Sunday, January 31, 2010

Description exercise

OK gang, I would like you to share a list of word(s) to describe a person's hair and/or eyes. Pick one or the other or, if you're feeling ambitious, do both. Can't wait to read your lists in the posts. I'll start with a short one.
Black as charcoal
Green with tiny specks of gold
Almond shaped
As big as quarters
Blood shot
Caked with sleepy dirt

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ella's Dance: A Grandma note

Note 120
My dearest Ella,
Be careful of the marks you leave behind.
I’ve sat in the same pew at church for as long as I can remember. There are scratch marks on the back made by my father’s suspenders. He sat in this spot until he died and the marks are a lasting reminder.
When I think about the scratch marks, I think of the marks we leave in life – some good, some bad. It reminds me to live life thoughtfully because we never know when we might leave a mark that might be harmful. We are powerful in that way, Ella, whether we realize it or not. Understand and don’t abuse that power.
How many times have we left marks that have hurt people? I once had a teacher who said something to me that I will never forget. Decades have passed and the words still sting. That’s the power of the marks we leave behind. Like the pew, the scratch is always there. We might be able to sand it and apply new stain, but it remains underneath. It’s what we do with the marks in our life that count. Use them to make us better and stronger and wiser.
Love you bunches and bunches, Grandma

Quote of the day

"When your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme."
 --Jiminy Cricket
Gotta love the cricket! (Smiles)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Description writing exercise

In one paragraph, describe the next person you see. Don't forget all of your senses (well, maybe not taste and touch). What do they look like? How do they sound? Smell? Make this person come alive in my mind. Good luck!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why do you write?

I'm always interested in why people write. Maybe it was a book that turned them onto writing. Or a teacher or parent. I'd love to hear why you write. So please tell me.
Finish this sentence: I write because...
Can't wait to read your answers in comments.

To all of my heroes

To all the writers who struggle each and every day, you are my heroes. Don't give up on your dreams -- ever!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Make a list of words about writing

Take a minute and make a list of words that immediately come to your mind when you think of writing. Limit list to no more than 10 words. Please share in comments. Here's mine.
Now, your turn. Remember, write what pops into your head. There are no wrong or right words.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quote of the day

"The faster I write the better my output. If I'm going slow I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them."
--Raymond Chandler
Are you pushing or being pulled or a little of both? Please share.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Share your WIP in one sentence

Let's share what we are working on in one sentence? Imagine you bumped into me at the grocery store and I asked you about your WIP and you only had time to answer in one sentence. It might not be easy to do but it's a great exercise in boiling down the essence of your story. So let's see these one sentences.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Share your dialogue snippets

Let's share snippets of dialogue that we think show a character's personality. Do you get a mental picture of any of these characters just from the dialogue? I'll start and I can't wait to read your's in the comments.

From MG Freaky Frank: “Hey, bro,” Piz said. “Can you help me with that Romeo stuff? I don't understand any of that artsy-fartsy crap. Why do we have to read this Shakespeare stuff anyway? The dude doesn’t even write for normal people.”

From MG Locket of Doom: “What’s there to be afraid of?” I asked. “Everyone’s dead. It’s not like they’re going to claw their way out of their coffins and grab you and pull you into their grave and we’ll never see you again. Besides, we can’t chicken out. We’ll never hear the end of it. And I really want to see if the statue cries.”

From MG Haunted Barn: “Speaking of the potty, I’ve been having trouble with my bladder,” Grandma told Anna. “Incontinence. Can’t seem to keep it in.”
“Well, better No. 1 than No. 2,” Anna said. “Marge has been having trouble with No. 2 and, well, what a mess.”
“It’s hell getting older,” Grandma said.

From MG Brain Invaders: “My parents had a major blowout last night,” Cassie said. "I’ve never seen my dad like that. He was so angry. His eyeballs were as big as basketballs and his face as red as Mrs. Snyder’s lipstick."
“That red?” I asked.
“Maybe redder.”

From YA Ella's Dance: “Why did you have to go in the service anyhow,” Ella said, her anger starting to bubble. “We’re in a war for god’s sake. And you’re freakin’ going in the service. Well, it’s a fine time to do something like that. You could be killed and end up in an urn like Grandma, nothing but a bunch of damn white ashes."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ella's Dance: A Grandma note

Note 161
My dearest Ella,
I’m really tired today, Ella. The chemo treatments take a lot out of me. Maddie offered to write what I tell her, but I didn’t want to do that just yet. But I might have to eventually. I want to keep writing these notes myself so you have them in my handwriting as long as I can.
So today is rough and I can’t write much. The notes might be a little shorter for awhile. Depends on how I feel. But I want to say that I love you. Three simple words that are worth more than all the treasures in the world put together.
Love you bunches and bunches, Grandma

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quote of the day

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."
--George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1947

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My little boy is now a man

Somewhere along the way my son grew up. Funny how that happens. One minute I was giving him a bottle and the next minute gas money. (Smiles) Years float by so lazily and melt, one into the other, so that you can’t quite remember when one ended and another began. I guess this is what we call life. Strange how the years unfold, a story is written, and you are along for the ride. You might guide and direct and even write a line or two. But the child is the author of this book, and only he or she can decide its ending.
Choose well, son, and let your conscience be your guide.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What do you think?

I was pulling the news wires today when I came across a study by Texas Tech University that found a  correlation between multiple tattoos or piercings and "deviant behavior."
The group surveyed 1,753 students at four colleges and found they engage in more promiscuity, more drug use, more binge drinking, more arrests and more cheating on academics than their peers.
The correlation with deviant behavior came among the 4 percent of students who had four or more tattoos, seven or more piercings, or one "intimate piercing," researchers said.
If you write YA, are you using piercings and tattoos in your character descriptions? Have you thought about what this says about your character? Interesting stuff. What do you think?

Quote of the day

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
--Charles R. Swindoll

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ella's Dance: A Grandma note

Note 122
My dearest Ella,
It’s not about winning or losing but how you play the game that counts.
I know there are a lot of people who would disagree with me on this one. And that’s OK. We’re all entitled to our opinions, right? (Remember my earlier note?)
I’ll never forget the day you helped a player from the opposing soccer team. You were eight at the time and playing defense and this little girl was handicapped and she was put in for the final minutes of the game. She had the ball and it was your job to get the ball. But you stopped when you realized the little girl was handicapped and struggling. Instead of blocking her, you encouraged her to dribble the ball toward the goal.The goalie saw what you had done and she, too, encouraged the girl to score.
You most certainly could have gotten that ball from her that day, but you didn’t. I was never more proud of you. Of course, your team won the game. But your act of kindness was the real victory. You made a difference in that little girl’s life and gave her a moment she will probably never forget.
Life is a game, Ella, and you will be judged on how you play that game. Play it with compassion and thoughtfulness. You might not always win, but you can be proud of the way you played.
Love you bunches and bunches, Grandma

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ella's Dance: A Grandma note

Note 15
My dearest Ella,
Whatever you choose to do, be passionate about it.
You like history. You enjoy biology. But what are you truly passionate about, Ella? Only you can answer this question. But I will tell you that it’s easier to pursue something you have passion for then something you don’t.
My friend Ed Sanders loved the theater. He was passionate about it. Every chance he got he tried out for a school play or a community theater production. Ed was also brilliant in math. His father wanted him to studying engineering in college. So Ed did. And he hated it. Sure he was smart enough to be an engineer, but it wasn’t what he was passionate about. It's not what he wanted to be.
Eventually, Ed followed his passion and studied theater. He and his wife started a community theater in Vermont that is very successful.
So whatever you choose to do, be passionate about it. Want it with every ounce of your being. Life without passion is like a bird without wings – you never soar beyond the ordinary to find the extraordinary within.  
Love you bunches and bunches, Grandma

Friday, January 15, 2010

Quote of the day

"Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.”
--Winston Churchill

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Is writing a discovery?

"Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say."
Sharon O'Brien

This quote totally made me laugh, mostly because it's so true. Sometimes the sentences and scenes that spill onto the computer screen surprise me and even shock me. One time, I wrote something and I was like, I can't believe I just wrote that, because it was something that I wouldn't say but my character took over and, well, I was along for the ride. How about you? What's the process like? Do scenes flash before you like scenes from a movie? Do you hear voices in your head? Conversations?
I know when I wrote Freaky Frank, a humorous middle-grade for boys, I cracked up the entire time. It was so much fun to write and when I was done, man, I was sad. I wanted to hang with Frank longer. He's a pretty cool kid. When I shared some passages with my teenage sons and husband, they were like, And you think that's funny? And I'm like, it's totally funny. How can you NOT think boogies and farts are funny. I must be weird. Or maybe stuck in a 12-year-old's body. Anyway, loved to read your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ella's Dance: A Grandma note

Someone asked me what Grandma's first note to Ella says. Here it is:

Note 1
My dearest Ella,
I wish we would have had more time together, but we both know that we don’t always get what we want. I know that you are in good hands with Maddie. She loves you as if you were her own. Always has.
I wanted to leave you with some of my thoughts, things for you to think about as you journey through life. I’d like to write a note for every day of the coming year. I pray that I’m able to finish them before it’s time for me to say goodbye. I hope they provide comfort and the guidance I will not be there to give.
Ella, I love you so very much. My life was a thousand times richer because you were a part of it, and I wouldn’t have wanted to change a single thing. My greatest wish is that you are healthy and happy and that all of your dreams come true.

Love you bunches and bunches, Grandma

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ella's Dance: A Grandma note

Note 22
My dearest Ella,
Don’t be afraid to fall in the mud; you can always take a bath.
Remember the time I hosed you and Emily off  in the backyard? The two of you slopped in a mud puddle and you were covered from head to toe. You had the best time that day. The easiest thing to do was to hose you off, wrap you in towels and send you inside to change. Somewhere along the way, you became afraid of  mud puddles. You didn’t want to get dirty or mess up your clothes. Then one day, I challenged you to jump in a mud puddle under the cherry tree. You were hesitant, so I jumped in first. We had a ball that day. My point then and my point now is that when you fall in a mud puddle (or jump in one if you choose) don’t be afraid. A little bit of soap and water will get you clean. Life will be riddled with mud puddles. Some quite big, I’m sure. But you just jump right in and get all muddy and enjoy it.
Love you bunches and bunches, Grandma 

Why do you write or sell or edit?

Here are a few questions that I would love to hear your answers to. If you're a writer, why do you write? If you're an editor or agent, why did you choose those careers? The writer, agent, editor is an incredibly important team and I wondered what makes that team successful? Anyone?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Writing contest

Another contest from Mary Kole, associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency on the West Coast. This  contest is for a novel beginning (up to 500 words) of your YA or MG novel. For details, check here:

Quote of the day

"The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don't define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them."
--Denis Watley

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ella's Dance: A Grandma note

Note 2
My dearest Ella,
There’s no shame in failing as long as you learn from it.
Remember when you got an F on your biology exam? You thought you knew the material well enough and decided that instead of studying, you’d go shopping with your friends. It was the first F you ever received – and the last. I can still picture you crying as you pulled the test from your pink backpack to show me.
We all fail, Ella. Lord knows I’ve failed many times in my life. But a failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it. When you fail, as I know you will, I want you to pick yourself up and try again. And again and again. Don’t let failing or the fear of failure keep you from pursuing your dreams.
Where would be if the great inventors of our time stopped trying after they had first failed? Failures can make us stronger and wiser. Embrace them and learn from them.

Love you bunches and bunches, Grandma

Friday, January 8, 2010

Agent for YA

Kate Epstein at Epstein Literary is now taking YA fiction and non-fiction. Check link for details.

Erma Bombeck Writing Competition

"Sometimes I can't figure designers out. It's as if they flunked human anatomy."
--Erma Bombeck
Gotta love Erma Bombeck. Check out this writing competition and see if you have what it takes.

Quote of the day

"Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success."  
– Thomas J. Watson

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ella's Dance: A Grandma Note

Note 13

My dearest Ella,
Live life to the fullest.
I once knew a man who had so many dreams that he recorded them in a tiny black notebook. Whenever I’d see him, he’d show me his notebook so I could see the new dreams he had added. One day, I asked him how many of the dreams he had fulfilled. The answer? None. He spent his lifetime collecting dreams but never living them. Of course, he had all sorts of excuses. Not enough money. Not enough time. Too young. Too old. It got so that I stopped asking about his dreams whenever I saw him. And he stopped showing me his tiny black notebook. He died recently and along with him all those dreams. Don’t be like this man, Ella. Don’t be a collector of dreams. Live life to the fullest and give it everything you’ve got. You only get one shot at life, so make it a great one.
Love you bunches and bunches, Grandma

Quote of the day

"You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written.  And then, if it's going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children."
-- Madeleine L'Engle 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Stranded on an island with a book

If you were stranded on an island and had only one book to read, what would you want that book to be? It seems like it would have to be a book that you enjoyed reading over and over. I'd love for you to share your choice in comments and, if you want to, explain why you chose that book. Thanks gang. I look forward to reading your answers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

To get you pumped up

I have always loved Rocky. He had a dream and always gave it everything he had. Be like Rocky. Pursue your dreams with every ounce of passion you have. The victor is often the person who wants it the most. So fight for your dreams and never give up. 

Quote of the day

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around
you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."
-- Roald Dahl

Monday, January 4, 2010

A penny that ended up costing hundreds

One of the sweetest things about life is that if we screw something up, we get to try again. Imagine if we screwed up and that was it? DONE! I'd be one sorry soul. I'm not sure what made me think of this. It just sort of popped into my head. I mean, it's not like I screwed up recently (at least not that I know of) or that I'm planning to in the future (fingers crossed).

What's the biggest screw-up you ever had? Dumbest thing you ever did?
For me, it was probably the time I went through the drive-thru and when the cashier gave me my change – a penny – I dropped it on the ground. I couldn't open my door to get old Abe. So, after the cashier gave me my sandwich and coffee, I backed up so that I could open the door and get that tiny piece of no-good copper. Uh-oh! (It was more like "Shit! Tom is so going to kill me.") You guessed it; I banged up the side mirror so badly that the car ended up in the body shop and it costs hundreds to fix the mirror (Why do they put side mirrors on cars anyway!). So, yeah, that was pretty dumb. And I never did get that damn penny.
So what was your biggest screw up? Would love to hear in comments.

Quote of the day

"Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones out of our minds, come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil."
-- Natalie Goldberg

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ella's Dance: A Grandma note

In my YA novel, Ella's Dance, her grandmother writes her notes, one for every day of the coming year. Before Grandma dies, she leaves instructions for Ella to be given a note each day. Through Grandma's notes, a healing process begins. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes again and Ella faces some life-changing events she could never have anticipated. 
I'd like to share some of Grandma's notes with my blog readers. Grandma D is the grandma we all wish we had (and some of us might) or hope to become one day. And Ella, well Ella is each of us, hurt and struggling for answers to life's many questions. My hope for 2010 is that this manuscript finds an agent who believes in it as much as I do. For now, I'm hoping you'll allow me to share the notes with you from time to time because I really feel that the words speak to each of us. Thanks everyone for going along on this journey with me. And if you'd like to follow Grandma on Twitter, you'll find her @Grandma_Dorothy.

My dearest Ella,

Stop and listen to the music. Sometimes it’s very faint.
After your parents and sister died, I thought all of the music in my life was gone. But then I saw you, cradling your baby doll and feeding her a bottle and I realized that the music wasn’t gone, it was just very faint. So faint that if I had not been listening at all, I would have completely missed it. Ella, you provided me with some of the sweetest music I have ever known and for that I will always be grateful. When times are tough, as they will surely be, listen for the music. It will be there, waiting to be discovered and crescendo once again.
Love you bunches and bunches, Grandma

Quote of the day

"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties." 
-- Bonnie Friedman

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Quote of the day

"Writing energy is like anything else: The more you put in, the more you get out."
-- Richard Reeves

Friday, January 1, 2010

Quote of the day

"If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow."
-- Louis L’Amour