Friday, January 28, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup

This week has been unproductive for me. Not a total loss. I managed to fight off the pregnancy hormones and insomnia long enough to draft another picture book idea, send a query for a list article and draft a post outline for my Shadowland blog.

All in all, though, my creativity has felt something lacking. Oh, that’s right. Sleep.

That’s the long way of saying I have no earth-shattering news. I have, however, found several great blog posts that fellow writers might find interesting.

The first up is Christina Katz’s post, Write for the Joy of It. As I read Christina's thoughts, I realized I don't write for the joy of it. I used to, but somewhere along the way I switched to writing for publication. Now, there's nothing wrong with wanting to see our work published. At the same time, the change in mindset has robbed me of much of the satisfaction I used to get from writing.

The moments in my life when I've felt most alive have been when writing fiction, yet I've sidelined much of my fiction for more immediately "practical" work. I'd already begun feeling that this was wrong. Christina's thought's helped me confirm that. Check it out at:

Write for the Joy of It, Not for Overnight Success

The second post comes from Jane Friedman's blog, There Are No Rules. Guest blogger Michelle Ward asked the question, Are You a Renaissance Soul? I find, to my delight, that I am. If you can't settle on one project for long, if you move from interest to're probably a Renaissance soul, too.

While I think most writers can identify with Ward's post, it applies to many creative types. The wonderful thing about Ward's advice is that she gives us permission to be ourselves and to use seeming weaknesses as strengths. You can read more here:

Are You a Renaissance Soul? Use It to Your Advantage

Finally, I read two different posts about what writers do--or should do--when agents request revisions. Both are on agents' blogs, but while one was from the agent viewpoint, another was written by a client. I didn't find either overtly biased. For me, they provided food for thought as I look ahead to when I will (hopefully) be in a position to deal with the issue.

Check out the thoughts of Rachelle Gardner's guest blogger, writer Keli Gwyn, in The Revision Decision. Follow it up with the agent's view from BookEnds, LLC as Jessica Faust explores More on Author-Agent Relationship.

Until next week, happy reading and joyful writing!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Japanese Woman Is Bestselling Poet, Age 99

Photograph: Ho/Reuters

My beloved professor, Marv Kananen, used to tell his writing class that you're not a rookie in writing until you're 40. Based on this story, his estimate might have been conservative. For those of us who get impatient wondering when we'll achieve some measure of success, here's a shot of inspiration:

Monday, January 24, 2011

“But It Was Research, Agent Smith!”

A few days ago, on her blog, MFA Confidential, Jessie Morrison brought up the topic of weird Google searches. It wasn’t a new idea to me. I’ve frequently suspected that if the government really is monitoring the Internet, I’d have a S.W.A.T team showing up at my door any day now. In the course of our research, writers need to find details for the strangest things. Some of mine include:

  • C-4
  • handguns
  • automatic weapons
  • Chicago street map
  • the Congo
  • Laos
  • common Swahili phrases
  • medical marijuana laws in Oregon
  • Swedish surnames

Definite cause for government paranoia there. Hopefully, showing a judge manuscripts and story outlines would get me off the hook in a trial.

You can visit MFA Confidential for Jessie’s list of her own weird searches, which include yurts, popular gymnasts of the 1988 Olympics and Judas steers. You can also see what other commenters might post. Meanwhile, feel free to share some of your own weird searches here!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Toddler’s--and Writer’s--Epic Journey

The other day, my two-year-old daughter took me on an epic journey. In her terms, she was going “Up high to see the man (fan).” In Mommy terms, it was a hike to a decrepit analog TV antenna, a half mile as the crow flies but considerably more when factoring in the 45-degree slope.

Baby M tackled the journey with single-minded determination. The shortest distance between house and “man” was a straight line, regardless of barbed-wire fences (two, each crossed twice), canyons (one, steep) and large rocks (numerous). As an out-of-shape thirty-something, my course would have been somewhat more meandering. I might even have worked up to the trip in stages, a few feet each day. Thanks to Baby M, though, we reached her objective in less than an hour.

I admired her devotion to her goal, just as I admire writers--and other professionals--who know and strive for their goals with the same intense concentration. What about those whose path is more meandering, though? What about the writers and artists who are working toward their goals but choose to take the scenic route to get there?

Which one is right? The strenuous but direct path? Or the more relaxed but longer path?

I know my answer. What’s yours?

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my answer is, “Yes.”)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

MFA Confidential -- Does Anyone Use a Notebook Anymore?

Those who follow my blog may remember that I wrote a post called "The Long and the Short of It" about longhand vs. shorthand a few months ago. Here's someone else's take on the topic, from MFA student Jessie Morrison:

There Are No Rules - An E-Publisher That Specializes in Original Short Works

If you write novelettes or essays, you might be interested in this new e-publishing trend...Italian e-publisher 40K, who specializes in shorter works. Check out Jane Friedman's post of Livia Blackburn's interview with the publisher.

There Are No Rules - An E-Publisher That Specializes in Original Short Works

Monday, January 17, 2011 · How Soon Do I Query Again?

Here's a post from Mary at on how frequently you should query. While it's specifically aimed at picture book queries--and that's why I devoured it and intend to read it again--it's valuable for novels and other query types as well. (For those who write YA and MG novels, you might consider following Mary's blog...that seems to be what she's looking for right now, and she offers lots of valuable insights from a children's/YA agent POV.) · How Soon Do I Query Again?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Any Comments from the Peanut Gallery?

I’ve been blogging for several years. It’s only as I’ve gotten increasingly serious about my freelance writing career, though, that I’ve started studiously following other writer’s blogs. In the process, I’ve discovered a few things about blog comments.

First, bloggers notice comments. I know I do. I suppose that most small-time bloggers like myself are thrilled if someone simply comments, regardless of what they say. Bigger, busier bloggers notice, too. They notice who comments, how often they comment, and the value of their comments. They see and they remember. When they remember, it can sometimes produce good returns for savvy commentators.

Second, there are savvy and not-so-savvy ways to comment. Nathan Bransford recently blogged on the art of commenting, including advice on placement, strategy and content. Yes, if you want to get noticed in a positive way, there’s a correct way to comment.

Third, you can glean wisdom from comments. When I read a compelling post--say one that has 50 to 100 comments on it--I can’t help reading through the comments. Chances are, I’ll glean bits of wisdom that stretch far past whatever blurb the author originally wrote. It widens my horizons and, sometimes, also lets me know I’m not alone in my thoughts.

Hopefully I wasn’t the last one to board this particular train. I would like to think this topic is a fresh and interesting for you as it was to me. All I can say is…any comments?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Agent POV Roundup

All right, maybe two posts isn't a roundup. Still, these are a couple of interesting posts from the literary agent's POV.

First is author and former agent Nathan Bransford's take on what standardization of terms means to the future of literary agents. It may not be good news, if their expertise is no longer needed to negotiate contracts. On the other hand, is standardization of terms any better news for writers? Read his post and give me your thoughts:

Nathan Bransford -- The Greatest Challenge Agents Will Face

The second post is from current agent Natalie M. Fischer. In it, she shares some pet peeves that land queries in her circular file. Check it out:

Adventures in Agentland -- It's QUERY Season!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

There Are No Rules - The Evolution of How I Use Twitter

As a writer who doesn't have Twitter as part of my platform, I found Jane Friedman's post on the subject interesting and thought provoking. How do you Tweet?

There Are No Rules - The Evolution of How I Use Twitter

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Writer’s Digest - Orson Scott Card Q&A

I was shocked and saddened to hear that Orson Scott Card recently had a stroke. I pray for a quick and full recovery for this outstanding science-fiction writer. Not only is Card a talented fiction writer, but he also offers the very best advice for writers in any genre. (That is, advice you can use!) If you're not already familiar with his work, check out this interview from Writer's Digest:

Writer’s Digest - Orson Scott Card Q&A

More Thoughts on Thoughtful Writing

While I haven’t received any negative reactions to my previous post on thoughtful writing, I did want to clarify a few things.

I got to thinking that some things I said may have come across as saying that some writers don’t deserved to be published, or even that “bad” writers get published. That’s not what I meant. No, as far as I’m concerned, the mere fact that a writer is published means he or she did something right. Certainly, anyone with a traditionally-published book under her belt is doing better than I.

Sure, there are different calibers of published writers, but it’s not so much a matter of good or bad as it is a matter of good, better and best. In my opinion, the best writers are the thoughtful ones, the writer’s who put time into thinking through their writing and then sitting down and crafting it to fit that thought. They are the writers who challenge and inspire us, who cause us to think new thoughts in new ways for the first time in our lives.

And that can be exhausting.

I don’t know about anyone else, but there are times I settle for less thoughtful writing that allows me to take a break from all the other work my brain has to do in a day. So, I might even go so far as to say that there is a place for less thoughtful writers. A couple of my favorite writers in the romance genre are in this category. Their books contain no great new thoughts, but I return to them again and again because they offer lighthearted entertainment in a writing style that I find appealing and easy to read. Also, while their work may not offer new insights into the human condition, they do offer characters and settings that begin to feel like a second home, a place where I am welcomed with a warm fire and a good tale no matter how long my absence or how short my stay. Yes, there’s a place for that in the world.

Nor am I claiming to be one of the “best” writers. I know I’m not the best. One of my great fears as a writer is that I’m not even good. That’s not reason to give up, though. That’s when the thoughtfulness kicks in, the drive to develop the craft and be better and better every day.

Maybe you and I will never be the “best” (or maybe we will!). If we thoughtfully strive for that goal, though, we may someday be the best possible version of ourselves. And I think that’s the best thing possible.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Thoughtful Writing

Over the past few days, I've been pondering what aspects go into truly brilliant, creative writing. Of course, there is no magic formula. Several aspects work together to make a great work of fiction. Good writers have some. Great writers have many or all. When I ponder what sets the foundation for an enjoyable and thought-provoking piece of fiction, though, I have one answer...thought.

It seems obvious, but I can't help thinking it's often overlooked. You can immediately tell the difference between a thoughtful author and one who didn't quite think things through. The latter makes you feel, vaguely, as if you might have read this book before. The former makes you say, “Wow! I wish I’d thought of that!”

I first stumbled onto the concept a couple of weeks ago when I read an old review of one of Orson Scott Card's books. The reviewer stated that Card was as always, "…above all, a thinker." What a supreme compliment. Better yet, a reading of one of Card’s works reveals the truth behind it. In my brutally honest moments, I know I’ve never thought deeply enough to come up with ideas like Ender’s Game or the Oversoul from Card’s Homecoming Saga.

That’s not to say you can’t overthink things. Every writer reaches a point at which he needs to gather those threads of thought and start putting them on paper. Otherwise, where is the use in all that thinking? It’s personally gratifying, perhaps, but not all that useful. On the other hand, it’s those stories that I’ve pondered deep and long before writing that shine more brilliantly than the rest.

Thinking. Pondering. Exploring the many aspects of the human condition and ruminating on news ways to present them. It’s a vital part of creativity.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Challenges for the Present and Future

Twenty-eleven scares me a little. All right...2011 scares me a lot.

In my last post, I shared my major goals for the coming year. They seem like quite a mouthful to me right now, especially considering I'm still trying to finish up obligations from 2010. Still, they should be doable, right?

As I face this year, though, I do so with extra challenges. Not only do I have to structure my days around a recalcitrant toddler, forging ahead as a writer mama, but now I must also face the additional work of being a pregnant writer mama.

You read that right. We have a bun in the oven! (Wow, I hate that cliche. Why did I use it?)

It's a joyous occasion, an event my husband and I have wanted for a while. It carries with it, though, a whole mess of new issues.

I know there are supposed to be hormones to make me forget what it was like to be pregnant and deliver a baby the first time...but I haven't. I remember every bit of physical and mental discomfort I can expect between now and August 15. So now I face my 2011 goals as I also hurdle:
  • Constant hunger
  • Occasional nausea
  • Incessant exhaustion
  • Numerous bathroom trips
  • Extra loads of laundry from missed bathroom trips, plus
  • Many more symptoms that I won't name right now (you're welcome)
I can do it. After all, I worked full time during Moira's entire pregnancy. Should be a snap. Or not.

One thing I know is that I will need help. I'll need support and I'll need grace and I'll need patience. I'll need those things from my family, my friends and from other writers.

Anyone else out there who has struggled not just with being a writing mother, but a pregnant writing mother? Feel free to share you challenges, your stories, your tips and advice. Please! I need all the help I can get.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year's Resolutions: 2011 Edition

Every year I insist on making plans. Not resolutions, exactly, but yearly goals. They rarely come to pass--or at least not completely--but I make them anyway. Without them, I feel adrift in a sea of possibilities and eddying currents that pull me this way and that.

Imagine my chagrin when I pulled out last year's goals and found them largely unfulfilled. My novel draft is uncompleted. I wrote a short story, but not the one on my goal sheet. I didn't exercise three times a week (ha ha ha ha...!), I came within two pounds of my goal weight but failed to reach it, and my toddler remains un-potty trained.

That doesn't keep me from making more goals for this year. I've tried to slim them down and make them realistic. And, as a form of accountability, I'll post some of them here. Here they are:

2011 Yearly Goals

Fiction Writing:

1. Detailed outline of A Place in Time
2. Rough draft of Journey Home
3. Write Onancock short story
4. Continue marketing unpublished works; send each out at least once

Nonfiction Writing:

1. Finish Draft of Lessons from the Shadowland: Cat
2. Detailed Outline of Lessons from the Shadowland: Toddler


1. Find markets for Adam Miller piece; submit 4 queries/articles
2. Write and market at least 12 small pieces: tips, fillers, list articles, how-tos

Picture Books:

1. Submit at least 4 queries for Feet on the Farm
2. Polish Scarf book
3. Finish Gelato Shop draft


1. How to Research Historical Novels
2. Finish First Draft in 30 Days

Of course, I have other goals relating to family, gelato, health and spiritual growth...but those are none of you business, right? Right.

Okay, I've shared mine. What are some of your goals for 2011?