Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Vampires and a Halloween Omen (Or Why I Knew Today Would be a Good Writing Day)

After loading E on the bus today, the driver wished me a Happy Halloween and handed me a set of fangs. Seeing as the dark lord in my WIP took center stage recently, and seeing as he craves souls in much the same way a vampire thirsts for blood, I smiled all the way back to the house.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Writer-ly Inspiration: My Undead Daughter

How can I not be inspired to delve into KM these days? The witching hour approaches, and my oldest daughter joined the ranks of the undead this weekend. (edited 10/30/07)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Critique Group an Island Getaway

Some weeks life's siren call conspires to distance me from KM, and the only thing keeping my butt in chair for the hard work of writing is critique group. This week is no exception. Between homework three-hours-plus a night for my youngest (we're working with the school to convince them that this heavy work load is asking too much of any 6th grader, let alone a child with special needs), last-minute arrangements for the upcoming SCBWI Illinois Prairie Writer's Day conference, and preparations for our church youth group's annual haunted house (yes, we do a haunted house on holy ground), keeping writing a priority is a challenge.

Critique group meets today. Looking forward to meeting up with J & A. Our meeting days are so focused, centered, and immersed in the craft, they're how I imagine I'd feel after spending uninterrupted time on my own personal island getaway.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hats Off to The Writing Life, or Why I Love My Job

Every now and again, this process dazzles and intrigues me. Think about it. What other profession allows you to wield a sword, befriend a minidragon, heal with a touch, and save the world?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Exciting the Muse, Writer-ly Homework and Why the Reader Trumps All

At last week's critique meeting, fellow writer A--sensing I hadn't finalized key rules of the magical system for my most current rewrite of KM--challenged me to do so before our next meeting.

I balked at first. After all, I could see how the magic worked in my head, and eventually, with enough rewrites, how I saw it would translate to the page, right?

But here's the thing. After taking this summer's Plotting the Novel class, I learned that no matter how many rewrites I did, I'd make little forward progress (and waste reams more paper) if I didn't make the hard decisions now.

What's more, it didn't matter that I could see my world's magic in action. What mattered was that A, my loyal and trusted reader, could not, which meant I hadn't done my job.

Leave it to J and A. Nothing gets past them. What J doesn't pick up, A does. And vice versa. And if both of them notice something, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. Go back and try again.

Honestly, I knew my current vision of the magical system was still a bit murky when I submitted the copy, but since the deadline was upon me, I sent it in anyway, hoped for the best, and thought, "hey, maybe it is working after all, maybe they'll let it slide."


Because I so respect these ladies, because the reader trumps all, and because I know from experience that the hard work will lead to a happy muse, I put a hold on my writing this week in order to finalize the Ecology of the Magical System in my fantasy world.

What I find fasinating about this exercise is that although the ecology isn't yet complete, my muse is inspired and eager to return to butt in chair time for the hard work of writing.

In case I haven't said it lately: This process continues to excite and amaze me.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Legends, Road Trips and Faith

As part of her unit on ancient cultures in social science, S has been learning about legends. A recent class assignment was to write her own.

S brainstormed her legend last weekend while on a road trip to a gaming convention in Bloomington with her dad. She came home with a story so rich with detail and characterization that I wish I could have been in the car with them to take advantage of the energy they generated.

S's fantastical tale tells the story of how the stars came to be in the sky. It begins with a Korean princess who befriends a group of fairies and then must save them from drowning at the Empress' hands. In doing so, she creates the stars in the sky.

As a writer mom I can't help but be tickled by how readily S embraced the creative process. But even more than that, I'm thrilled that she wanted to share her story with her classmates yesterday. Doing so was no trivial thing. You see, S suffers from something called childhood apraxia of speech, which means she understands you fine, and knows what she wants to say, but getting it out requires fits and starts and lots of effort.

S will never grow out of this disability, and being made to "perform" makes matters worse. Despite this fact, S put herself in front of the class yesterday and read her entire legend out loud. I'm told she did beautifully.

Not only am I awed by S's willingness to take such a big risk, I'm humbled by her unwavering faith in herself and her story. Go S.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Cybils are Back--Nominate Your Favorite Children's & YA Book(s) of 2007

The Cybils, kidlitosphere's first literacy awards, are back. For more info and to nominate your favorite children's and YA books for 2007, surf on over to the Cybils blog.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

First Annual Kidlitosphere Conference

Boy do I wish my schedule allowed me to attend this conference today. I've been online with some of these folks for nearly two years now because of my work with Edge of the Forest, and would love the opportunity to meet, greet and hug my cyber colleagues. Sigh.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Writer-ly Report--Burning Water In the Zone

Well, dang, I haven't burned water in months. It happened yesterday. (The equivalent of it anyway.)

I was deep into KM--so deep that I forgot I had a family. When the time came to pick my youngest up from school...well, let's just say she called me from the office a half hour after school let out to give me grief.

A fight scene was to blame. It's a turning point in the story, the place where my main character realizes there be monsters in the world. Blades were crossing, blood was flowing, and wham, the phone rang.

Crap, do I lose more mom points if I admit that I nearly let the answering machine pick up rather than risk losing the zone I'd entered? Call it fate, luck, or a guilty muse that didn't want me jailed for neglect (not until after this current rewrite anyway.) Whatever the reason, I took the call.

Thankfully S--herself an aspiring writer--is understanding about her mom's obsession.

Note to self: set an alarm next time.

edited at 11:48 p.m.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Never-Ending Stories, Fantasies about Fantasy Writing, and Honoring the Process

I'm up to my eyeballs in copy. In addition to finishing up my submissions for the upcoming issue of Edge of the Forest and coordinating the PR needs for the SCBWI-Illinois chapter's annual Prairie Writer's Day conference, I'm now the point person for PR for our church.

Thankfully, writing media releases comes easily for me since this is how I made my living for 20-plus years. But doing so takes precious time away from my writing writing.

KM falls into this category. The project's gone on for so long that at times it feels like the never-ending story. I should know better than to complain about the timing. Each one of us has our own own trajectory, tempered by the lives we lead.

I try to remind myself that as writers, not only do we write to live, we also need to live to write. And if this is true, doesn't it follow that living to write means honoring where we are?

Looks good on paper, and looking back on the last couple of years, I can't deny the impact life's "little" diversions have had on my writing. Most telling is the very real fact that after graduation from Vermont College, I lost a year and half because of E's second aneurysm surgery and recovery.

All forward motion was not wasted, however. In between doctor visits and rehab, I continued my re-visioning of KM--though at times doing so felt like backward progress--and I launched this blog (thanks to gentle urgings from author/blogger extraordinaire Cynthia Leitich Smith), and wrote an essay that's now part of the Special Gifts anthology.

I should honor where I am. Yet, more often than I'd like to admit, I envy other writers the luxury of immersing themselves in their stories 24/7. Rather than tearing themselves away from the keyboard to chauffeur their kids to the next activity or help with homework, they've the uninterrupted time they need to enter their project/characters/world so completely that they can identify the holes, throughlines, and beat of their prose, and do so in record time.

Even so, I can't help but wonder where my writing would be without my life to inform it. Would my characters whisper in my ear with the same urgency and conviction? Would I have found the voice my essay needed to catch an editor's eye? Would I appreciate my uninterrupted butt in chair time the way I do now?

Months ago, I borrowed a mantra from my yoga teacher, J, appying it to my writer's life in a way that centered and energized me. It's time I plastered the saying on my computer again.

Honor the process.

Monday, October 01, 2007

On Deadline

In the works this week:

1. E-interviews for Edge of the Forest columns A Day in the Life and What's in Their Backpack.

2. Critique group submission. My goal this week is to write through another two or three chapters by Friday. So far so good on making that goal.

3. Prairie Writer's Day PR prep. With the big day fast-approaching, I've a butt load of work left to do in order to help make this year's conference the best ever from a PR standpoint.

Current read: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. My only complaint (and it's a small one at that) is that by the time I crawl under the covers to commune with the strange and wonderful world Clarke has created, I need a magnifying glass to read the small print. Alas, the bane of most every aging boomer I meet: the growing need for bigger print books. Sigh.