Sunday, October 31, 2010


How do you condense an incredible experience in one post?
I’m not sure, but I’ll give it a try.

My birthday present to myself was to buy Laurie Halse Anderson’s newly released historical fiction novel, Forge. It’s the second book in a trilogy for kids. My husband left work early so that my 14-year-old daughter and I could attend a presentation/book signing that Laurie was giving in Wellesley.

After overcoming various obstacles – slow traffic, trying to locate the bookstore while driving behind a large truck, driving past the bookstore and having to turn around at Wellesley College, my uptightness (though honestly, my poor daughter had to endure that more than me), arriving at the WRONG location, driving to the LIBRARY instead – we managed to make it with 10 minutes to spare (whew!).

Wellesley has a gorgeous library and the presentation was held in a beautiful, intimate room. When we arrived there were maybe 25 people present at the time and we sat in the front row – less than 10 ft. from the podium. As I waited I felt relief, excitement, and gratefulness all rolled up together. I enjoyed listening to 2 boys sitting behind me. “I’m here ‘cause my teacher said I’d get extra credit if I came.” The other boy replied, “My mother made me go.” I smiled to myself thinking, “They are in for a real treat.”

Although I felt like I might burst with excitement sitting there, fortunately I didn’t have to wait long before Laurie was introduced. She started with a brief bio: how school was a struggle for her, how she sat in the back row because she was tall and shy, how she made “picture movies” in her head as she lay in bed trying to get to sleep, how 9th grade was difficult and she was often depressed, how she never planned to go to college and why/where she did, how she never dreamed of being an author and why she did, and about her love for history and historical fiction. She spoke about her first historical fiction book, Chains (which I’m currently reading) and its sequel, the newly released, Forge, and how she researches using primary sources for her factual information.

Laurie was warm, funny, passionate about her love of history and bringing that to kids through her writing - a dynamic speaker. I sat there grinning - savoring this special time. Then came the Q&A. I held back because there were quite a few kids with questions, mostly related to Chains and Forge. Then my daughter nudged me and whispered, "Go ahead," and I timidly raised my hand.

Moment #1 that I’ll never forget:
With her full attention and eyes on me, I asked, “Are you currently working on a young adult contemporary novel?” She is. *big grin*

A couple of questions followed about her YA novels, Speak and Wintergirls, and then it was time for the signing. There were about 20 people in front of J and me. She brought her copy of Speak, I brought Forge. We were given a post-it to write our names on so Laurie would know the spelling ahead of time. Can I tell you how impressed I was with her? She took the time to speak to each child as she signed, asked if they had a question for her, and posed for pictures.

Moment #2 that I’ll never forget:
Then we approached the table; it was our turn. My daughter went first, asked a question about Speak, and then posed for a pic. Then she took my book and asked if I was a teacher. I swallowed and willed myself not to gush. I told her that I once taught but am now raising 4 kids of my own (she’s a mom of 4 too), and that now I’m writing for teens and hoping to be published some day. She asked if I belong to SCBWI. I confessed that I had thought of joining but how I decided to wait until I finished a first draft to see if I was committed to writing. “You don’t have to finish to join,” she told me and that New England has a wonderful chapter. She then turned to J and said, “Make sure she signs up this weekend!” and wrote the link on my post-it. Grinning (and by this time a deep shade of red), I stood beside her and J took our pic. And then, because I knew this was my last moment with her, the gushing started. It went something like, “I admire you so much and thought it was great how the writing community backed you during the Speak controversy, it was an honor to meet you, thank you!”

Moment #3
I'm not sure how I got to my car but I think I floated out of the library to the parking lot. When we got in the car, J and I read our dedications to each other. Sorry, I can't share it with you - it's powerful but very personal. And I tear up every time I read it.

Laurie is on tour right now for Forge. If you have the opportunity to hear her and meet her, I encourage you to do so.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Okay. Admit it.

Who's raided the Halloween candy yet?

Go ahead. Raise your hand. You're among friends.

We know you really didn't want to do it (or maybe you did!), but in a moment of weakness, you tiptoed over to the place where you hide it from your kids, rationalized it by picking the "least likely candy" that kids will like (but conveniently it happens to be your favorite), made a small tear in the bag so no one will notice, and took one, maybe two pieces out to satisfy that craving. Before you know it, you have to head to the store before Sunday for an extra bag. How do I know so much about this? Um, no reason.

What's this have to do with writing? Give me a minute; I'll think of a connection.

How about... We know you really didn't want to waste your precious writing time surfing the web, but during a plot snag, you rationalized it by clicking "just one or two" writer blogs to keep up with the current posts. Before you know it the dryer buzzes, the kids need help with homework, you need to start supper, (fill in the blank). How do I know so much about this? Eh, again, no reason. No sir-ee.

What "least likely candy" are you planning on stocking your Halloween bowl with this weekend? (i.e., what's your favorite?)

Monday, October 25, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Ready?

Are you ready? One week left until the madness begins!

Isn't it funny how a month ago, November was a clean slate? Soccer ends for the season the first Saturday in Nov. YES! Other than Thanksgiving, it seemed like a rather calm month. Except now, I have 2 separate family get togethers (one's a sleepover) apart from Thanksgiving. Okay. No problem. I'll either write like the wind earlier that day, or write extra on another. *sweating* Oh yeah, two FOUR night school events I have to attend (cutting into prime writing time) and then of course, Black Friday (gone from 5am until I drop - usually around 3ish). *panicking*

Now, it may sound as if I'm lining up excuses in case I don't reach 50k. And you'd be right about that. Just kidding. But it does go to show that you don't have to lead a life of leisure to participate in the NaNo. You just need a passion of writing, the willingness to challenge yourself, and snacks...lots and lots of snacks.

I'm still in the getting ready mode. I've started a rather lame outline which I'll be working on this week. Tomorrow, I'll hit the office supply store for way cool motivational tools (mechanical pencils, highlighters, post-its, notebook, neon post-its).

All this week Nathan Bransford is featuring NaNoWriMo posts to help prepare participants. His first post is here if you'd like to check it out. So let's hear it. If you're joining in the insanity fun, how are you getting yourself ready? If you're not, you'll be in a much better state of mind than me at the end of November. Oh, and how will you cheer us NaNoWriMo-ers on?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What Day Is It?

According to the arrow thingy on my computer (sorry, don't know the techie term for it) , the day/date is Thursday, October 21, 2010 (unless you live on the other side of the planet where it's already Friday). I have been off a day all week and apparently so have others I know. A woman I work with commented that she thought today was Friday. And one of my daughters thought yesterday was Thursday. Me too! Yesterday I kept thinking it was today and today I keep thinking it's tomorrow. Do you follow?

I think part of the reason is because I'm not going to work tomorrow (tiny "yippee"). I feel like I won the lottery or something. There will definitely be a little spring in my step. After an appointment in the morning, I plan to spend some time preparing for the NaNoWriMo. Maybe sneak off to the library and plan an outline. I also plan on starting my reread of Speak. Can anyone guess why I might be reading this book in particular? Hint: I mentioned it in a previous post.

So even though yesterday was NOT Thursday but Wednesday, and Friday is actually tomorrow instead of today, which is in fact Thursday *taking a breath* I'll watch one of my favorite shows tonight, "Big Bang Theory," knowing that I have a long weekend ahead of me.

Happy not Friday everyone!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Setbacks and Moving Forward

Friday was a lousy day, both personally and with writing. Often these go hand and hand with me. If I’m having a bad writing day it will affect my mood and if things in my personal life (work, family, health, etc/) are off it affects my writing. Anyway, after a hard day, I got home and decided to reread a book that I had enjoyed a year ago. I liked this book a lot the first time I read it because the author realistically portrays the angst, uncertainty, and changes that adolescents go through in middle school. That’s what the MC in my WIP experiences. As I read, I’d come to a scene that sounded familiar. A sleepover where there are fantastic snacks? That’s in my novel. Walking home alone because a parent forgot to pick her up? That’s in mine too. I read the whole book that day and as I read I’d come across scene after scene that sounded just like what I had written. I can’t tell you how deflated I became by the time I reached the end. (Btw – I still love the book and cried in exactly the same spot that I did a year ago).

Then I went on the computer to distract myself. I read an article about a book that was soon to be released – a YA ghost story with a similar main element that I had planned to develop. I thought, “Now what do I do? Throw both ideas out and start over? Do I even have an original idea in me?” The thought of all that hard work going “to waste” and the self doubt began to overcome me and brought on lots of tears.

The next day was better. They usually are after a good night’s sleep. My personal situation didn’t seem as bad as it did the day before. The writing? Well, I still wasn’t in a great frame of mind, but I didn’t want to give up writing altogether like I did the night before. By Sunday I was googling ghost stories to see if there was anything similar to my new idea on the market. As far as I can tell, there isn’t and so I think I’ll continue to brainstorm this month to prepare for the NaNoWriMo. By last night I actually felt good and said to myself (as I’ve done every time I experience a setback), “Well, maybe I’ll try again.” That’s what we do as writers if we really love to write, don’t we.

Literary agent, Sarah Davies, from The Greenhouse Literary Agency offers great advice on her blog. This morning before I left for work, I checked it out. I think she was thinking of me when she wrote it. Her post was exactly what I needed to read, especially #8 and #9.

So now I’m moving forward. Instead of dwelling on the similarities between my WIP and the other book, I’ve decided to list the differences and work on making mine unique. And my next idea? I plan to do more research, continue to check out the YA market, and plow ahead this November. Setbacks can be horribly frustrating, maddening, and depressing. But after venting to friends, a couple glasses of wine (or other comfort of choice), and a good night’s sleep, we have two choices: give up or move forward. I choose to move forward.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Power of a Good Story

(click for Reuters photo slideshow)
Is there anyone who hasn't been riveted by the story of the Chilean miners andtheir rescue? Early yesterday morning when I first heard that a few men had reached the surface, my eyes welled up, I smiled, and said a silent, "Thank you," to God.

When the story first broke, it became the topic of conversation among my family and friends. Can you imagine being trapped a half a mile underground? How will they survive? We talked, we hoped, we prayed that these men who were trapped would return safely to their loved ones. We watched video that showed us the faces behind the names and learned their personal stories; the sons, husbands, dads, and friends of so many. The whole world united with positive thoughts and/or prayers for these men and we fervently hoped that there would be a happy ending. And last night, as the last miner rose from the underground cavern (and how appropriate that the rescue capsule was called Phoenix) their happy ending was realized. We celebrated in their joy, because it was our joy too.

That's the power of a great story, whether it's real life or fiction. Think of the stories you love; the ones that are so powerful they linger in your thoughts for days. They touch something deep inside and draw forth powerful emotions from within. They are the stories we want to talk about, we have to talk about. Maybe it reawakens a memory or maybe the character's voice is so strong that we feel a connection through the author's powerful writing. These stories can be triumphant or devastating, compelling and/or thought-provoking. Sometimes they even have the power to change us forever.

Some of the stories that have touched me deeply are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I couldn't stop thinking about these novels for days. What stories have had a powerful impact on you?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Catch Up Day

Today in the States it's Columbus Day, a long weekend for some folks. The kids are off from school and I'm lucky enough to have the day off. I've been spending yesterday and today catching up with my neglected house; chasing away overgrown dust bunnies, changing sheets, cleaning the shower, switching the bureaus from summer to winter clothes.

I'd also like to give a long overdue thank you to Shellie from Chapter Writer for these blog awards.

I'm not sure what I've done to deserve these, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness. It's been great meeting new readers and writers over the last couple of months and I hope I'll be able to offer posts that are both fun and informative (but mostly fun) in the future.

So part of receiving these awards is to post 7 random things about myself.

1. I still have an original baby tooth - my top left incisor.
2. And going along with the tooth theme, I have a wicked sweet tooth. Naturally, I love chocolate, but I also love Sour Patch Kids, cake, pastry, pie, cookies. The bad stuff, I know. I'm trying to cut back but oh, do I love the s word.
3. I'm a firm believer that many problems can be solved over a cup of tea.
4. My home away from home is my library.
5. I lost three years of my life to Harry Potter (and made some fabulous friends in the process - you know who you are :)
6. I love rollercoasters!
7. My favorite color is midnight blue, straight from the Crayola crayon box.

And now to pass these lovelies along. - If you haven't visited Casey's blog, you don't know what you've been missing. She works incredibly hard to spotlight and interview literary agents in children's publishing. Not to mention she's a genuinely nice person. - I recently met Amy through KarenG's Labor Day weekend blogparty. I love her blog and find it helpful and inspirational. She has such a beautiful family! And isn't The Green Bathtub such a cool name?

Why not go on click above and visit Shellie, Casey, and Amy? I think you'll enjoy their blogs as much as I do.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tortoise or Hare?

When it comes to writing are you...
a tortoise or a hare?
a snail or a sailfish?
molasses or lightning?

I'm more of a snailish tortoise crawling through molasses.

I'm slow and always have been when it comes to writing. When I was in college my roommate and I were both English majors and were sometimes in the same class. If we had a paper due and were working in our dorm room together, we'd both sit down with our notebooks and start writing. My roommate would put her pencil to paper (this was before the days of laptops) and before I knew it she'd have a full page written while I agonized over the first paragraph trying to get it just right. She'd have hers written in one night and it would take me days. And yet we both received high grades for our work. We simply had different methods.

Even in my journal writing or when writing a letter to a friend (no email or social networking back then), I'd try to choose just the right words. Then I'd edit it and write it over. Imagine writing a rough draft for a journal entry? Yes, I can be a bit about my writing, no matter what it is.

Sometimes I wish I could write faster. I marvel at those authors who can whip out a first draft of 80k in three months or less. That's Speedy Gonzales fast! And so not me. But that's okay. I accept that about myself. I'm never...well, I don't think I'll ever...write a novel in a month (hello? why did I sign up for another nanowrimo). Could I be more disciplined? Sure. But I'll still sit and ruminate over an idea, a scene, the right word choice. I'll still write a chapter longhand, let it sit overnight, then type it in Word while I edit along the way. It works for me.

So what's your method? Do you write fast or slow?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Something Special

I'm tired. I'm cranky.
But instead of subjecting you to a whiny post about my week, I'm going to tease you a bit.
Something has been getting me through the past week. I mean besides caffeine. Something that I'm looking forward to and very excited about. I'm not a superstitious person, but I'm keeping this a secret for a wee bit longer because I'm afraid I might jinx myself. That if I tell anyone too soon, it might not happen.

This something is happening at the end of the month. It's not Halloween and it's not my birthday, but it's right before both.
Want a hint?
I'm planning on meeting one of my author heroes at the end of October at a book signing. More hints to follow.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

It's that time again! Time to prep for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.
Just curious...when you're telling someone you're participating in NaNoWri Mo using vocal words, as opposed to typing to your bloggy friends, do you you pronounce the Wri with a long i, like write (which would make sense, right?) or like me with a long e, like reeeemo? I feel like I'm always saying it wrong but feel weird calling it riiiimo - but I digress, like usual.

So, this is my second official time. I signed up in 2008 under a different user name and started my second novel, Wilhelmina's Wishes. I reached the halfway point - about 25,000 words - the most words I had ever written during that time span. Last year I did an unofficial nano because I knew I wouldn't come close. I used the month to motivate myself while working on another project.

This year I have a new, shiny idea for a novel that I'm excited to get started on. To avoid long periods of staring blankly at my computer, I like to prep before November 1. I've already decided on my MC's first name and have a general idea in which direction I'd like the story to go. Tomorrow I hope to take my notes from the brainstorming session and form a rough outline. If I think there may be some early research, I'll set up some links to refer to and/or take out library books for motivation.

Anyone else participating? Do you want a friend (am I pathetic or what)? Feel free to friend me once you sign up. I'm Suzie F. over there as well.