Thursday, November 26, 2009


One of the things I like about Twitter is getting to know new people and links to their blogs. One of the people I follow on Twitter shared a blog post from this site

(sorry I can't seem to make the link work yet. I'll keep trying)

A blog on how to be positive! I so needed to find this resource. I struggle on a daily basis to try and curb my natural tendency towards cynicism. Looking on the bright side is one of the harder things to achieve in my life but when I do succeed it makes a total difference in my life and my family's life.

So that's why I'm highly recommending this blog and sending positive vibes to all who strive for seeing the up side in life! Besides, any blogger who has a post on What Bruce Springsteen Can Teach You About Life has definite cred with me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Choosing Your Life Path

Daughter One has been checking out universities for the last little while in anticipation of one of the biggest decisions of her life - where will she spend the next four years and what will she study? In essence, what will be the launch pad to the rest of her life?

Pretty scary intimidating stuff and not something to undertake with little to no thought. But as I try to mellow her anxiety out a little I do think back and consider what if? What if I'd studied somewhere else, something else all those years ago, what path would my life have taken? And even though I think I might have turned to writing earlier or, perhaps, not at all, or I might have become an actress or gone into behind the scenes television production or, or, or, ... I always come back to the thought "It doesn't matter what choice you made. It matters that you had a choice."

All the wrong turns, the right turns, the turns you didn't even know you were making at the time, eventually, I believe,lead you to the path that is calling the strongest to you. I want to reassure One that no decision is completely irreversible. Mistakes happen but you learn and grow from those too. At the best the mistaken paths show you where you don't want to go!

In the end, all I can tell her is that this big decision is one of many, many more in her life. But it is not the be all and end all. It will take her on one path of many to come and whatever happens on it she will learn and grow from it.

While having choices is confusing and making a choice is hard having no choices at all is the worst thing in the world. Embrace the possibilities that life offers and your life path will eventually reveal itself.

And the best thing of all? You make the decisions.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Struggle to Write

So, it must be part and parcel of what I'm going through with respect to the WIP - even coming up with an idea and writing a blog post is a struggle for me these days.

I don't want to give up on my commitment of writing two blog posts a week because once that happens it's a slippery slope to writing nothing at all. Which will make it all the harder to get back into the swing of things once I finally get the ideas back or the urge or whatever it is that propels us to write. I've noticed a few writers have mentioned their own struggles either with their works in progress or the blog or just keeping up with all of the various communities we both love to be a part of yet take an inordinate amount of time to maintain the proper involvement.

Maybe it's because it is November and NaNoWriMo is going on. The energy to commit to drafting an entire novel in one month is huge and I'm in awe of those who can do it. But a lot of writers, me included, did not put that pressure on ourselves. So what's up with this difficulty in finding words? November is a particularly hellish month for me personally with many family and work commitments that make it very hard to carve out some writing time. But I wonder if it is that or am I going forward slowly because I just finished the revision of my last book (which, hopefully, will find a publishing home as well)after finishing the edits of Illegally Blonde after finishing a book that my agent did not like after finishing a book that she did like but did not sell and that needs another revision. In the last two years I figure I've written over 500,000 words - whether new or revised. That's a lot of writing.

So, while I know marathon runners can do two or three (or however many) runs in one year, they also need to take breaks or do shorter, less intense races because their bodies can take only so much. But what they always do - always - is run almost every day. They have to because they love it and because it's good for them in the long run (ha! pun). Once it's time for that big race they are prepared. Their muscles are not rusty.

Writing is no different. I may not be doing the Boston Marathon right now, but I'm still forcing myself to go for a shorter run through the neighbourhood - it may not be as intense but it keeps things loose. So I'm ready for the big race.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Writer's Crawl

We've all heard of writer's block, right? That blank, empty page that seems impossible to fill. Well, I may not have writer's block but I think I've developed writer's crawl. Where I seem to only have a few paragraphs of writing that comes out of me lately. And those seep out at an agonizingly slow pace.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm still feeling out this story or if I'm just not feeling the story. Those are two very different things.

Feeling out the story is like walking through a dark room where you can vaguely sort out the furniture but nothing is sharply defined and you have to bump into somethings before you can find your way out. That necessitates going slowly.

Feeling the story is something else entirely. It's that burning need to tell the story. You understand the characters, the motivations, the idea and the story seeps inside your head and when the words come out its a flow because you just get it. The room is completely lit and you see everything clearly. You can walk through it without bumping into one darn thing.

So when I've got writer's crawl I'm trying to figure out if I'm just figuring out the story or if I'm not into the story. I really hope it's the former because I love this idea and I think I'll love these characters. If I could just write more than a few sentences at a time on it!

Well, I'll have some uninterrupted train travel time tomorrow and Tuesday. If I can't move from crawling to a brisk walk then I'll really start worrying.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Generosity of Writers

I started writing seven years ago and it was a lonely little biz for the first couple of years. Just me and my imagination and dreams. And that was okay for awhile. But soon I knew I needed to take courses, learn more, get critiques, talk to others who knew more and who were going through the same things. I got support and encouragement from my family, sure, but they didn't know what I was so passionate about. I needed others who understood. I needed a writing family.

I joined the Toronto Romance Writers group about five years ago because, at the start of this journey I thought that was what I wanted to write. An awesome, supportive and knowledgeable organization (chapter of the Romance Writers of America)whose members are a variety of people at various stages in the writing journey from first time "I think I'd like to write a book" newbies to seasoned, prolific NY Times Bestseller professionals. They gave support encouragement and, most importantly, chocolate for successes and set backs. And they run a great contest too. I will always be a member of this group. First love, ya know.

Then, when writing for teens became my focus and passion I joined the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)as well as an online community of YA and children's writers called the Blueboarder's at Verla Kay's Children's and Illustrators website. Again, so much support and experience and wisdom to be found there. People share their down times, their frustrations and their successes. It kept my sanity many a time as Illegally Blonde was on submission.

And now I've found a group of Canadian authors of YA/MG fiction, members of CANSCAIP (which I've just joined)who are enthusiastic, supportive, and funny in the Toronto area. I'm looking forward to getting to know more of these great local writers. I've also been incredibly lucky to have recently gotten a chance to get to talk to an author whose work I admire even though it is not in the same genre as mine yet he's been so generous as to speak about me and my book to others and share his enthusiasm about it just because he's that kind of writer.

Sharing, caring and support. No matter who I've met in the various writing communities I've joined, this is what I've found. I've been lucky, I know, but I really think that 99 per cent of writers are like this.

And really.What more can the perfect family give you?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Inspiration vs. Perspiration

So, the question circling my mind over the weekend after leaving a very inspiring CANSCAIP Packaging Your Imagination conference in Toronto on Saturday was: What would I rather have as a partner in writing: inspiration or perspiration?

At first blush, I thought 'Give me inspiration any day!' Those flashes of, "Oh, wow, what an awesome idea!" or "Oh, wow! Why didn't I think of that before? That's the perfect solution to my plot problem!" Yeah, those moments - those flashes - is the drug of choice for writers. We keep looking for that next flash fix. The next moment when all the hard slog will be worth it.

But what about disliked, mostly avoided and underappreciated Perspiration? After all, who likes to sweat, right? It's stinky, uncomfortable, unpleasant and feels, for the most part, unproductive. Perspiration is a long, hard slog. No flash of sparkly brightness there. No great rush of adrenaline and excitement that keeps your spirits up. Perspiration is just long, dark tunnels that have to be dug out by hand, one hard, rocky shovel-full at a time. Not very glamorous, is it?

So guess which one I'd choose?

Yup. I'm a masochist. I'd rather have Perspiration in my corner any day. Flashes of inspiration are unpredictable. Flashes leave you a little starry-eyed and breathless but when they eventually leave (and Inspiration is a real fickle beast - she leaves a lot more than she comes) you feel more lost than ever. Perspiration, on the other hand, makes you work. But you are the one in control. You are the one digging day after day, mining that story. Perspiration helps you to make that thing work. You aren't letting something else control you or the outcome of your story. You aren't constantly waiting for something to make that story happen.

So, that's me and my Capricorn work ethic and control-freakiness talking. Don't get me wrong - I don't mind the occasional visit from flashy and breath-taking Inspiration once in a while. But give me old workhorse Perspiration for the long haul. That's what gets the book written. It ain't pretty but it's faithful.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Query Letter for Illegally Blonde

Way back in the summer of 2006 I began writing what would eventually become Illegally Blonde. By November of that year I had a complete draft. In December I spent about three weeks crafting the query letter that would, I hoped, generate some interest from agents for them to request the manuscript. I spent a lot of time writing that letter. I thought it was a good letter. Still do. That letter generated quite a bit of agent interest in the manuscript. By February 2007 I had an agent offer. I was signed by the end of that month. All this to say: Take the time to craft your letter with the same care you take with your novel. It's like putting on a snazzy to-die-for party dress and then covering it up with a torn, ratty old shawl. You know the dress is beautiful but nobody can see it for the crappy shawl covering it.

So I'm sharing the letter here to give you an idea of what I thought was important about the book I was trying to sell. Do whatever works for you but make sure you think of the second paragraph (the one describing the book) as the back cover blurb you'd actually want to see on your published work. I'd probably write a little less on the third paragraph (the 'bio' piece)now but for this book it seemed to work well.

Here it is. And happy query writing.

Dear Agent:

I’m seeking representation for my completed 55,000 word contemporary young adult novel Illegally Blonde.

Sometimes discovering your roots is about a lot more than watching your real hair color grow in ...

When seventeen-year-old Lucy de Amaral comes home with newly bleached blonde hair all she expects is a major lecture and another grounding from her strict, immigrant Portuguese parents. What she doesn’t expect is the shocking news that her family are illegal aliens who’ve just been told they’re being deported in less than a week. Lucy’s furious at her parents and has no intention of leaving her boyfriend and missing Prom and Grad to go live in some backwater village with no cable, no movie theatre and no life in some country she knows nothing about. But, as Lucy discovers, intentions and reality are sometimes worlds apart - or, in Lucy’s case, at least an ocean away. Lucy’s desperation to return to her ‘real’ home results in a reckless plan to buy a fake passport which further ensnares her in a web of illegal activity that threatens more than her journey home. But it’s when she unexpectedly falls for a guy whose connection to his home is centuries old and who can’t understand Lucy’s disinterest in the past or lack of plans for the future where she finally realizes you can never run away from your roots – not even if you bleach them.

I was inspired to write Illegally Blonde after a March 2006 Canadian immigration crackdown on illegal Portuguese workers in Toronto. Most YA books deal with the experience of illegal immigrant teens from the perspective of their living in North America. Not many describe what might happen if they’re sent back. As a second-generation Portuguese-Canadian, I’m very familiar with the juxtaposition of old world values vs. new and the tough choices immigrant teenagers face today. Any teenager can identify with Lucy’s confusion, anger and desperation if they found themselves in a similar situation. But it is Lucy’s sarcastic humour and ultimate acceptance of who she is, where she comes from, and most importantly, where she wants to go, that would appeal to a wide teen market – both legal and illegal.

If the premise of Illegally Blonde intrigues you I would be happy to send you a partial or full manuscript upon your request. Thanks very much for your time and consideration.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Here it is! The Cover for ILLEGALLY BLONDE!

I've been waiting patiently and, I admit, with a little bit of nervousness for my cover from my publisher. I shouldn't have been nervous. The wait was so worth it! I love the cover and think it captures the feeling of the book wonderfully. There might be some more minor adjustments but this seems to be it. Yay!!!!!!!!!!!