Festival Season Begins!

I’ve lived my whole life within thirty miles of Austin, Texas. My French teacher in high school used to mourn that I’d become one of those insular hick housewives, popping out a half-dozen kids before I turned thirty in a trailer park on the outskirts of town. I’d like to think she wouldn’t be dismayed at the direction my life took ( although she’d probably smack me for turning down that acceptance to UT Law school. Hey, I never wanted to make any money to begin with) but you never know what success means to different people.

Anyway, I love living in Austin, even more since I threw myself into the writing scene. Where else can you casually meet these kinds of authors at a local high school? (I’m totes taking my 15 y.o. niece, who thinks I am some sort of superhero for securing her face time with her idols.) Of course, I won’t bother taking her to the Big Mama of all Festivals, The Texas Book Festival. That’s where I get my fangirl on, with hundreds of the most spectacular authors in the Universe showing up to do small-group panels, talks, signings, etc. If you hang out in the Congressional cafeteria long enough, you can even Watch Famous Authors Order Cheeseburgers.

The coolest part about these festivals? They are FREE. All you have to do is clear your weekend out, and it’s like going to one of the best writing workshops in the country, except this one takes place in a city with good weather, excellent Mexican food, and only a very few trailer parks on the outskirts.

And, no, I do not live in one of those… yet. So, Writer Friends. If any of you can wing your way down here to Austin, and need a non-trailerish launch pad for your Festival Fun… send me a quick note! The guest bedroom is as cheap as it gets. 😉

Sad News: My 12 y.o. terrier Sugar died unexpectedly on Friday. She was a grumpy little dog, fiercely protective of the kids (she guarded their cribs when they were babies) and prone to express her displeasure with well-placed carpet stains. We all loved her so.

OPP (Other People’s Plots)

I’ve spent a LOT of time recently critiquing my Writer Friends’ Works of Genius, and — while part of me thinks I should have been writing my own next Work of Genius — most of me knows it’s been time well spent. Every time I critique someone else’s manuscript, I get the chance to really read like a writer. When you do that — especially with an unpublished manuscript, that hasn’t been picked apart a billion times by professional editors — you learn something about what works and what doesn’t in your genre.

Recently, I’ve come to realize that I am surrounded by Writer Friends who have amazing Voice. Voice… Glorious Voice! Sure, the plotting and pacing may not be exactly perfect… but the Voice! Ah! Sing to me, my Children of the Night!

Um, back to the point. Lack of Voice has never been my issue. Like most pantsers (I’m a recovering pantser, actually. I’ve started plotting things out, after chucking enough manuscripts into the bin because of poorly-conceived and executed plots.), my issues are motivation… and plot.

So, I read this excellent article recently. I went to quite a few talks (local SCBWI meetings, etc.). And then I realized all those experts might actually know something. (I hate it when that happens.) All of a sudden, I’m not just reading my Writer Friends’ manuscripts with an eye for pacing and plot – I’m reading everything that way. I think — I hope — that by doing this now, in my in-between-new-novel time — I will be able to avoid a lot of the familiar sinkholes where I usually end up wallowing in my early draft days. So, I’ve decided that yes. Even though I hate slowing down to pick apart the books I’m reading, it’s a necessary step to making my work better.

Yes, I am down with OPP.

So, here’s my question:

You down with OPP?

PS – In other news, I’m working on two short fic pieces – one juvenile, one adult — and researching like mad for the new WIP. Once school starts, I’m going to hit the ground running. Woot! Who wants to read my oh-so-well-plotted first draft in November? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? LOL

Those Three Little Words: Rue The Day

How do I love Thee (my Writer Friends)? Let me count the ways…

“I love thee to the length and breadth… and way past the depth of stupidity of all those critics/agents/editors who do not INSTANTLY see and recognize your BRILLIANCE….” These are words every good Writer Friend should know and say, with some frequency, to her friends who are submitting their work. It’s in the job description!
(You know what I’m talking about. We writers have different “friend jobs,” different kinds of love we must show to our colleagues who are going through the fire with us. Read the manual.)

I hear a lot of talk about the necessity of being honest with one another, cutting through the BS, laying it all out there in critique and making sure our friends’ manuscripts are PERFECT and WORKS OF ART before they send them out to those editors/agents/contests.

Yes, yes, friends. We all must be cruel and honest with one another. But we also must be ready, willing, and able to share these three little words with one another: Rue the day.

As in, “Don’t worry, they’ll get theirs. They will RUE THE DAY they rejected your masterpiece. You’ll be the next Kate di Camillo, the next Jerry Spinelli, the next Nan Marino (did you know I LOVE her? Check out her blog) and then they’ll be DEVASTATED they made such a horrible, career-limiting mistake. *apply chocolate now; lather, rinse, repeat*

Okay, okay. We all know this talk may not be 100% honest. But the sentiment is, or should be. If it’s not appearing for you on your worst days, you need new Writer Friends — the kind who call you out of the blue (the best Writer Friends are slightly psychic) and say those three magic words.
I hope you have that kind of friend – I know I do! And I’ve needed them, even though my path has been way more sunlight than shadows for the last year or two.

If you do have those Friends? Make sure you show them all the love you can – and love them like a Mama Bear, even if their manuscripts seem like the runts of the litter from time to time. Who knows? Those runts sometimes grow up to be Wrinkles in Time.
And then those shortsighted people who rejected them? They will rue the freakin’ day.

End of sermon.

Note: One of my Very Best Writer Friends – Lindsey Scheibe –  who will be famous very soon, and then will blurb my books (also in the Friend contract), just signed with the lovely and insightful Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Literary. Hooray for Lindsey! And congratulations, Mandy. You must have a good picker.;) *throws virtual confetti*

If You Starve a Blog, Does it Die?

The answer, it seems, is no. Or this one would have perished weeks ago.

I didn’t mean to leave my Writer Friends hanging. It’s just that I’ve been busy revising novels, writing short pieces, and living a life.

Yes, one of those. I went on a road trip with the kids, and we had a blast. Was it bad that I kept thinking “I’m getting so much MATERIAL here!”every time we stopped somewhere cool? Come on, the World’s Biggest Pistachio? Enormous cave structures (Speleothems, or somesuch) shaped precisely like giant boobies? (According to my 10 year old son, naturally, who giggled his way through Carlsbad Caverns. You’ve never seen the ninth wonder of the world until you’ve seen it with a little boy who keeps whispering “nipples!’ every few minutes To be fair, I was thinking the same thing.)

We saw petroglyphs – which have already made an appearance in a short fiction piece this week — and sledded down the dunes at White Sands. We took pictures of badger tracks, and kangaroo rat tracks, and all sorts of other tracks in the early morning, and watched an evening storm that rolled in all around us, flooding the mountains, while we stood on the dry, silent dunes. Gorgeous.

My favorite moment was watching the “Dance of the Pour” at the bronze foundry in Shidoni, outside Santa Fe. A giant cauldron of molten metal splahing like lava all around? You know that’s going into something I write… someday.

So, that’s what I did on my summer vacation. Now, I’ll spend a few weeks revising some manuscripts I’ve got ready to polish, and send out a thousand small subs so I can get those little ego boo moments every now and again (to offset any possible rejections) and I’ll try to blog a bit more frequently. But who knows when life will start happening all around me again, and I’ll need to put down the keyboard and go build the moments that actually make books wonderful?

So… what did YOU do on your summer vacation?


Pickled Pig Feet

Writer Friends, I need your help. I signed up for a humor writing workshop led by Mary Jo Pehl for this coming Saturday. The only requirement she had for all of the attendees was that we do something new, something we had never done before, in advance. And, of course, take notes.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve lived a full life. If I wanted to do it — or thought I might — I went ahead. So, while I have no regrets over missed chances, there’s also not a lot left to try. (Well, not a lot that I’m *willing* to try.) But last year, I was writing a novel that had a character doing something I had never done – something I could do. I didn’t do it, but I could have. It wasn’t a big deal. What was it, you ask? Simple. Eat a pickled pig’s foot.

So… that’s why I quit writing that book. I just couldn’t stomach the research angle. But I figured I could do it this year, for the workshop. I’m a big girl, right? I can handle a little bit of bright pink, hacked-off stringy, brined pork with a hoof for a handle.

Sorry. My inner vegetarian is NOT letting me do this horrible thing. So I have to come up with something, anything, else. Fast.

The only other thing I can come up with – that doesn’t involve possible jail time or a need for a blood test —  is skinny-dipping at the infamous Austin nude beach, Hippie Hollow.

Please don’t make me show my dimples to a bunch of old freaks this week. Help me come up with something new to do.


I Smell A Unicorn

So, you write the next Great American Children’s Novel. You’re so proud of it, you can’t wait to show it to everyone – your family, friends, agent, check-out guy at the grocery. Just one more quick read, you think, and it will be ready to start winning Newbery prizes and making you J. K. Rolling-in-Dough. Just one more quick read… wait! What’s that? Why is there a funny smell coming from Chapter Three? What the heck? There it is – the tell-tale stain of a fairy tale creature who’s been clumsily foreshadowed all over your manuscript. That’s going to take hours to clean up! Who let that thing in here? The author, you say? It’s a magical world, sure, but a strictly defined one, where the magic is limited so the rest of the world seems normal, which makes it all plausible, and creepy, and… oh, no. I think I saw a unicorn behind the next page.  A freakin’ unicorn.

Crap. Get the delete key out, boys. We’re going to be revising for a while longer.

Once more, Writer Friends, into the breach. Hold my trembling, unicorn-free hand? I have to go grind some very small, child-sized bones to make my bread.


NB: Thank you to Sam, who when I was angsting about how I was writing “too dark” for children, reminded me of the Hunger Games.

What Do I Want? More Yummy Demons

I am hip-deep in revisions on the current WIP, thanks to my amazing Beta Reader Lori (who shall heretofore be called The Ultimate Authority, To Be Obeyed At All Costs), and spending the rest of my time volunteering at Cub Scout Camp*with Cama Rama Ding Dong and The Drewber. (Okay, they ticked me off, so I get to spread their pet nicknames online. Petty, I know. But I do feel better now.)

The problem with being so busy, and knowing I need to crank out an awesome manuscript SOON, is that I can’t start reading a new book. If I do, The Novel Progress Express will jump the tracks and land on a beach with a ten-foot-tall TBR stack and a bunch of mojitos. So, instead, I’ve been allowing myself tasty little bite-size fictional treats.

You have to try this one! My agent-sister, Lisa DesRochers, has a book coming out in September, and sh’es posting sneak peek chapters on Tuesdays. Perfect! Check these chapters out for Knowledge On How To Write YA Openings With Mucho Sexual Tension. (Make sure you go back to June 15 for chapter one.)

Glad I don’t write YA; I would probably get depressed. As it is, I’m loving her yummy MC. Mmmmmmm.

*Camp Hell-On-Earth, populated by screaming fifth graders who think squirting me in the butt with a water pistol is nifty. I don’t even mind, because the temperature has been approximately 97 bazillion degrees in our all-outdoor-mostly-unshaded camp site. Ugh. So why am I still having fun doing it? Masochism?

No Room for My Books

The day has come at last. I have no more room for books in my house, and must therefore permanently suspend the acquisition of any and all new titles.

Bwa ha ha ha ha haahahahaha!!!

Yeah, like that’s going to happen. What’s really happening is that I’m planning to reward the completion and first revision of my WIP by buying a bookshelf or two to house all those gorgeous, colorful, fresh-paged lovelies that keep falling into my arms. (It was the latest poetry book that arrived today in the mail – thank you, book fairy! – that made up my mind.)

So, any suggestions? I’m thinking Ikea. I’m also dreaming about shelves like this.

Mmmm. It makes me feel dirty just looking at all those hardbacks.

Quote for the day: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” –  Marcus Tullius Cicero

Write well, friends!

Truth with a Capital T

I’m back from Disney World, ready to… well, nap, actually. Have you ever gone to Disney with your kids? It’s exhausting. But don’t worry. After a few more days of sleep, and some therapy sessions to remove the soundtrack to It’s A Small World that’s stuck in my brain like a Wrath of Khan maggot, I’ll be back to writing.

That is, if reading books like my friend Bethany Hegedus’ Truth with a Capital T doesn’t make me give it up entirely.

I took three books on the plane for altitude reading. A couple of cruddy romance/mysteries, and one precious, loaned ARC of Bethany’s.

It’s a good thing I like her so darn much, so I can be happy for her rather than just pea-green envious of her skillz. I spent most of the time in the air being pulled straight through this middle-grade novel about a girl named Maebelle working to uncover a family mystery, make friends in her grandparent’s new town, and find a way to feel special in a family chock-full of talent. It was touching, fun, funny, and loaded with those little pieces of small-town Southern life that made it perfectly real.

What amazed me most is Bethany’s fearlessness – she throws her characters into thorny situations, tackling topics like mixed-race families and the different responses those kids face in the North and South, and pulls it all off. She’s written one of those wonders: a book that would be good for kids to read, that they would WANT to read. Not an easy task.

Now, if I can stop all the fan-girl gushing, I have a book of my own to finish. And a local SCBWI meeting to attend in the morning! Fun:)

Poetry and Pole-dancing

Let’s just get this out of the way: I won a poetry contest – with prizes! being sent to me! yay! –  this week. The spring poetry contest, to be specific, over on Absolute Write, the best place on the web for both disgruntled and gruntled writers to hang, chill, vent, and post their work. (I first saw Kody Keplinger‘s query and pages for The DUFF there – blew me away, even back then. And now look at her! A star on the rise.)

And then today, I taught my booty-shaking Zumba class, and went to have coffee with my writer friend Bethany Hegedus who has a new book coming out, and because she is so awesome and generous, loaned me one of her precious few ARCs to read. The book? Truth with a Capital T. It’s amazing so far. I’ll post more later. 😉

At coffee/lunch, I mentioned I’d been writing and submitting my poetry (along with all that other stuff I write) and Bethany admitted that she writes poetry, but she never sends it out.

As it turns out, I have a LOT of Writer Friends who are the same! Fearless in their writing, and in their subbing of fiction and non-fiction, but hiding Dickinsonian trunks of unseen verse in virtual trunks at the feet of their e-beds. Like they’re ashamed of it. Or like it’s too private to show to anyone. Too personal, maybe,  to expose to the gimlet eyes of editors? Or even the loving, generous eyes of Writer Friends?

I understand this. Years ago, I hid all my poetry. (Um, this was actually a wise move. It was very angsty, and passionate, and terribly, terribly bad.) What happened? When did I decide to trot my poetry out onto the stage, dress it up in spangles and paste, and see how many dollar bills the guys and gals in the Editor’s Airport Lounge would stuff into my verbal G-string?

Does it cheapen my poetry to sign it up for all those Wet T-shirt Contests with prizes of a few dollars and the possibility of long-lasting humiliation and a Poets Gone Wild video that will haunt me – oh, wait, poems aren’t videotaped. Whew! Still, you get my drift.

Or, in that questionable argument the  post-feminist feminists constructed, where literal pole-dancing was re-visioned as a way to take back one’s own sexual/physical power, does my willingness to show it all strengthen me – and my work – somehow?

Okay, okay, I’m laughing my butt off as I type this. Taking it all too seriously, I know, and stretching the metaphor for giggles. Still… I am almost certain, from what I know of Bethany’s and my other poetry-hiding Writer Friends, that their verse would kick my verse’s feeble butt, if they decided to bring it out. And that would be a good thing. The world needs more poems. Hot, sexy tightly-written poems… and also slightly overweight poems, with stretchmarks, freckles, and wrinkles on their butts.

So… you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.

My poems, that is. Nobody sees the butt wrinkles.

Other News: Off to Disney in two days! So, no blog posts for a bit. Nice addition to the vacation is that I get to meet up with Writer Friends who inhabit Orlando: Lisa Iriarte and Larissa Hardesty. Cool.