers seem to be dwindling.
     And if so, why? Why must money be a judge of one's creative output? And isn't it a fickle judge at best?
     Here's a very interesting take on what success is and what it should be to you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Outta here - again!

If you're following, I hope you're getting a good peek into what a difficult process writing a novel can be. And because it's so tough, you have to celebrate the little milestones when you reach them. Like today.
     A full revision is done. I hit 'send' on that email getting it back to my agent. My legs feel wobbly and a little numb. I made a ton of changes (unbelievably!) and the story actually ended up shorter (and tighter). I've polished it to the best of my current abilities. (Knowing I still have tons of room to grow.) But for now, I've done it.
     I've jumped a hurdle. I've reached an end. And when I calm down, I'm going to go swimming, take it easy, and revel in my temporary victory. Wahooooo!

Monday, May 23, 2011

More edits

Yup. Apparently even 'pitch-perfect' manuscripts aren't selling in this tough market, and I still have some work to do to make it there anyhow.
     Bad thing is, it's a biggie: voice. The most elusive to identify, most difficult things to nail, and one of the hardest things to learn.
     SO! Here's what I've done... I've got collages of my main characters - big posters which surround me as I write - with all the things that make them 'them' along with images of people I think sort of 'look like' them. I've got photo collages of kids that age (one is even flipping me a bird - how appropriate!). I've got another of these collages as my desktop wallpaper - the kids are literally staring at me as I write.
     I've also changed the voice I use when I read out loud (which I do ALL the time). But, I no longer read in my voice - I read in the voice of a younger me - a pre-teen me.
     And believe it or not - as silly as all this may sound, I think it's helping.
     I have been going through making more changes than I ever thought possible. I'm getting rid of high vocabulary (without dumbing it down). I'm clarifying ideas and cutting out a whole lot of narration (while finding more creative ways to get needed information into my story).
     It sounds a little crazy - but its all about getting into the mindset and VOICE of my main character (who has progressively gotten younger as this novel has gone through iterations).
     So, I'm going through again. Yes, I'm frustrated, but I rarely complain about revisions as that's actually my favorite part of the writing process. This is when you polish the heck out of the rocks. Let's see if we can shine 'em up like diamonds...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Confidence vs. Self-doubt

Nathan Bransford has written a wonderful post on the differences and similarities between confidence and self-doubt and how they affect our writing. It's worth the trip to GO READ.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Move Through the Creative Gap

I debated posting that Adele video because I was in a low spot that day. I tend not to show people those down times. But this is a different kind of blog. This blog is more about reality than my main blog and I think its important for those on this same crazy journey to understand how hard it can be.
     They say you can't truly reach success or become an expert at something until you've put in 10,000 hours. Well, I'm nearing those hours, and the beastie is really testing my resolve. Am I failing at this career I've dedicated so much time to? I couldn't really figure out how to say it, exactly. But then along comes Tribal Writer and says it perfectly:
     "The important thing is you're failing forward."
     Choosing a career like this is, in many ways, choosing discomfort. Because it's that constant striving to be better that gets us there, but it's that not feeling good enough yet that drives that action. It's the fate of the creative mind unfortunately, and why so many people refuse to stay on the path. And yet, the silver lining is that all that drive will (I hope) eventually lead to something spectacular.
     Truly, I can't say it better than Tribal Writer did (sections 3 and 4 especially) in her post move through the creative gap (all the way to the power of awesome). If you'r on even a moderately similar journey as mine, I highly suggest you go READ.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I know we all feel this sometimes. Maybe lots of times. It's hard to chase a dream. It's hard to be rejected. Or to realize the rejection of your work isn't a rejection of you. It's hard to know if you're on the right path. It's hard to feel like the reason you are here on this earth may not be the reason you think it is. And sometimes, well, sometimes the not knowing can really mess with you. I know I'm not alone in this... I hope you know you aren't either.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Back to my agent

My novel went back to my agent on Friday. Again. I'm hoping it's ready to go to potential publishers at this point, although I'm sure there are more revisions in my story's future. How can I be okay with that?
     If you've been following my new blog, you've already seen how much back and forth work there is with a novel, and how much time. But truly, with every set of new eyes, and every round of revisions, the story gets a little bit better - and I become a little bit better of a writer.
     Knowing that, I can't wait to see what my story will turn into by the time a publishing house editor has had at it. And it's not because I'm not confident about my story. I truly believe it's a darned good story. I just recognize that it's difficult to approach a story objectively, especially when you've been at it for two years. Even my critique group and agent have seen it several times.
     That said, I've learned I can't just take anybody's advice on needed changes - it has to be somebody I respect. Well intentioned people are not always qualified people, and it's vital that advice come from those with knowledge of the market and writing in general. I've been very lucky to have all of that up until now. And I hope to have that again in a future editor.
     I look at a book like the creation of a Pixar movie - think Nemo. That story line was so perfect, so tight, without any dead moments or missed opportunities, and most of their movies are like that. I believe it takes a room full of brilliant minds to create something that polished. A really good team.
     And I look forward to learning who else will be on my team. It might be time for a mascot and pom-poms.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

One more batch of edits

I got a great letter back from my agent. She has a few more changes for my novel, all which make complete sense. Part of her advice is to scale the age down even further. I was walking a 'tween' line which makes it hard to market, and therefore sell. Solidly MG or YA is the way to go. I'm going MG so need to make that more clear.
     I know it seems like I've been working on this novel forever, but if you've been following that's exactly what you should know about writing. This is HARD work. Really hard work. Like nothing I've ever done before in my life. And it takes SO much time.
     I sometimes wonder if I could go back and visit the me just starting in this business if I could talk me out of it. But then I think 'nah.' There's no way I could get across just how hard this is, and now I'm in way too deep to stop.
     Of course, I don't mind editing. In fact, I like it better than writing. Because getting that first draft down is rough. And it's proving it to me once again as I start book #2. So it's almost a relief to get to bury myself back in edits on book #1 once more. And hang out with my characters again. I really do adore them.
     But yeah, the book is not ready to go out to publishers yet, although I'm danged close. No point in sending it out until its perfect though. I get one shot. Over two years of work so far on this novel (with eight years before it learning how to write) for one shot. It better be right.
     No pressure.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Outta here... again

Yup - the novel is back to my agent. *whew* Let's hope this is the last round and it's ready to go to publishers now.
     Next up? The second novel in the series of course. Already a few thousand words in and it seems to be rolling along just fine. Joy!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Me, stalling? nahhhhh.

All the edits are in - fantastic comments and input. I'm to page 20 in my revision.
     It sucks. The whole thing sucks! And I just keep adding more words rather than taking them out! And I'm sure they're terrible words because nobody has vetted them yet. Surely they're out of place. Surely they're throwing off the rhythm and sending the reader on tangents I never intended? I am frozen with indecision and insecurity.
     Don't worry about me. I'm sure by tomorrow I'll be back in love with my novel and think it's the best thing since swiss cheese. (Of course, by the day after that who knows how I'll feel?)
     THIS... is the life of a writer.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A critique retreat

So a few weeks ago I went on retreat with my Cheese Whizzes (the official name of my critique group) to the North Georgia mountains. Through a long weekend of laughing, playing, deep discussions and too much good food, we also shared our work.
     I must say, I love my critique group. These are some of the most talented ladies on the planet and my respect for every single one of them is huge. They are also incredibly intelligent and inspiring. Such open minds, yet with sincere convictions, are hard to find in today's world and I like to think there's a reason we found each other. They are, from the top left - Vicky Alvear Shecter, Moi, Robyn Hood Black, seated from left, Gail Karwoski, Kim Siegelson, and Mary Ann Rodman.

     Not only did I have the great pleasure of reading the progress of their amazing works, but I also received fabulous feedback on my novel. And I'm thrilled to report it was mostly positive! "Smooth as a smoothie," and "It's just soooo good!" Let me tell you - getting comments like that from these ladies was a very big deal for me.
     They did have a few suggestions. I'm moving a flashback scene to the opening scene and making my main character, Archie, a bit more lovable. Not hard things to do. I'm thick in the middle of the edits now and hope to have this version (I'm hoping the last version) back to my agent at the end of the month. Woosie!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Deep breath - it's critique time

I'm on retreat with my critique group this weekend. We have a lot of work to dig through - they're all prolific, incredibly talented writers, all with manuscripts to discuss. Of course, this means my novel will be talked about too.
     There's a joke about critique groups - that you leave 'bloodied.' Nobody is mean, but when you have brilliant minds offering sound advice on 370 pages of your writing, you're going to leave with work to do. It's a little scary.
     Will they like it? Will they think it stinks? Will they slash it apart and tell me it's not working? Will they cheer loudly and say 'it's ready to go forth and win many awards'! Unlikely.
     The first day after your critique can be tough. You've got to give yourself a day to calm down, chill out, and breathe. But if it's a good critique group, by day two, you realize your partners have given you some great advice, maybe inspired some new directions and ideas, and you can't wait to dive back into your manuscript with their insights in mind.
     But I'm not to that point yet. Tonight it's good food, companionship and lots of laughter. We go through our manuscripts tomorrow. And yeah, I'm a little nervous.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interview on Illustration Island

Thomas James started Escape from Illustration Island a few years ago, and it has become a premier resource for illustrators just starting out (and some of us who have been in it a while). I was honored to be a guest recently for an Illustration Island podcast: Episode #68. And boy was it thorough! I got a little philosophical in some of my answers, and even talked about THIS BLOG publicly for the first time.
     I hope I shared some information that will be of value to budding illustrators. If you listen, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mid-grade edits done!

I have once again reached a finish line in this race that never ends. I finished my edits, turning my novel from Young Adult to Mid-Grade. It's a different target audience, but one I relate to well.
     There are parts of the novel I love, parts I truly believe I nailed. And of course there are others where I'm not sure I can write at all. Although there's a chance I'm judging both on the moods I was in that day - Brilliant! vs. the Evil Editor who whispers 'you have no idea what you're doing.' Hm. Bottom line is, I'm not sure I can look at my work objectively at all anymore. I really don't think I can.
     All I do know is I love the story, I love the characters. They crack me up and I've loved living in their world. I hope readers will too. I hope they'll get the chance.
     Now the manuscript goes back to my critique group during our winter retreat in a few weeks. If it comes back all marked up, it will be back to edits once more - Round 9. But for now, I shall celebrate the end of Round 8... with chocolate croissants hubbie brought home from the farmer's market. Now that's what I call inspirational!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

How to be Alone - this is when inspiration happens

Some of my best ideas have come from when I was alone. Especially when I was hiking in the winter with my dog through the mountains of Tennessee. Leaves were gone and views were long. No snakes, no bugs, no strangers to pass, just me and my thoughts and the quiet of the forest. In the city, walking a nearby track replaced that time. Surrounded by trees it is the territory of birds, which sometimes ignored me completely swooping inches ahead on my path. These are the moments my brain went to faraway places and returned with stories.