Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When writing is hard, do it anyway

I like to show this photo at my school visits.

Because kids don't always think of all of the hard work that goes into the writing of the book. They see the finished product and go - wow, cool! That looks like fun!! You can hold a beautiful, finished book and do jazz hands at the same time, yay!

But those books didn't just magically appear out of nowhere. I mean, kind of, because they suddenly land on my front porch in a box from my publisher when all I sent them was a manuscript. But you know what I mean. Writing is often like any other kind of work. Sure, some days I'm excited to get to it and see what my characters want to tell me, but just as often, I don't feel like doing it. I might be worried I have no plot or the one I do have is completely unbelievable. I may worry that my characters are too one-dimensional. Is my dialogue realistic? Is the pacing too slow or too fast? I could go on and on here, but I'll stop because our job is to quiet the doubt and writing regardless. Trying to get everything right is really, really hard. And during a first draft, pretty much impossible. And many days, simply getting any words down at all is not easy.

But I've said it before and I'll say it again - in the end, it comes down to perseverance. Day after day I make myself hit my word count goal whether I feel like it or not because that is how the book gets written.

Here are some things that help, if you're struggling lately.

Before your writing begins for the day, write out what you plan to write. When you know WHAT to write, the actual writing will be a lot easier
Download the self-control app and block yourself from social media sites that you know to be your biggest distractions.
Try listening to soft, soothing music.
Have a cue that says - it's now time to write. It might be sitting down with your favorite hot beverage. It might be turning on that soft, soothing music. It might be yelling into the universe, "I'm going to write 1,000 words now and nothing is going to stop me!"
Set a time and write for 30 minutes and then reward yourself for the work, with a sticker or a quarter in a jar, or something. Anything!

Sometimes I don't feel like going to the gym, but I know I will be glad once I've gone. The same is true of writing. As the word count inches upward, so does my pride. I'm doing it, I'll think to myself. I'm writing this book.

The key is to write and write and write, on the good days and the not-so-good days, until the very end. And then, of course, you get to start over and revise all of those beautiful words. But we'll worry about that another day.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Another Successful World Read Aloud Day

I should go back and count and figure out how many years I've been volunteering to Skype with classes on World Read Aloud Day. At least five years, probably more than that.

Today was another wonderful morning talking to students all across America. One girl asked me who my favorite character is out of all my books. I told her it's really hard to choose because my characters become kind of like my children - I love them all! But, I said, Nora in My Secret Guide to Paris is a lot like me because she really wants to go to Paris and you know, I've never been there. When I wrote the book, I did a lot of research and used Google Earth to explore the city. But guess what - in May my dream is finally going to come true because I'm going to Paris!

When I told them that, the kids spontaneously cheered for me, and it was just the happiest thing I've seen in a while. I wish I could take them all with me. But since I can't, the good news is they can read the book and visit Paris that way, just like I did when I was writing it.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A poem for this Sunday

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Emma Lazarus, November 2, 1883

photo credit:

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Girl Who Drank the Moon and more "Girl" titled books

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill won the Newbery today! It's a beautiful book.

by Kelly Barnhill - middle grade fantasy

Here are a few other books from 2016 with "Girl" in the title off the top of my head.

By Karen Rivers - middle-grade magical realism

by Monica Hesse - young adult historical fiction

by Lisa Schroeder - middle grade fantasy
coming in paperback March 27, 2017

Friday, January 13, 2017

Poetry Friday

Small Things Help Too

Today I fed the birds.
Sometimes the world can feel
like one horrible ball of pain.
If you're like me, you ask yourself,
what can I do?
What can I possibly do?
Some days we find big things to do.
Serve the needy.
Feed the hungry.
Give to a good cause.
As I watched the birds scamper
around the yard, eating the seeds,
my heart rate slowed,
my brain calmed
and for a moment, 
the world 
felt peaceful.
It wasn't a big thing.
Not even close.
But the change 
in my world
There's always
something we can do,
isn't there?
Today I fed the birds.
And today the birds fed me.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Is writing hard?

I'm sitting here by the fire watching the snow fall while reading a book I received for Christmas called IF YOU WANT TO WRITE: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Euland.

The description for the book online starts out like this: "For most, the hardest part of writing is overcoming the mountain self-denial that weighs upon the spirit, always threatening to extinguish those first small embers of ambition."

On Thursday, I actually had someone ask me, "Is it hard?"
"What?" I replied, wanting to make sure I understood exactly what she was asking.
"Writing a book. Is it hard?"

It's a complicated one, that question.

Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.
Sometimes the words flow, sometimes they don't.
Sometimes characters talk and talk and talk, sometimes they don't.
Sometimes your inner critic stays nice and quiet and sometimes she YELLS IN YOUR EAR.
Sometimes it doesn't matter that there is laundry to do and floors to mop while other times it is impossible to write a single word unless the house is spotless.
Sometimes social media isn't a distraction while most days it is impossible to stay off of it for longer than ten minutes.
Sometimes it is as joyful as walking through a field of tulips and sometimes it is as painful as going to the dentist to have a cavity filled.

So why do we do it if sometimes it is hard, or even painful? If sometimes the business side of publishing hurts so, so badly?

In IF YOU WANT TO WRITE, she speaks about a letter van Gogh wrote about the creative impulse.

"But the moment I read van Gogh's letter I knew what the creative impulse was. It is a feeling of love and enthusiasm for something, and in a direct, simple, passionate and true way you try to show this beauty to others..."

Whenever I talk to kids in Skype visits or in-person school visits, I often get the question - why do you write? The desire to write comes from a place of love and enthusiasm, just as this author says. A love of stories. A love of books. A love of words. And a desire to share that love with the world.

Yes, sometimes writing is hard. But as the coach says in that wonderful film "A League of Their Own," that's what makes it great.