Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reading & Writing by Candlelight: Interview & Book Giveaway with Author Becky Levine!

Wondering if you're in the right critigue group? Don't miss this excellent interview with Becky Levine, the author of The Writing & Critigue Group Survival Guide. Reading & Writing by Candlelight: Interview & Book Giveaway with Author Becky Levine!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Free Online Kidlit Conference August 10

Say what? A free online kidlit conference? It's true. Check out this link to WriteOnCon for more info. The schedule is impressive. So is the list of agents and editors who will be in attendance. Better yet you can attend from the comfort of your own home in your pjs.

Butt in Chair--How I Fight for It and Win

I didn't realize how good I had it when pursuing my Vermont College MFA. Back then, there was no need to fight for my butt in chair time. I wrote for hours at a time, often immersing myself so far into my story that I learned to set the alarm so I didn't forget to pick up my girls from school.

These days, I consider it a good day if I write two pages. Yep, you read it right. I do a happy dance after writing two pages. I learned the practice from my third semester VC advisor Jane Resh Thomas.

The day Jane recommended the concept, I remember thinking, "Two pages? That's all?" Now that VC is behind me, and life's "little" interruptions have crept into my writing time, I understand the wisdom of the practice.

1. Two pages a day is realistic and achievable. I can imagine sitting my butt in chair long enough to make it happen. I can envision getting up early enough in the morning to do it, or carving out writing time while waiting for E to finish her therapy. Expect a higher page count and the idea would overwhelm, making it much more difficult to find enough uninterrupted time to meet my quota.

2. Two pages is just far enough into my story to keep my characters close to the surface so that when I sit butt in chair for the day, they're ready to work and play. Stay away too long, and they're less cooperative and often crabby. Another incentive to write each day.

2. Two pages a day isn't gridlock. Or giving up. It's forward progress. And it's measurable. Think about it. Two pages times 30 days is 60 some pages in a month. Sixty pages times six months is a children's novel! My life is filled with things I can't control. My two pages a day quota is one area I can affect. Seeing forward progress is a huge incentive to schedule butt in chair time daily.

3. Two pages a day feeds my muse and muzzles the mugwump, making me a happier and more effective mom, wife, advocate, health care manager, cook, chauffeur, etc.

4. Two pages is the target, but it's not written in stone. If I write more that day, I celebrate. If I write less--or nothing at all--I don't beat myself up. It's part of the process.

The goal is to keep moving forward. As long as I keep an eye on the horizon and never stray far from my chair, I'm honoring my story and myself two pages a day.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Fighting for My Writer's Life, Part I

My trip to the Vermont College mini residency mid last month was awesome, inspiring, invigorating. In the wake of the long weekend, I've been thinking a lot lately about writing, the creative process, my process, and what makes a successful writer.

Take, for example, the act of sitting butt in chair for the hard work of writing. While listening to lectures and readings by Tobin Anderson, Gregory Maguire, Holly Black, Tim Wynne-Jones, Franny Billingsley, Sharon Darrow, Kathi Appelt, Jacqueline Woodson, Coe Booth, and more, it was so easy to imagine immersing myself in my work-in-progress for weeks at a time.

Then I returned home.

Vermont College weaves a wondrous spell during its residencies. You get to immerse yourself in the craft while someone else cooks, someone else arranges your schedule, someone else worries about where the kids need to go, wear, eat, etc. But let's face it. Unless you have a wife, the life of a writer outside of the VC bubble is less idyllic and a lot more complicated.

I'd love the luxury of wearing my writer's hat full time. I can't. I'm a writer mom of three girls, two with special needs. On any given day, I've been known to wear multiple hats at once: mom, personal assistant, medical coordinator, educational advocate, disabilities advocate, cook, chauffeur. Some days, there's no room for my writer's hat, no matter how hard I try to keep it on.

I'm not saying this to complain. I sharing this in hopes of giving perspective to fellow writers who may be feeling the same way I do; who worry that they'll never finish their projects; who fret that they'll never find an agent, editor, fill in the blank; who look at their growing to-do lists and the people and things that keep them from sitting butt in chair, and wonder why they even try.

More often than not, the simple act of sitting butt in chair for the hard work of writing is anything but simple. But fresh from VC, I'm inspired to fight for my time in that chair.

So today marks the first in a series of posts about my writing process, what works for me, and how I'm fighting for my writer's life.

Next time: Butt in chair time. How I fight for it and win.