Monday, February 14, 2011

The New Fad in Valentine's Day Gifts--Soup??

I have to start by saying it's all my fault. My DH took me for a nice lunch at a sushi place (never his choice) last Friday. So today was bonus. That said, I still wish men could somehow visualize the romantic dreams women have about this day. Stores display flowers, decorated cookies and cupcakes, heart-shaped candy boxes, some decorated with frilly pink lace and rose. And I got...soup.
As I said, my fault. He texted me to ask what I wanted for Valentine's Day. Sort-of like, "Okay, I'll stop at the store on my way home, but I don't really want to." I almost didn't answer, because I sensed no motivation in him. So I answered, "Some soup or a treat from the hospital cafeteria, or a book from the local bookstore." I have to admit I liked the book idea much more. But he was sick, and I gave him an easy out. I waited, hoping for a book. He got me the soup. It was good soup, gourmet spinach and mushroom. And I asked for it. So why do I feel a bit neglected?

How does this connect to writing? Unlike my spouse, I love shopping. But submitting my work is difficult for me. It isn't that it terrifies me, I can even handle the rejections (after a day or so of too much chocolate.) But it's unpleasant and difficult to decide where to send. Major manuscript revision is even tougher for me.

Last year I won a writing contest. I submitted the book to two agents with high hopes. One agent was kind, but pointed out what she saw as a major flaw in the book. So I put it aside and got to work on my new book. I love my new one, and think it's some of my most marketable work to date. However, I wonder now if I took the soup course. It's time soon to go back and figure out how to change my previous two manuscripts. And have the courage to revisit that really bad chapter book and see if I can get it ready for Mike Knudson's excellent workshop at WIFYR. If I avoid what's difficult in writing, then all I'm going to end up with is . . . more soup.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Contest Deadline Change

wifyr is extending their contest: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Writing-and-Illustrating-for-Young-Readers

So I'm going to extend mine longer too. Who wants a $25 Barnes and Noble gift certificate? Mike Knudson's chapter book workshop is going to be fantastic, and you get a really easy chance of winning just for signing up before April 27th.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CONTESTS AND MORE CONTESTS

WIFYR is having an amazing contest. If you have any interest in writing and winning good books or a chance at a five-page critique by the amazingly talented and kind Carol Lynch Williams, here is the Facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/notes/writing-and-illustrating-for-young-readers/wifyr-contest-one/180790898629580.

PLUS I'm also sponsoring my own contest. Anyone who signs up for Mike Knudson's chapter book workshop by the main contest end date, Feb. 28th, will also be entered to win a $25 Barnes and Noble gift certificate. Since there are only 13 slots, the MAXIMUM odds are 1-in-13, writers. Just let me know you've registered on the wifyr.com site, and you're officially entered.

Happy writing, reading, and registering!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rejection Letters and a herding stampede

6:15 am, and when I could have slept a little longer, I jolted awake from a frustration dream. Setting: WIFYR. Character me, in role as Mike Knudson's workshop assistant. The good part: his workshop was completely full. The bad parts: 1) at least two of the students hadn't graduated pre-school. Maybe confusing the workshop to mean reading chapter books? When I tried to run an errand, I couldn't get past the hallway pack of stampeding football players. One of them actually picked me up and carried me down the hall! Weird.

A lot of this stems from the rejection letter I got last night. From a magazine that's published my work before. The OUCH part is that the editor's very kind comments included the advice to "show, not tell." How often have I heard that? How about in my very first year at WIFYR, as Ann Cannon gave us a great example from her book, Charlotte's Rose?

I can learn from this, though, and thought I'd include some thoughts on how not to fall back into old bad habits.

Straight from the editor:
[SPARING READER'S FEELINGS]
You write very well. Your essay is poignant and honestly written....Your essay is right there on the cusp of being a great essay. I think what would help push it over into that great category is if you did more showing and less telling, if you wrote more in scenes. While you include lots of good details, your essay is often more summary than scene. Of course, in any essay there has to be some summary, but you want to have primarily scenes, with some summary in between. This is an example of summary: "His birthday didn’t end with cupcakes and bliss. That weekend, we found out he took a video game—that same one he loves as much as I hate—from a friend’s house without permission. So once again I got to feel like the wicked witch. Brian really struggles to understand how I can love him and yet discipline him." You could turn this into a scene by showing us what happened: you walk into his room and see the video game. You ask him where he got it, he tells you he took it from his friends's house. You tell him he's grounded. He yells, or retreats into silence. See how that is a scene?
[We may fail to show because the subject is painful, and we want to spare the reader some of the details. But they need to understand why the subject is painful for the protagonist.]

[INFORMATION DUMP]
Here's an example of a scene in your essay: "Another birthday, fourteen years later, and I wait in the kitchen again, hoping pizza and presents will lure my son out of the closed-door room where he gathers darkness around him." You know how to write scenes; you just need to write more of them. You will have to choose which incidents you want to portray, of course, and you won't have room for everything....
[We may fail to show when we rush to include too much information all at once.]

I guess it's good I'm going back to WIFYR this year. I'm feeling like it's time to get all my notes back out and figure out what other bad habits may be creeping back into my writing.Thank goodness the hallways never feel that congested in real life. The workshops do fill up almost that fast at times, though, but not by preschoolers and the football team.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My New Book, pizza crusts, and rotten milk

I wanted to take this book to Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers, but I did that last year, and Alane Ferguson and a group of 12 other wonderful writers gave me a terrific critique. I seriously changed the whole beginning. It should have been obvious that if the main character in the book is bored, in a long car ride with her mom and obnoxious brother, that the reader will be bored too, right? Well thanks to Alane and WIFYR, I finally figured that out.
This book is about a girl with a secret. She's madly in love with a guy, but that's not the hard part. The problem? The guy doesn't even exist.

Now I'm in Mike Knudson's class on Chapter Books. I would love to write a chapter book, but I'm still wondering if I can do one without it sounding cheesy in a bad way. Oh, unintentional reference to previous stinky cheese post.

I should have lots of fodder, though. If only rotten milk and old pizza crusts left in a boy's room long enough could fuel the world . . . Thinking about that one.

I found the Missing Manuscript!

Sorry for the misleading title. But I did find something important. My new book, Night Visions, Daytime Disasters, is in the revision stage. I made some changes to chapters 21 and 23, and then, after the trip, couldn't find them!! I'm too good at starting new documents so I don't change anything I should keep, so now I had about 6 drafts/partial drafts to go through. It took me about a week, then I finally got my answer to prayer: I'd forgotten that when my computer was down, I'd typed some things on Barry's computer. Think work computer, without even a Word program. I'd been searching my USB drive, my e-mail, and my little laptop, and here it was on Barry's computer. What's worse, half of it was in his account, so just when I thought I'd found it all, I only had the first half.
I finally found the second half in my account, which I rarely use since it's his computer and I only go to it when Matt is using mine.