Tuesday, December 28, 2010

First Page Panda Today Featuring Illegally Blonde

A fabulous writer friend I got to know through Verla Kay's blue boards, Anna Staniszewski, has created a terrific new blog featuring the first pages of new and upcoming young adult and middle grade books and sharing some information about the authors and their books. It's called First Page Panda because, hey, who doesn't like panda's?? and ILLEGALLY BLONDE is being featured today! Check it out here if you have a minute and make sure you go back often to read the first pages of some exciting new writers. Anna herself will be coming out with her debut book MY UN-FAIRY TALE LIFE in 2011 from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky imprint. I'm very excited to read that one!

Hope your holidays have been a source of joy and minimal family conflict so far. Tomorrow we're heading off to our nation's capital, Ottawa, to cheer on The Boy's hockey team in the Bell Canada Cup tournament. Hoping for good weather, good hockey and fun times. The next time I'll be posting will be in 2011 the Year of the Rabbit. After the turbulent Year of the Tiger that 2010 was I'm definitely looking forward to a calm, peaceful (and lucky) Rabbit Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays and See You in the New Year!

Heading home for the holidays tomorrow so won't be blogging until 2011! Have a wonderful Christmas and may all your writerly hopes and wishes come true for you in 2011!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And Another Birthday Approaches

Tomorrow is my birthday and for the first time in a long while I'm not dreading seeing the years add up. Granted I always deal better with 'even' birthday years than 'odd' ones but I don't think that's the reason for my unusual celebratory mood this go round. This year I got some very nice news just before my birthday hit(hope to share more soon) plus my mom is continuing her recovery and now Daughter One has returned home from university and I'm just feeling a bit more celebratory all around. But I think it's also just becoming more used to the whole 'aging' thing and appreciating that the alternative isn't a heck of a lot better!

Now, don't get me wrong. Nobody wants to see their face sliding into their neck or anything and I use a boatload of creams and moisturizers like the next girl. It's not the physical side of aging that I've come to terms with (in fact I've done something to the muscles in my neck that are just killing me today and I'm popping Robaxacet like it's candy) but it's more about enjoying and appreciating the mental aging. I just feel very comfortable with where my head's at these days. And I attribute that to discovering my passion for writing over eight years ago.

Writing has been my own personal fountain of youth - and not just because I write for teens (though I think that helps). It has allowed me to experience so many different things, meet so many different people, hope for so many different futures. Even with all the waiting, even with all the agony of writing books that sometimes go nowhere, even with the fickleness of the business, discovering writing relatively later in my life has given me new energy and, a lot of times, just more 'fun'.

So, with another birthday approaching, I'm embracing the coming year and looking forward to what new things I'll learn and what new people I'll meet. I know there'll be crappy days but with age, hopefully, comes some wisdom and I think I'm weathering those crappy days with a little more perspective every year. Each birthday is a gift and I plan on celebrating every one of them now instead of dreading them. Now if only my face would stay where I want it to... :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Screen Reading vs Page Reading

I've reached the point in my WIP (about 35,000 words in - a little over the half-way mark) when I usually stop to think over (i.e. panic) about where my story is headed and try and figure out (i.e. panic) what next few action/plot points I need to hit to get me to my ending. Usually, when I get to this point I do one of two things: 1. Stay away from the WIP for a few weeks while I mull over (i.e. panic) over the book or 2. I print out the whole shebang - about 135 pages - and read it in one go seeing if what I've written so far makes sense and can twig an 'aha!' moment of 'This is what must happen next'.

I've tried to outline the middle of this book more than my previous books and I have been doing that (the last ten chapters or so have been outlined before I've written them) but I need to stop and remind myself now about what all has gone before to make sure I'm not losing sight of characters, motivations and small threads that might prove important in the last half of the book. And to do that I need to read it on a page. For some reason, I tend to immerse myself in a story more completely when I can turn pages - maybe flip back and forth between scenes to make connections or notice when things don't add up. When I'm reading on the screen I seem to be able to concentrate more on deep editing and honing of words and phrases but less so on overall scenes and larger themeatic revisions. For that I need that WIP to be on old-fashioned paper.

Now, I don't have an e-reader (although I am contemplating getting one) but this is not about reading a book on paper or electronic devices. It could very well be that I become a convert to reading novels on e-readers. But for me as a writer, in this particular part of the process (and once again when I've finished the first draft) I need to print it out whole and revise it on paper before I begin to revise it on the screen.

So I'm curious - do any writers NOT print out their WIP's at some point and do a page read through? I'd fear I'd miss something if I just kept it on screen. I know I read things differently when I have them in my hand. Even at the day job where I do 90 per cent of my work on a computer screen, for large documents I need to print them out and look through them the old fashioned way.

How about you? Screen reader or page reader?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I was fortunate enough to get to go to Helene Boudreau's (sorry I can't get the accents in on your first name, Helene!)book launch for her new tween book from Sourcebooks called REAL MERMAIDS DON'T WEAR TOE RINGS tonight. I've been anxiously awaiting the book like many of the #torkidlit group of writers and all the Verla Kay Blueborders(the book released December 1st but I wanted to get my copy at Helene's launch)Verla Kay's Blueboards was where I first met Helene and she, in turn, introduced me to the #torkidlit group. To say I am grateful to have met Helene would be an understatement.

It feels like MERMAIDS is very much a Blueboarder baby since Helene shared her agent search with the query letter for the book over a year ago. If you want to see the evolution of a great query check out this thread. Now, after all Helene's hard work was the celebration of the book itself. I wish I had pictures but I'll leave it for Helene to share the awesomeness of the cake (beautiful!) and the coolness of listening to the first chapter of the audio book and the joy of finally seeing a book you've worked so hard on come into being. I especially enjoyed seeing the scrap of paper where the idea for MERMAIDS was written - literally an old grocery receipt with the idea for the book scribbled on the back.

I got home and read the first few chapters and I'm hooked. Jade is a wonderful, funny, sweet heroine and I can't wait to see what happens to her (well, I know she becomes a mermaid but what about her mom? and her crush? and does she ever get rid of that zit??)

Congrats, HELENE!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crying With Your Story

I'm curious. All you writers out there, when you've written that gut-wrenching scene whatever it is, the most emotional scene in your book, it could be a death, it could be someone breaking up, it could be a farewell or just a description that tugs at the heartstrings ... do you cry when you write it?

I ask this because it takes a heck of a lot for me to cry when I read a book. I can remember exactly 3 times when I've done it. When I first read the play Cyrano de Bergerac and he ... well I won't spoil it if you haven't read it. When I read that scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Chapter 35 was it? You know, when Harry is walking and thinking that ... well I won't spoil it (has anyone NOT read it)? And the last few chapters of The Time Traveller's Wife. Sobbed. Sobbed I tell you! I wasn't able to do much of anything for hours. Now I don't know if Edmund Rostand (who wrote Cyrano) cried much, if at all, when writing the ending or even if Audrey Niffenegger did for Time Traveller's Wife. But I do remember reading an interview with J.K. Rowling and how she was sitting in the hotel room typing away and sobbing as she wrote this pivotal scene. I know I was completely wrenched when I finished it and glad no one was home to hear my sobs.

Now my stories haven't had that many sob-inducing scenes except for one. I won't go into details but two readers who I trust dearly both contacted me after finishing the book and told me that they sobbed at one particular scene. I knew it was emotional. It was not an easy scene to write but I knew it had to be written. Maybe that's why I didn't cry when I wrote it. I was so caught up in making sure it was right - not too melodramatic nor too distant. The right notes are so very, very hard to hit in these types of scenes. I was dreading writing it, was wiped after writing it but ... I did not cry while writing it. Was I too close? Had I thought about it too much to then feel the - hopefully - gut wrenching impact I wanted it to have? I guess it doesn't matter. As long as the reader feels the impact. Not necessarily to cry but to feel something inside them.

So, how about you? What books/scenes have made you cry? And have you ever written a particularly emotional scene that made you lose it?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Preparation is the Key to Peace of Mind

The first snowfall arrived overnight. I love waking up to a soft, pearly white blanket of snow covering the ground. The only time I really love the snow is in the month of December. Snow just makes me anticipate the holidays even more. However (and you knew there had to be a however, didn't you?) the arrival of the season's first snowfall also brings with it the overriding feeling of panic. You see, I always think I've got the preparation covered for the first snow. Jackets, boots, gloves, hats, scarves, snow pants - whatever - but inevitably I find myself scrambling.

And so it was this yesterday morning. I hadn't been paying attention to the weather reports. I knew it was cold but I figured I'd have a few more days to deal with getting all those preparations set up. Daughter Two needed new winter boots (the kid keeps growing!) and my son needed new waterproof gloves. I was going to shop on the weekend but we'd just got back from a three day hockey tournament and laundry needed to be done, plus I had to get started on Christmas presents, plus some grocery shopping… well. You can guess the rest. Daughter Two had to go to school with running shoes (and thankfully it wasn't a massive dump of snow so it's not like she froze to death or anything) and Son just had to make do with soggy mitts for the day. And for the life of me I just didn't think about making him wear snow pants. Okay, so he'll have to live with soggy pants for the day too.

My point is, I know when I'm prepared - when I've planned for all eventualities - I'm a happier and more at peace person. So why don't I do it? I liken it to planning the plot of the middle of my books. I know I should do it, realize that it will make my life easier in the long run but for some reason I can't fathom, I put it off until the very last minute (i.e. when I reach the middle of the book) and then start to scramble. So I was yesterday morning, scrambling to find a pair of leather - not cloth - runners my daughter could wear and hoping I could find a pair of gloves that would give my son some measure of warmth if not waterproofing ability. I managed to do it and I went shopping with Daughter Two for her boots later(and sons gloves) but I should have done this weeks ago.

Well, lesson hopefully learned. If I didn't manage to plan for the first snowfall, I am planning the plot for the next few chapters of the WIP. It's time consuming and it feels sometimes like I'm spinning around in circles (much like boot shopping with my daughter) but I know, in the end, I will be a much happier writer for having done it.

Those Boy Scouts had it right: Always Be Prepared.