Thursday, December 16, 2010

And the beat goes on...

Just to update the status of my book sales via Lulu. They send me a weekly report and so far I have sold 15 books online, all friends and relatives I'm sure. It's not heading for the New York Times Best Seller list anytime soon. Steve and I are in Florida now for 3 months. I brought 25 books with me with the plan of having a book signing while I'm down here for the snowbird group. I'll let you know as that evolves. So, have I sparked any interest in self-publishing? Any questions for Mark or myself about publishing on Lulu?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blame the snow

Tonight's book signing at Civic Theatre was a bust. Sold a grand total of four books and three of those were to Civic Theatre employees. Everyone told me book signings are not a good way to sell books but I thought I had figured the angles: A book about theater, benefiting a theater, sold in a theater to a theater audience. People didn't even stop by to get some candy or pick up a free bookmark. And that's with a nice story in The Press and a great radio interview. It makes you think about what it takes to grab people's interest.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The proof is in the pudding...or something like that.

In the interest of fairness, I must report that the proof finally arrived today, three weeks after I ordered it. In some ways it relieved my concern. It is almost as good as the original 20 I received, but the cover is much darker. I didn't make any changes in the cover PDF so that means every print run is going to be a different shade. Not terrible, unless you display them side by side. One of the photos inside the new version doesn't look very good. I scanned in the photo of Cary Grant that we ran in the newspaper 26 years ago so it's a photo of a photo. Never a good idea. But it looked okay in the original 20 copies. I guess the compression I used on the new PDF isn't as good as what my son used on the original copies so the flaws are much more noticeable. I'm not sure if it is enough for me to create another revision, especially since I'm not sure if I can fix it. This is what happens when you let us non-tech types dip our fingers in the publishing pool. For those of you who are interested, I'll be signing copies at 6 p.m. Dec 1 at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, 30 N. Division Ave. -- assuming that the 50 copies that shipped Saturday arrive by then. You can read more about the book at lulu.com/spotlight/suemerrell

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another Lulu fan




Echoing Sue's experience to some degree, I found publishing on Lulu to be, if not exactly easy and straightforward, at least doable. Starting at the beginning and following the steps helps. Going back later for corrections and updates is a little more troublesome. I don't know how Sue gets her books so cheap!!! Lulu gets about $9.80 of each copy of my "Bedderhoff Dead." Which means I need to charge a bit more. Plus shipping. Of course I'm probably a bit bloated at 265+ pages. I hope Sue has a link she can post for promotion and sales. I'll throw mine out here: http://www.yoopernatural.com/

Mark

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bookin' it

I'm not the kind of person to watch the mail box. I let it accumulate for days and check it maybe once a week. But lately I've been watching when the mail truck arrives, grabbing my keys and heading for the box. Reminds me of back during the Vietnam War when I was delivering mail one summer and young wives would wait for my arrival and that air mail letter on the tissue thin paper with an APO return address.

I'm awaiting an even more elusive lover -- my book. I published my memoir, Laughing for a Living, on Lulu. At first it seemed so easy. My son helped me with the cover design and all the technical PDF, embedded type stuff. We did the deed on Halloween weekend like some satanic ritual. I kept waiting for the Web site to make some outrageous demand of money, but it never happened.

"Congratulations!" it said. "You're a published author." No charge. Now it was time to order books. The site suggested one for proofing but I was brave. I ordered 20 at $6.74 each. Shipping and handling -- that's where they make their money -- added another $1.25 a book. I figured if I was lucky, they would get here by Thanksgiving, just in time to distribute to family as a surprise Christmas gift.

A couple of days later, I was pulling out of the driveway and spotted a box on my porch. It couldn't be. It was! My book. And it looked gooooooood. Great, in fact. I was so excited I announced it on Facebook. A dozen friends expressed interest. 20 books was not going to be enough.

I called Bruce Tinker, the executive director of Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. The cover is a funny photo of me standing in front of the theater on the day I retired from The Press. I offered Bruce a proposition. If they want to sell the book in the lobby before "Peter Pan," they can have all proceeds over my cost. He needed a few days to discuss it with staff. I dropped off a book for his perusal. He called me back. They loved it. Could I get them 50? And do a book signing?

It's Monday, a week after Halloween, I should have plenty of time to get 50 by the time the show opens on Nov. 19. Eleven days. But the opening weekend is hectic and I'm out of town for Thanksgiving the following week. We agree to do the book signing on Wednesday, Dec. 1. Plenty of time.

Enough time that I decide to make a few revisions. Nothing major. I wanted to credit the friend who took the cover photo, correct a misspelling or two. To do these changes I needed to upload a new pdf and delete the old. I didn't want to bother my son, so I downloaded Open Office to create a new PDF, followed the directions on Lulu, and voila. I'm a published author again.

This time I order just one book to proof it. What if I did something wrong in making the PDF, even though it looks okay online? I check the box to have it sent by US mail. It's just one little book. Three days, I think.

That was Nov. 8 and I'm still checking the mail daily. The proof has not arrived. Unlike FedEx or UPS, the US Mail doesn't offer tracking. I chat with the people at Lulu. Nothing they can do. It was shipped Nov. 10. Nov. 17 is two weeks before the book signing. I decide I need to order 50 books by that day, even though I haven't seen the proof. Surely, they will look just as good as the first 20. Surely.

So, I meet the mail truck. I order promotional bookmarks and a poster of the cover to use on my booksigning table, and I meet the mail truck. Still no proof. The Press calls to do a story about my book and all I can do is spill my guts about the missing proof. Will the other books arrive? Dare I give out the Christmas gifts as planned?

I used to think getting published was the hardest part of writing. That was before I knew about waiting for the mail.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tension

Today's Mood: Frustrated. Today's Music: Linkin Park, A Thousand Suns. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
*******
It's been a long time since I've blogged, but I want everyone to know that I am writing. I went to an awesome Fiction Critique, and I've attended a Fall Writing Retreat, and I've dragged my butt out of bed at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. every week day to write. The rough draft is inching along toward completion--and I do mean inching. Wish I was a faster writer. But hey, at least I see progress. Still have that 2010 goal.

I want to write/think/contemplate/dialog about creating tension in your writing. However, tonight I don't have time so I thought I'd throw it out there, let people give me their thoughts. Then, when I have an evening where I'm not keeling over with exhaustion, I'd try to put my thoughts into words.

So what do you think? What is tension and how do you create tension in your writing?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Insane

Today's Mood: overwhelmed. Today's Music: Linkin Park. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
*******
First day back to work with students. First off, let me just say that 5:30 a.m. is so NOT morning. It is the freaking middle of the night! When my alarm went off I couldn't help but think that just as early as the morning before, I could have rolled over and got another 3 1/2 hours of sleep!

The library is hot, dusty, and so not ready for operations as normal. No email or Internet is a good thing when I'm suppose to be writing though. Unfortunately I sat and did more stressing over the scene than actually writing. This is the scene that was killing me before I took a break to go camping. So maybe that's why the break lasted as long as it did!

I need to move on in a big way. Just start a new scene or something. Maybe I should just skip the scene altogether. Cut it out. But...but....

Gahhhhh! I can't think anymore. I'm going to bed. Tomorrow will be better. Right?


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fall Goal

Today's Mood: Purposeful. Today's Music: Alan Parson's Project. Today's Writing: If defined broadly, IFFY. Today's Quote:
*******
It's back to school time. The end of long summer days that stretch out in front of me, full of potential for writing, painting, drawing, playing in the waves, riding my bike, and all sorts of other no doubt wonderful things. I'll miss that--the potential, the possibilities that exist. Each day I'd wake up and lie in bed, spinning out a colorful tapestry in my mind of all the adventures waiting for me. Yeah, most of the time real life interfered and I'd end out cleaning or taking my kids to the dentist, but oh, just the freedom of possibilities!

However, there is one good thing about summer's end; I actually attempt to accomplish all the things I meant to do in June and July--and put off. Why, this last week I got more projects crossed off my list than I did the whole rest of the summer. And I have to remind myself that life doesn't end just because I go back to work. It speeds up (which is scary since the whole dang summer went by so fast it was a rainbow-colored blur!), but it doesn't mean I can't do the things that feed me--one of them being writing.

In fact, routine is good for writing, good for me anyway. I go to work early and write. And to teachers, the start of the school year is like New Year's Day--we make our resolutions or goals for the upcoming school year. So this school year, 2010/2011, I aim to finish my rough draft of IFFY. I'm even going to turn the screws a little tighter and say that I aim to finish my rough draft in 2010.

There. I said it. I blogged it. And thus it is official.


Now I just have to do it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Test

I am at such a loss with blogs, but I am determined not to let this gremlin win. This is a test blog entry to see if I know what I'm doing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Process

Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: Lifehouse. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
"I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times--once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say. Somewhere I put it this way: first drafts are for learning what one's fiction wants him to say. Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing: 'The men and things of today are wont to lie fairer and truer in tomorrow's meadow,' Henry Thoreau said." -Bernard Malamud
*******
Peninsula Writers' summer conference was all about process. Mary Ann Samyn, the keynote speaker, said "I write every day, but I define writing very broadly." She spoke of process as 'paying attention'. Noticing everything--even all the little things that make up a day, like folding laundry and mowing the lawn. What smells are associated with those tasks? What emotions? So often we go through life on autopilot, just doing our chores, our business without really thinking about it. As writers we need to PAY ATTENTION. Mary Ann said it helps her to think of the day as "on loan".

I like this idea. Somehow it makes the day seem a bit different--special somehow. And it certainly makes me notice things more. It reminds me of when my car was in the shop and they gave me a loaner car. I still did my regular errands--work, picking up kids, going to the grocery store--but it was different. Even the kids payed more attention to the way the car felt, sounded, smelled. I was more intentional about things. Intention is defined as "done by intention or design. Intent = directed with keen attention. If I go about my day with intention, I am keenly aware of everything. The same follows if I go about my writing with intention.

The other thing that struck me about Mary Ann's talk on Process, was her comment that writers need to stay "crouched down" by their writing. We need to stay close to the writing. Even when it gets tough. Especially when it is tough. Going back to her definition of writing, I don't think that means I need to keep hammering away at the keyboard even when it isn't working--at least, not always. Sometimes the 'butt in chair' method does work for me. But there are other ways of remaining "crouched down". (Isn't that a great phrase? Gives me such a good picture.)

Samyn said she takes her writing with her wherever she goes. Literally. She prints off the poem she is working on and takes it with her--to get her oil changed. To work. Wherever. That way she can keep working on it even when she isn't actively writing it. Helps to have a pen or pencil with you as well.

Mary Ann also reads it aloud. Again and again. Hence the idea of taking it with you wherever you go. Listen to how it sounds. What pictures does your brain display as it hears the words, the story? Somehow the words change when they are spoken. A weird alchemy occurs. I have experienced this with my small writing group--when I read my piece of writing out loud to them, I catch things I didn't before. Knowing that they are listening makes me hear it different. That's why my small writing group is such an important part of my process.

So, where does that leave us? I've heard the writing process defined in a lot of different ways. Some have worked for me, some have not. The older (and better, I hope) I get, the more I realize how each person's writing process is unique. Do you like Mary Ann's definition of "paying attention"? How would you define it?

Most of all--keep writing!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Debriefing the writing process

Today's Mood: a tad high-strung. Today's Music: nothing. Today's Writing: nothing. Today's Quote:
"Remember, you are the creator of your own life story." -Don Miguel Ruiz, Don Jose Ruiz in The Fifth Agreement.

*******
Ah yes, it's been awhile. A long while as a matter of fact. Lots of things going on in the world and in my life. Even some writing, I'm glad to say. Not as much as I'd like, but even that is good. Something to strive for in the weeks, months, years to come.

At present I am looking forward to going up to beautiful Glen Lake and living among writers for a week, and writing. Writing 24/7--or as much as I can while still allowing for eating and sleeping. Unlike years past, I haven't had much time to anticipate or stress over going because I have had a sick kid. But now that she is feeling better, the excitement is starting to fizz. We are doing a silent auction this year and I spent the evening getting my entries ready--and no, I'm not telling what they are--other than that they are so cool and everyone will want to bid on them. I hope.

The other thing I'm starting to think about is the debriefing session I am suppose to lead next week. (Debriefing being where we talk about the writing process.) I'm at a bit of a loss for a topic--not that there aren't a lot of facets to the writing process, but that we have, at one time or another during the many years I have gone to this conference, already talked about them. So I've been hitting the writing/author/agent/publisher blogs hoping something inspires me, or confuses me, or angers me. Hunting for an interesting topic.

Anyone have any suggestions? It gets even harder when you consider we are not all fiction writers. We are not all poets. We are not all trying to get published. We are not all writing for children--or teens--or adults. Sooooo it has to be a topic that applies to all writers.

So far on my list of possibilities:

how to deal with critiques, technology and writing--help or hindrance?, wait time (as in, how long do you let something sit before revision?), exploring different genres, the changing publishing industry and its impact on writers, word ruts and how to get out of them.

Any favorites? Anything other burning questions/concerns you wish someone would talk about with you? (on the topic of writing, mind you!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Giddy Friday

Today's Mood: Hmm, exhausted by giddy that it is Friday = slaphappy? Today's Music: Random Shuffle. Today's Writing: IFFY (of course--still working on the 2 pages for today--can I count the blog as well?) Today's Quote:
"What's the most positive thing you could tell writers today?" "That it really matters that they write." --from the May/June 2010 Writer's Digest interview with Anne Lamott.
*******
It's Friday! I can't believe I made it! This week I swore I was going to do a better job at getting up on time so my writing didn't get cut short. The alarm would ring and I'd hit the snooze, still more asleep than awake. 9 minutes later. The damn alarm. Again. This time I'd scrub my eyes, groan, even thrash about and change position. Five more minutes, I'd promise, I'll get up in five. more. minutes.

I did manage to drag my sorry, tired body out of bed 15 minutes earlier than last week. 15 minutes. That's all I could manage. Then the one day the cat had thrown up during the night (can't believe I didn't hear that!), so there went my hard-won 15 minutes, cleaning up cat puke.

It was great to come home on Thursday and read the interview with Anne Lamott. To be told--by a great writer at that--that it mattered if I wrote. Made my day. Made me re-commit to writing every day. I mean, writing 2 pages a day, not just tapping out two sentences only to delete one if not both of them.

And I can't believe how true it is that when I make the time--the story is there. The characters show up. I took my shower last night, so busy thinking about the scene I had been working on just prior, that I all of a sudden realized I didn't know if I had shampooed, conditioned, or both. Then another idea occurred to me (about the beginning of the story). I got out, grabbed a towel and went to jot it all down in my journal before I forgot.

This week I realized I cannot do my best at everything at the same time. This therapy moment might have come about when my youngest daughter asked me, "If you could pick another job, what would it be?" Me: a writer. Oldest daughter: You already are that--it's your second-hand job. (isn't there a passage in the Bible about not letting the one hand know what the other is doing?)

So okay, I give. Uncle. I cannot do my best as a librarian, a mom, a writer, a wife, an exerciser (not sure that's even a word, but I certainly don't qualify for exercise guru or exercise nut), a housekeeper, and a cook. In fact, I'm pretty sure I only have the energy to do my best at one thing at a time. Don't know if I should assign days--oops, sorry honey, today's my day to do my best as a writer, not as a wife--or maybe just settle for doing everything okay.

Good thing Anne Lamott urges me to write those shitty first drafts. Now that is something I can do.

Happy Friday.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Writing pure

Today's Mood: contemplative. Today's Music: IFFY playlist. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
"Writers need to be like Zen students. We require Still Pond. That is, psychic space in which nothing else is happening. If you're a frantic scheduler, it's likely you're carrying around the Burden of Being Everything to Everyone." -Heather Sellers, Chapter after Chapter.
*******
I've been reading poetry lately in an effort to prime my writing pump. (Which must be working to some degree because I am writing--of course, that could also be due to having writing group (which means I have to have something to share) or Spring Break)

I came across Billy Collin's poem, Purity. At first, I liked it because it was funny. Funny to me anyway. It starts off talking about his favorite time to write--"in the late afternoon, weekdays, particularly Wednesdays."

Then the poet goes on to detail exactly how he goes about writing. Always interested in hearing about someones writing process, I read the poem very seriously.

Get a fresh pot of tea--Hey, I do that!
Take off clothes--okay, that's a little weird. Cold, too. But whatever works.
Remove flesh and hang it over a chair--Oh, so, this is metaphorical. He probably doesn't really take off his clothes, either.
"Finally I remove each of my organs and arrange them on a small table near the window."--I like how he doesn't want "their ancient rhythms" interfering with his writing.
So he's now ready to begin, nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter--whew, what's the pub. date on this? 1991. Okay, yeah. Bet he uses a computer now.

And then comes the stanza that cracks me up:
I should mention that sometimes I leave my penis on.
I find it difficult to ignore the temptation.
Then I am a skeleton with a penis at a typewriter.
Okay, that picture in my head is so funny I have to go down and share it with my husband. He thinks it's kind of weird. Mildly amusing, but weird.

Collins goes on to explain how he writes "extraordinary love poems, most of them exploiting the connection between sex and death."

I think about that for awhile. Sex and death. The primitive drive for life, or continuance of life, and the unavoidable journey toward death.

The poem continues, and the poet talks about how he eventually removes his penis too. "Now I write only about death, most classical of themes in language light as the air between my ribs."

It doesn't come to me until later that Collins is talking about the process writers undergo of getting outside of themselves, their own preconceived ideas, thoughts, experiences. And maybe, truly the hardest part is getting outside of our perception as males or females. I suppose I see things in a certain way because I am female--and often I am unaware of how that influences what I perceive.

Do you think it is important to try to step outside ourselves as we write? To take off our clothes, hang up our flesh, remove our organs--maybe even our sex organs? Is this even possible?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring!

Today's Mood: Happy. Today's Music: Right now--Storm by Lifehouse, which doesn't exactly fit with the happy mood, but hey, I'm a woman of complexity. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
This is the only life I have, this one in my head,
the one that travels along the surface of my body
singing the low voltage song of the ego
- from "One Life to Live" by Billy Collins in Questions About Angels

*******
I was stuck at work for awhile today, waiting for the network to function and upload my pictures (thinking in my blind optimistic way that it would be faster than actually going out to my car and driving across town to Walgreens--alas, it was not), and I picked up a book of poetry by Mary Oliver. After reading several of her poems, I vowed to rededicate myself to reading at least one poem a day. Not that it has to be one of her poems--although she is a fabulous poet. I just want to hear the language of poetry. I want the images perking in my brain all day. Every day.

Life has been particularly busy, and rather stressful as well with all the political stuff going on in Lansing and in the nation. (Can you believe our Attorney General is going to sue the U.S. Government?! Talk about frivolous lawsuits--with money we don't have.) None of it helps my writing. I need to crave out a space of quiet, of time to think. And maybe even more important than that is an attitude of quiet. An attitude of contemplation.

Poetry can help. I think reading poetry every day helps my mind quiet itself, quit chewing on its own tail. And maybe then I'll be able to hear my story a little quicker, a little louder.

I love to feel the daily turning of the pages,
the sentences unwinding like string,
and when something really important happens,
I walk out to the edges of the page
and, always the student,
make an asterisk, a little star, in the margin.
-from "Cliche", by Billy Collins in Questions About Angels
How's the writing life been treating you lately? Has the muse been visiting regular like, or is she hopelessly late and often out of town?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Surprises

Today's Mood: Lucky..... Today's Music: U2--Helter Skelter. Today's Writing: IFFY (getting close to 80,000 words) Today's Quote:
And here's what I think is one of the very most important thing to do in a query: be as specific as possible. Allow me to be even more specific: be as specific as possible about the right things. -Nathan Bransford

*******
I know, I know, it's been awhile. Lots of things going on--although possibly not as much writing as I SHOULD be doing. But see, I'm trying to get rid of shoulds in my life. They don't serve much purpose besides making me feel guilty, which usually just makes me do things like eat chocolate and drink wine--oh, and whine.

Khardomah was great. I got two more chapters written, and was on a roll the last day when--of all annoying things--a new character showed up. And now I've been stalling, unsure of exactly why the character is there. Just because my brain coughed her up doesn't mean I should put her in the book. But for some reason one of my important characters wanted to introduce her to my main character.

I've been fiddling around, trying out different possibilities for who this character is and why she is important. The only way to find out is to write it and then see if it fits. Still, it's kind of hard to write until I have a direction.

So I was wondering if anyone else had this experience of something unexpected showing up in their writing--and not knowing right away what it was there for. Or even if they SHOULD include it or ditch it. What do you do about it?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Character Thoughts

Today's Mood: Relieved (it is the weekend after all.) Today's Music: Maroon 5. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury
*******
On Monday I met with my small writing group. I read part of a chapter from IFFY that I'd written several days earlier. A couple things came up in the feedback that got me thinking--scary, I know.

The dilemma: do you or do you not italicize a character's thoughts? I had one person in the group (and I have to say, I've had another writer tell me the same thing) say that if writing in first person, you don't italicize at all because technically everything is in the character's head.

My feeling has always been that it is helpful to readers to italicize DIRECT THOUGHTS. For example, at the start of this scene, Jane comes in the house humming a tune.
The tune was one off the new CD Eva had given me a while back. I'll call her, straighten things out. I took off my boots and lined them along the wall.

The sentence I italicized (put in bold since blogspot italicizes all blockquotes) is a direct thought. I suppose I could have written something like-- I thought about calling her and straightening things out. Then I wouldn't italicize it.

Others in the group felt I should have italicized more than I did. At the end of the scene (after the mother clips off the thread) I didn't italicize and several people in the group thought I should. (**Remember: blockquotes are italicized on Blogspot--my original didn't italicize any of it.)

"What are you saying? That you're getting a divorce?"
"No."
Had there been a hesitation?

To me, last line wasn't direct internal dialog. Otherwise she would have said something like- Did she hesitate?

It all got me thinking, and so I did some digging. I found some helpful posts on the matter. Overall it seems like italics should be reserved for IMPORTANT direct thoughts. They should be written in first person present tense because it is the character talking to him/herself. People talk in first person, present tense.

This blog post, Points on Style, deals with the difference between direct and indirect thoughts.

I liked how this talked about how italics weren't necessary if you were writing "deep viewpoint" --as in, writing from inside one person's head. Point of View writing, I guess you could say.

There was another great post I read and bookmarked, but it was on a different computer. I'll link it in the comments when I find out the address.

What do YOU like to see when reading a book? What do YOU do when writing character thoughts?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Workspace inspiration

Today's Mood: Sort of blah. Today's Music: Nothing at the moment. Today's Writing: This blog post. Today's Quote:
"We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same." -Anne Frank
*******

I'm a firm believer that people can write anywhere. There is no magic writing place, nor is there any sense in waiting to be inspired before I sit down to write. Now mind you, I didn't always believe this. For a number of years I believed I had to be sad or depressed in order to write (which didn't bode well for getting over depression). And then for a while I bought into the idea that I could only write in my office at school. Not worth bothering trying to write at home during summer vacation--too many distractions and interruptions.

But maybe if I had an "office" at home, maybe that would help.

So I purchased an awesome little desk with all sorts of wonderful cubbies to put things in. I created a space between the cat litter boxes and the washer and dryer. I put up shelves, lined them with my writing books, and even put a white board on the wall. My office. But the magical inspiration didn't happen. Writing was still hard work. Writing still involved sitting my butt down and laboring over the keyboard, giving birth to words and sentences with agonizing labor.

Funny thing happened though; once I accepted that writing was going to be hard work for me, I learned I could write anywhere and at any time. After all, hard work was hard work no matter where I was situated.

So when I titled this post workspace inspiration, I meant the kind of inspiration that feeds me as a person, not the magic inspiration that makes writing easy--although if you have some of that, feel free to pass it my way.

So what inspires me. Well, music for one. I keep my ipod handy, and I have quite a few Cd's loaded on my laptop as well. I have a collection of shells, sea glass, and rocks on my desk. All things I've picked up over the years. Cards from friends (often my writing friends), pictures of moments I like to remember, quotes that make me think (or remind me of what is important in life), even stupid things like cardboard coasters that I've taken from various different restaurants.

I like to write seated on the floor in my bedroom. On top of my bedside table, I have the book I'm currently reading, The Wild Trees by Richard Preston, a card from a friend of mine, two journals, an idea log, the book, How to Heal with Color by Ted Andrews (research for my WIP), and a book of poetry- Questions about Angels by Billy Collins.

On the bottom shelf I have Energy Medicine, The Subtle Body, How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too (bought in sheer self-defense--or desperation) and two books with the art of Amy Brown. And over in a bag by the dresser, I have the caramel shortcake mini-bites my sister gave me for my birthday, and a pack of supermint gum.

Downstairs is my "office" if you want to call it that. I have shelves lined with my favorite writing and drawing books. I have racks of Cd's, a jar of paintbrushes, candles, and a sign urging me to Simplify.

Now maybe it all sounds like clutter to you, but I find meaning and inspiration in these items. And feeding the me, ends out feeding the writing.

What's in your workspace that feeds your soul?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Follow-ups and things to ponder

Today's Mood: Horny (my husband suggested this one--but then wanted me to take it off.) Today's Music: UB40. Today's Writing: Author Bio for PW Anthology. Today's Quote:
*******
We had a discussion several posts ago about writing author bios. I was frustrated because I wasn't sure what to include. What the agent would want to know about me? My hobbies? My schooling? Whether or not I had pets? I mean really, I put the most pertinent points in the query letter.

Since then I have come across a great post on Anne R. Allen's Blog about exactly what should be included in an author bio. I did a few things wrong, so I wanted to share it with you so you won't be in the same regretful state as me. My biggest mistake was not writing the bio in third person. Now I know.

I also came across another helpful post (I'd link to it but I do not remember what blog it was on. I looked at all my regulars (note the blogs listed to the left), but couldn't find it. Nonetheless, I wanted to share what I had read. It was an agent talking about requested materials, and he/she said that they are not sitting there waiting for it to show up. Thus they do not go, "Gee, Sarah hasn't got that requested partial back to me and it's been a whole week!" They probably don't even notice if it has been a month, so there is no need to panic and throw the first thing you can in the mail. Take the time needed to make it right.

Now, having said that, I have to be honest and say it has really helped to have a query ready, a list of agents ready, and now an author bio. ready. When I get a response, I have the majority of what I need for the next step--whether that be submitting to another agent, or sending on more material to the same agent.

It's taken me a long time to learn this. Rachelle Gardner had a post about how long it took for a writer to become savvy about the writing business. I'd say I'm still learning. I knew quite a bit after about a year of submitting, but I still have things to learn. I would think one would have to keep learning in this business because it keeps changing. Look at the new ipad--how that has changed the way ebooks are sold. Agent Kristin Nelson has an interesting post on that subject. So I don't think I'll declare all knowledge just yet.

How about you? How long have you been learning about the business? Do you consider yourself an expert?

Well, I'd better head off to bed so I can get up early and write. After all, the most important thing of all is a good story.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gremlins

Today's Mood: Neutral. Today's Music: Maroon 5. Today's Writing: Nada. Today's Quote:
"Get away from her, you bitch!" -Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Aliens

*******
I'm sitting here watching the movie Aliens. I've seen it a half dozen times and it still pulls me tense as a bow string. How does one kill aliens? If a whole team of trained soldiers can't do it, how could one person do it? And yet, Ripley does--more than once.

So how do I kill my gremlins? How do trained writers kill off those voices that tell them their writing is awful, and what are they thinking trying to get stuff published?

I try to focus on the fact that I write because I love to write, because I need to write in order to feel okay with my world. And I try hard to trust my writing group when they tell me my stuff is good. The requests for partials and fulls, the glowing report from the writing contest--it all helps. But the doubts, those little gremlins, still manage to find their way inside my barricade. I need some heavy artillery.

What else can I use? Anyone got any tried and true ways to obliterate those hideous writing monsters? Right now Ripley is roasting aliens with a flame thrower. Maybe I should try that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The personality of verbs

Today's Mood: Hmmm, sort of grumpy, I guess. Today's Music: None (maybe that's why I'm grumpy.) Today's Writing: Nothing yet (another reason to be grumpy.) Today's quote:
That's her [the writer's] skill--to be affected more than others by "absent things," and to express them in words as they arise. A writer draws her heart close to that of another--lets herself slip--into the "beat" of another. - from The Intuitive Writer: listening to your own voice by Gail Sher

*******
I've been talking with my creative writing class about verbs--vivid verbs and action verbs. And I got thinking about how much you can develop character just by watching your verbs. Maybe you all already knew this, but for some reason, I never put the two together--at least, not consciously. Yup, I remember my teachers talking about using the active voice instead of the passive voice. it makes your writing more coherent and less wordy. But I don't remember my teachers ever talking about how much I could develop character by paying strict attention to the verbs I used. Sure, most characters walk, but does my character swagger, or meander, or rush? Says a lot about the personality right there. When that character (let's call her Saffy) talks, does she lisp? slur? whisper? shout? question? drawl? And how about when Saffy looks at something. Does she stare? glare? peek? gaze? glance?

Saffy swaggered down the hall glaring at everyone in sight.
Saffy meandered down the hall gazing at everyone in sight.
Saffy slunk down the hall peeking at everyone through the curtain of her hair. (okay, so I added some to this one.)

I can change the personality of the character just by changing the verbs I use.

Hopefully I've done this in my writing in the past. What I'd like to do now, is INTENTIONALLY use verbs to create character. Granted, I'll have to do most of this in the revision/edit stage. I don't want to spend too long hunting for the perfect verb while I'm rough drafting. Shoot, I overthink things as it is. I'm finding (in my own very slow and laborious way) that writing fast can be good for me. It can help get the initial flow of the story down on the paper. Often it helps preserve the raw emotion of the piece from wherever it came from inside me. Revision is where I can fine-tune it. Polish it. Finesse it into the beauty it is meant to be.

How deliberate are you with your verbs? Do you work at it in the rough stage, or look them over afterward in revision?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Angst of trying to get published

Today's Mood: Subdued. Today's Music: Shuffle. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
"You do not create a style. you work and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being." -Katherine Anne Porter
*******
I spent my writing time--my two-page-a-day time--this Christmas break working on queries. I think I wrote 7 different versions of the same letter. Tweak a sentence in this paragraph, move a word in this sentence, and cut out a whole paragraph in this version. I've read books--Writer's Market, The How Sell Your Novel Tool Kit--and blogs--Nathan Blansford, Editorial Anonymous, Query Shark--so I know the basics of the query letter. But what I really want is someone--no some agent or publisher--to tell me exactly what I should write in order to get them to say yes.

And of course, this won't happen unless I write something and send it.

So, as a very wise person advised me (thanks, Tricia), I compiled a list of possible agents and then sent out query letters to 5 of them. That was Sunday.

On Monday afternoon, I got the first rejection. Email rejections come so much faster than snail mail. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I sighed and picked another agent on the list, and sent out another query.

Monday evening another agent response was in my inbox. I was pretty sure it was a rejection since it came so fast. But--lo and behold--it was a request for a partial! Happiness... and then more angst. The agent wants an author bio.

So what does an agent want to know about a writer? How determined she is? How prolific? What she looks like? Who she hangs with--or should I say, how many kids she has that pull time away from writing?

Anyone written an author biography for a publisher or agent? Have any ideas as to what I should include? I know it should show your personality to some degree, but face it, it rarely does any good to get too buddy-buddy too fast. I think it should be personable but professional. What do you think?