Wednesday, December 10, 2008

video link to bookends interview

Here's a link to an interview I did with some teen writers last month.

Guess I need to look up how to make the link light up. Well, meanwhile, try copying it into your browser. . .

deadline or aliveline?

It's been a while since I posted to this blog. Why can't a writer keep up with her own blog? The short answer: deadline. The long answer is too long, so I won't go into it.

I did make my deadline for revisions to my latest fiction book: VIOLET WINGS, which will be published next year.

I truly love revising. The dreaded first draft is a long way in the past, and so are the second, third, and fourth drafts, etc. During final revisions, the whole point is to get very close to the story that originally inspired all the work of writing it down. It's a time to add in what's missing, cut what doesn't need to be there, and enhance what belongs. For me, and for many writers I know, polishing is much easier than digging a jagged, ugly-looking jewel out of the ground. (If you prefer writing first drafts, there's nothing wrong with that. Remember there's no such thing as a "typical" writer.)

I like working with a deadline looming. I like it so much that I'm thinking "deadline" could be called the "aliveline" instead. Yes, I know that if the deadline isn't met, the "dead" part of the line becomes more prominent. But there's just so much aliveness about having a definite goal in time. It's motivating. It's so motivating, in fact, that when I'm under the influence of a deadline, I find all sorts of inner resources that seem to lie dormant otherwise. Every part of my mind rallies to the cause of getting finished. It's exciting. Enlivening.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Not scent from heaven

Either I have a really sensitive nose or there are an awful lot of people in my neighborhood making use of some really intense chemicals disguised as dryer sheets and "air fresheners."

When I jog, sometimes I feel like gagging as I inhale a big burst of fakey "perfume" that is so strong it burns the inside of my nose. I feel so sorry for the dogs! Can you imagine what it's like for them? Their God-given noses are about a zillion times more sensitive than mine. And these scents are definitely not from heaven.

What does this subject have to do with writing? Well, everything. For one thing, have you ever noticed how important words are in advertising? Take "air fresheners" for example. Now, these things are not fresh. They have nothing whatsoever to do with fresh. If they were named using accurate words, they would be called "things that pollute the air you breathe and then cover it up with a very strong smell." But advertisers don't mind naming things the opposite of what they are if it makes people buy them.

And words are powerful.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Writing it out

I just erased a rant I wrote about how often I hear the phrase "whatever it takes." I gave myself permission to go into a snide commentary about cliched scripts and how tiresome they are, and also how much I love it when someone speaking in public actually uses original phrases.

Somehow hearing certain scripts repeated over and over bothered me enough to feel the need to vent about it. So I wrote out my thoughts and feelings. Then deleted them. I don't know why I feel better having done that, but I do.

Maybe you will too.

Go ahead. Vent. Write it out. No one has to see it but you.

You might learn something from yourself. And chances are good you'll feel better afterward.

Friday, September 19, 2008

seashells and moving ahead

I've subscribed to a few blogs lately. Some bloggers keep up daily! And when I read them, I have vast appreciation for the discipline they are showing. Then I feel like a slacker, and now that the feeling has built up enough momentum, here I am with a post.
I'm thinking about seashells, and they seem loaded with symbolism today. Yes, they're pretty, almost endlessly fascinating in their variety of shape and color, their grace of form. However, right now I have the sense that I should grind them into powder rather than admire them. Why? Because they are, essentially, memorials to a phase of life that's over. And as I look upon their delicate, calcified shapes, I am thinking about the lives that outgrew them, about the creatures that moved on, choosing life instead of stagnating within a shell that no longer fit.

Seashells rest upon
ever-shifting shores of sand--
and life keeps moving.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

playing pretend for real results

I used to love finding time alone to write. Now I'm finding that--especially while writing a first draft--it's easier to motivate myself in the company of friends.

At first this seemed strange. What was the matter with me? Why wouldn't I just get going on my own the way I used to do? But now I think those are the wrong questions to be asking. Why not accept that I've changed, and put some things in place to adjust to this new way of doing things? I mean, it's easier to get interested in taking a walk when it's with a friend. (Fortunately my husband has started taking the bus to work so I often walk him down to the bus stop in the morning or meet him in the late afternoon. It's fun--but it wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable without him.) And cooking is also more fun in company with others. Lots of things in life are just better with a friend.

So anyway, I put out the word amongst my writing friends, inviting them to set up meetings for writing together. So far only one person has been committed to meeting twice a week without fail. Others have more draconian schedules with demanding jobs, etc. But even once a month here or twice a month there might make us all more productive. And somehow when someone else is sitting across the table with a notebook or a Notebook, the question of motivation disappears.

I've also decided to play pretend. Why not let my imagination help me? On the days when no one is scheduled to join me, I will pretend. I'll set up my day "as if," and then when the time arrives to write, if a real person doesn't show up, an imaginary friend can sit across from me and scribble away.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

golden dragonfly

golden dragonfly--
what is it you know? I stop
to remember now

I saw a golden dragonfly this morning. It flew past my eyes and then paused for a full minute on a leaf in front of my face. Its wings were clear except for a pattern of purest gold. Its body shimmered against the green leaf and it had a jeweled head. Wow.

I've seen blue-green dragonflies before--many of them. But this golden one seemed to have flown straight from the realms of mythical alchemy into my yard.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Every week for critique

It's Saturday, which means I met with my writing buddies, Rebecca and Lisa. We're all working on fiction, and we find that meeting together every week for critique helps keep us motivated.
But aren't our stories enough in themselves to keep us motivated?
Speaking for myself, yes and no.
Yes, I'll wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a scene, and in the uncritical glow of the darkness, that idea feels whole, immediate, and possible.
No, because in the light of day I begin to struggle with myself and think maybe the idea is no good; maybe it belongs only to the realm of fleeting delusions.
But knowing Rebecca and Lisa will be waiting for pages helps me write the scene anyway--and the next one and the one after. If I were to bring only a few paragraphs, my buddies would lift their eyebrows in stern compassion. "What's up with you?" they would ask.
And I would do the same for them.

doubt and fear, the twins--
frequent companions
for the creative writer

Now that's poetry. :) Five, seven, five.

Thank you, Rebecca and Lisa. Without you, I would write with the speed of a slug who hasn't yet found the strawberry patch.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Welcome, and new books announcement

Welcome to my blog! For a year or two, friends have been urging me to blog. But I was sooo busy--mostly with writing books. And writing takes such a lot of time--it really does. Especially if, like me, you're a perfectionist. What exactly does it mean to be a perfectionist about writing? Is it simply a foolish neurotic obsession with getting every word "right"--which is an impossible goal? Or is it more of a mental torture device for creating impossible goals?

I've set a challenge for myself with this blog: to appreciate the perfection of imperfection by writing without being careful of each word I set down. This might very well mean that I don't often blog. It could also mean I end up posting some delightfully flawed poetry. Or it could mean that I ramble on without cohesion and then have an identity crisis. It's an experiment.

My two new books on writing are now available. I know many fans have been patiently waiting for new fiction from me--and that's also on the way. But I just had to write Seize the Story and Wild Ink.

Now that they're done, I'm so happy and proud. Grateful, too--especially to my publisher, Cottonwood Press. There's nothing like working with friendly perfectionists! (Especially my editor.) I might even go so far as to say that when it comes to getting things done--and done well--friendly perfectionism is a hard-to-beat combination.

Enough preamble. About the books:
Seize the Story: A handbook for teens who like to write is for teens who love creative writing and want to know more about bringing forth your own characters, plots, dialogue, and settings. The book also talks about using bad times to write good stories and what to do when feeling blocked. (Can adults use this book? Absolutely.) It includes interviews and writing excerpts from other authors, too.

Wild Ink: How to Write Fiction For Young Adults is for people interested in writing YA novels. It's all about finding your inspiration and sticking with it until you reach The End of your book. It also demystifies the process of submitting your manuscript and getting published. Included: interviews with editors, agents, and other authors.

The official publication date for these books is September 1st, but they are actually available now!!

Other than that, here's a haiku:
across horizons
colors come and go, rise, fall
and travel quite far.