Oh, how wonderful it is to get positive feedback! How reassuring that you’re hitting the right notes, piquing reader interest, and traveling the right path. I’m sooo happy to have gotten positive feedback today at an agent roundtable, and I’m genuinely hopeful for the future of this piece.
You may have noticed that I have been quiet on this blog lately, and that’s because I’ve been hard at work on my current manuscript. I signed up for SCBWI‘s annual New York City conference and spent a good part of January completing homework for the revision workshop. The timing was perfect, which doesn’t always happen when you attend a conference. But here I was with a manuscript ready to revise, and I was eager to hear from great authors on how they do it. I took the homework seriously, and thus it proved very useful.
The workshop had me silently shouting Eureka! in my head and prompted me to write a whole new first chapter which garnered the positive feedback mentioned above. And the entire event was a joy. I got to see former publishing colleagues and friends old and new, from around the world. It was a fun return to NYC, and warmish for early February. I even got to see my first Broadway play. Here are a few pics for you to enjoy.
Expect me to remain, at least for a few weeks, on cloud nine from the agent’s feedback. And I’ll keep working on this piece. It’s almost ready. Nearly there. 🙂
What I’m reading: The Clackity and Save the Cat!
I spent all of November and more than half of December toiling away at my Work in Progress. I say toiling because it’s the first draft of a complete rewrite, and oy are first drafts rough. So, when I thought I’d finished the first draft, I took a break to enjoy the holidays and some just-for-fun reading. I’d heard good things about The Clackity by Lora Senf and decided to give it a go.
It is now one of my favorite middle grade books and at the top of my list in the spooky/horror category. In it, a young girl lives with her aunt in a town overrun with hauntings, some mild, some humorous, most harmless. However, Evie is told to follow one rule: stay out of the old slaughterhouse at the edge of town. When her aunt senses trouble there and disappears within its walls, Evie decides to go after her. The new world she discovers — and its dangers within — challenge any hope she has to rescue the only remaining member of her beloved family.
Inventive and spooky. I highly recommend The Clackity for lovers of fright.
In January, I started reading (actually, re-reading) Save the Cat! Writes a novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody. I bought this in 2018 when it came out, thanks to great reviews by people whom I respect. When I first tried reading it, though, I wasn’t in the right place with my writing and so I had a hard time getting out of it what others had. I knew I had to wait until the information would hit me more directly. I’m glad I did. With the first draft completed (so I thought) and heading into revision, I was in the mood for reading about story structure. This time, the info hit right. I see I have more to add to my first draft, but the book’s story beats will help guide those additions and future revisions. I’m so glad I revisited it.
Save the Cat! is a solid and fun guide to story structure, fundamentals, and spark. Recommended for readers who want to know how stories tick.
I’ve also been listening to more and more audiobooks the past few years. I haven’t really posted much about them, but let me say, it’s a joy to relax and have a story read to you.
I wish you happy reading in 2023.
(The above are Amazon Affiliate links, meaning I make a few pennies off the sale of each book, at no cost to you.)
Well, wowee zowee and SHAZAM! I am AMAZED. Wanna know why? Because NaNoWriMo works, baby! It really, really works! I did it this year for the first time ever, and I am thrilled with the results.
In case you don’t know already, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s basically an impetus to get writers crackin’. The idea is to hunker down in November with a goal of putting 50-thousand words toward a new novel. The non-profit org that runs it has all sorts of tools and methods to help writers achieve that goal. But many writers come up with their own rules/methods to meet their liking.
For example, I didn’t start a new novel. I used the movement to work on an existing project that has been laaaaaanguishing. Oy, this project is a whole other story for another day. *hides face in shame* To be clear, I didn’t finish the novel nor reach the 50k word-count goal. An event mid-month killed my progress for, like, a week. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that I GOT BACK INTO THE WRITING HABIT.
***RING THE BELLS! CUE THE CHORUS! GATHER THE PEOPLES! IT’S A PARTY IN HERE!****
The habit of writing creates the urge to write. Now, nine days into December, I’m still writing, and I’m nearly done with the novel. Importantly, it’s a far better story thanks in part to thinking about and actively working on it so intensely for so long. I’m really happy with it so far. What more could I ask for from an artificial deadline?
I’ll tell you what else. Community.
My good friend and fellow author Valerie Biel mentioned to me ahead of November that she was doing NaNoWriMo with another friend, author Mary Behan, and I told her I was going to do it as well. We joined forces. In this pact, we had accountability, camaraderie, and a sounding board. Keep reading because you’ll want to know what we did that worked out so great.
Valerie, who is an organizational goddess and also provides author services (check out her website), set up our communications: a shared calendar where we could enter our daily word count (accountability); weekly Zooms to discuss progress and whatever else (camaraderie); and a Facebook chat group to share spur-of-the-moment thoughts and gripes (a sounding board). This kept us in constant communication but never demandingly so. Perfection. Copy this method.
And one of the odd things we talked about? We all noticed during this month-long immersion into creativity that our nighttime dreams became more frequent and vivid, and we could better remember them in the morning. Isn’t that fascinating?
I’m so grateful to these ladies for providing encouragement then and still. And, hey, I’m thankful we decided to turn a totally-not-real deadline into a real one for ourselves. It really worked to get us out of our malaise. I hope you’ll try it someday if you too need the kick to get crackin’.
SCBWI’s faaaaaabulous Fall Luncheon
A weekend away can seem like an extravagance, but sometimes it’s worth every penny.
I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut. I allowed myself time this summer to read, but as September rolled around, I felt a bit stymied with my writing. Months ago, I suspected I’d appreciate an in-person writing event come October, and wow, was I right. This weekend was g.l.o.r.i.o.u.s in so many ways.
Sunday was the SCBWI-Wisconsin Fall Luncheon, an event just a few hours long, in which writers meet up, enjoy a lunch, and hear a single speaker. Sara Schonfeld, editor at HarperCollins imprint Katherine Tegen Books proved to be an excellent speaker. More on this later.
Backing up, I decided to make a whole weekend of it. I booked a three-day stay at the hotel. The drive north was wonderful, all by itself. I think this is one of the most colorful Wisconsin autumns I’ve ever seen. Does that correlate with today’s early, first snowfall of the season? I have no idea, but the drive to Door County was stunning. Feast your eyes.
When I got to the hotel, my room was ready early, thank goodness, and I quickly settled in to write. Wow! I wrote like a person possessed. A change of scenery can induce that? You betcha. Mission accomplished by Day One.
Add, that my room was beautiful. Add, that I got a few hours socializing with great friends before the event even started. Add, that I learned to play pickle ball and, omg, it was so much fun! And add, our group’s first in-person event in three years. It was heavenly, this weekend. Truly.
Sara gave a well-presented, insightful talk on revising like an editor. No one could walk away without at least one (but likely many) new tactics to try when they get to that stage. I thoroughly enjoyed both her talk and getting to know her. She’s a delight.
Here are a few more photos of the luncheon. Special thanks to Deb Buschman and all SCBWI volunteers for putting on an outstanding event.
If you’re thinking that your creative endeavors could use a change a scenery, you may be right. I recommend giving it a try. I’m so grateful I did. 🙂
WWA Anthology is out!
I just added another title to the Books page of this website, and I’m thrilled that it contains my first published horror short story. Creepy short stories are definitely my bag. I love reading them. I love writing them. And I’m thrilled that my short story won an Honorable Mention in the Wisconsin Writers Association’s Jade Ring Contest and publication in its anthology.
This paperback is just $6.99 as of the date of this writing. That’s a bargain for 113 pages of original writing by Wisconsin creators, so order your copy here and support WWA and local authors!
*This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a few cents if you order through that link, at no charge to you.
What I’m reading – Other Terrors and Less is Lost
It’s fall, and, while I typically try to hunker down and get writing again when the colder winds start to blow, I’m still heavily reading, so here’s what I’m enjoying (with $affiliate links).
OTHER TERRORS; AN INCLUSIVE ANTHOLOGY. This is a collection of creepy tales from critically acclaimed, diverse authors with a broad spectrum of diverse and contemporary characters. These wonderfully inclusive and modern tales are not only riveting but also manage give a reader creepy crawly chills. Whooeee, some of these stories really strike a nerve, and others will leave you seeing circumstances in a whole new light. I especially loved the story Waste Not by Alma Katsu because, ooh, what a line it crosses; also, Idiot Girls by Jennifer McMahon and The Turning by Hailey Piper. Shivers and shakes. Highly recommended.
LESS IS LOST by Pulitzer Prize winning author Andrew Sean Greer. Its prequel, LESS, had me in stitches when I first read it in 2018, and I gave it five stars on Goodreads. I just reread it, and it still hilariously holds up. It’s the story of a struggling novelist who receives an invitation to his former lover’s wedding, and, rather than go, decides to accept every harebrained literary invitation he’s received, from places around the world, to escape. I’m only a few pages in to the sequel, and I can’t wait to see where Less takes us next.