Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Thanks to Fransicso X. Stork

Today for Thankful Thursday, I'm going to refer you to a beautiful essay by Francisco X. Stork, author of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD and THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS. He talks about the gift that is writing, and I love what he has to say about it.

Francisco is a guest on Matthew Quick's and Alicia Bessette's Quest for Kindness blog. There are many wonderful entries, if you ever need a pick-me-up, it's a great blog to read.

I wanted to quote a sentence or two from Francisco's essay, to whet your appetite, but there is so much wonderful goodness there, you just need to hop over and read it.

I promise, you'll be glad you did. Click on the link below:

The force behind all good writing by Francisco X. Stork

Monday, October 25, 2010

Motivational Monday - This day

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.  Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.  Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return." ~ Mary Jean Iron

A 45-year-old mother of four has been on my mind lately. She's a good friend of my hair stylist. A talented artist. A strong, fit, healthy person. A very kind person - the kind who is always doing something for other people.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend found her on the floor of her kitchen. She was slumped over and couldn't move. She had suffered a stroke. She's still in the hospital, her entire right side paralyzed and she can't speak. Because she is strong and fit, her physical therapy will be aggressive. Sometimes abilities come back after a stroke. I very much hope this is the case with her.

A week or so after being in the hospital, she asked her family to bring her some art supplies. She is right-handed, and yet, that didn't stop her. It's what she missed. What she longed to do with the days stretching out before her with nothing to do but think and worry.

She didn't ask for a computer with an internet connection.
She didn't ask for DVDs to watch.
She didn't even ask for books to read.

She wanted to draw, to paint, to create.

Today is a blank canvas. I wonder, what will I create? And you?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Motivational Monday - Time to get to work!

"I believe one thing holds it all together. Everything I've ever done was with excitement, because I wanted to do it, because I loved doing it." ~ Ray Bradbury "How to Keep and Feed a Muse"

Busy week ahead! I'm excited about my WIP and have a big word count goal this week.

I also want to soak up some of this beautiful fall weather we're having.

Plus, my husband's birthday is tomorrow, and I have two Skype visits later in the week.

So as I get to work and say good-bye for now, I leave you with one more Ray Bradbury quote (these quotes are from his book ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING, filled with his essays on writing).

"So again the three signs. Put them together any way you wish. WORK RELAXATION DON'T THINK Once separated out. Now, all three together in a process. For if one works, one finally relaxes and stops thinking. True creation occurs then and only then...At last the surge, the agreeable blending of work, not thinking, and relaxing will be like the blood in one's body, flowing because it has to flow, moving because it must move, from the heart."

See you next week!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Friday Five

1. I'm reading and signing tomorrow, 10 AM at the Beaverton Barnes and Noble (Tanasbourne store). Would love to see you! And so would this little guy!! It's not too early to shop for the holidays. :)

2. I had a $5.00 reward certificate at Best Buy, so I went searching for Josh Radin's new CD. It was only $7.99, so wow, I got it for 3 bucks! I really like it.

3. My post this morning over at the Author2Author blog is about characters. Rachel Harris commented that she loves the book THE PLOT THICKENS by Noah Lukeman. Have any of you read it? I just put it on hold at the library.

4. My son is taking the PSAT tomorrow morning. I think I'm more nervous than he is. He's like this about it - all calm, cool and collected. 

5. This morning, I'm writing. Want to make some serious progress on the WIP. My working title is CHERISH. Remember this song?

Have a good weekend!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thankful Thursday

all Chilean miners are free - yay!!
a *gorgeous* autumn day yesterday
the ability to spend most of a sunny day outside because, for now, I can
tea and cookies
people who say thank you
good books
sweet boys
nice husband
happy pets
Joshua Radin - my new musical discovery and obsession
wonderful books on the Children's NBA finalist list, including Kathy Erskine's MOCKINGBIRD
Portuguese rights sold to I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME
and spaghetti
always spaghetti!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why writing is like working out

Back in June, I was feeling the effects of a very rainy spring. Yes, I live in Oregon and it rains a lot here. But spring is usually a mixture of sunny and rainy days. Not last spring. It was one rainy day after another, ad nauseum.

All that rain meant I didn't get out for my usual dog walks as often. My husband would offer to take her, and I was happy to let him, since I was busy writing. From January to June, I pretty much wrote non-stop, finishing two middle grade novels and one YA (please don't hate me - they're short. Really.)

When the sun finally decided to show up, I went to put on my shorts, and you can guess what happened with all that butt-in-chair time combined with cutting back on my physical activity.

So, I did something drastic. I recalled that the best shape I'd ever been in was when I was doing body sculpt classes at the gym years ago. But, I didn't want to pay for a gym membership. So, I went to e-bay and found P90X with Tony Horton, that I'd seen advertised on TV. It arrived and when we got back from our Disney vacation, I started in.

There are 12 DVDs and each workout is at least an hour long, some an hour and a half. A schedule for the 90 days comes with the DVDs so you don't have to think about what you're supposed to do - the schedule tells you. Each week is a combination of weights, aerobics, and one day of yoga.

It took me a while to get into the groove. I had to play around with what time of day worked best for me. I write best in the mornings, so those were out. Early afternoon, I'm tired. Late afternoon is when I want to sit around and snack, because I get hungry. THAT is when I figured out I needed to be exercising. So, every day, around 3:00 or 4:00, I put in my DVD and press play.

It is hard. The workouts are challenging, especially for women, I think. And I wasn't perfect. Some days, I'd have a lot going on and would only do 30 minutes. Or it was really nice outside and I'd skip a DVD and go for a run instead. 

But I kept showing up. And as Tony likes to say often - do your best and forget the rest. That's what I did, over and over again. I literally took it one day at a time. If I got discouraged one day, the following day was a clean slate. It didn't matter what happened the day before, it was a chance to start over again. I also tried really hard not to compare myself to the people doing the workout in the video. They aren't me. I set my own goals each set in terms of reps, and focused on that, not what they were doing.

All of that applies to writing, I think. It's about showing up. It's about doing your best, even if one day your best is 100 words because there are too many other things going on or your tired or you can't figure out that plotting problem. It's about setting your own goals and remembering that you are different from everyone else. It's about not comparing yourself to other people because it will probably discourage you more than it will encourage you. And it is hard to write, or work out, or pretty much do anything if you are in a constant state of discouragement.

Last week, I'm happy to say I finished the 90-day "lean" program! There were a few times during the 90 days I thought about quitting. But I didn't. I wanted to see it through to the end. What do you know - JUST like writing a book!

Have I seen results? Just like writing, showing up is 3/4 of the battle. So yeah, show up, and you WILL see results. My clothes fit better. I lost some inches and a few pounds. Nothing really drastic. But that's okay. I feel better, and that's the most important thing to me.

This week, I've begun the classic program. 90 more days of hard work, stretching myself, and doing my best.

I'm working on a new book, too. 2-3 months of hard work, stretching myself, and doing my best.

See? It's pretty much the same, isn't it?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Motivational Monday - On finding the way

"That's the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they've been all along. ~Madeleine L'Engle"

This weekend I went to Wordstock, a literary festival in Portland, and listened to a few YA authors talk about writing and their books. One thing that always fascinates me is how hungry people are for information as to how to get a book written. And it seems to me, now that I've been in the audience a number of times, listening to authors talk and answer questions, that we ask authors to talk about their writing process again and again, as if there is some secret key that will unlock the mystery for us.

I think writers new to the experience of writing a novel believe somewhere in the back of their mind that there must be a right way and a wrong way. And more than wanting to do it the right way, they are very afraid of doing it the wrong way.

Yesterday, Becca Fitzpatrick, author of HUSH, HUSH said she uses note cards and writes scene after scene on them, and shuffles them around, trying to find the right order, then begins writing, only to eventually throw them all away and start again with new note cards containing new scenes. She said she may do this three or four times while she's writing a book.

L.K. Madigan, author of FLASH BURNOUT and THE MERMAID'S MIRROR, defined her process as plunge, persist, and polish. That is, plunge into the story, persist through the murky middle when it gets hard, and use revision (lots of revision, she said) to polish the manuscript when it's done.

For me, every book is different. Some books beg to be discovered as I go along (My first novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME was very much a discovery novel). Other books want me to have a good plan in place so I can write quickly and efficiently (with SPRINKLES AND SECRETS, I had a brief summary of what each chapter would be about before I started writing). Some books, like my current WIP, are a combination of discovery and planning.

And it's perfectly okay to begin one way and decide a different way would serve the story better.

So, here is the big news - there is no right or wrong. There is only different. And like everything else in life, it's up to you to figure out what will work best for you.

I know we often long for someone to shine the light and show us the way.  Especially when we're in that murky middle. My advice? Trust in yourself. Listen to your characters. Have faith. And as Lisa said, persist. I often tell myself when it gets really hard, there is no way out but through.

This week, you may want to try note cards. You may want to try a chapter-by-chapter summary. You may want to write and discover your story as you go along.

But whatever way you choose - persist!

Happy writing! 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yay - A new book!!

Here is the Publishers Marketplace announcement:

Lisa Schroeder's SPRINKLES AND SECRETS, a companion novel to IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES, about a 12-year-old who is excited to have the opportunity to audition for a TV commercial, until she learns the company is Beatrice's Brownies, the biggest competitor to her best friend's family's cupcake shop.

The book picks up right where the other one left off and is narrated by Sophie, Isabel's best friend!

It will be published by Aladdin in Fall, 2011. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Portland Authors Rock

It has been a great 30 days or so for Portlanders! I mean, check out my haul!!

I'm proud to say all of my copies are signed by the authors! At one of the book signings, I said, when I'm an old lady and books are hard to find, I can sit in my rocking chair, flip through the pages, and remember the good old days.

Starting in the left corner and going clockwise:

THE CANDIDATES (Delcroix Academy, Book 1) by Inara Scott

WILDWING by Emily Whitman


GIRL, STOLEN by April Henry

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do!!  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Motivational Monday - following the story

"...gut-level reactions--following the story where the story wants to go instead of where you intellectually think it ought to go in order to get where you think you need to be--that's where the cool stuff is! If you shut that out, you can miss great opportunities in your story." - Melissa Wyatt, author of FUNNY HOW THINGS CHANGE

I really loved Melissa's post yesterday where she talked about going with your gut when you're writing. She talked about writing one scene where she didn't allow herself to do that, and the writing felt like she was simply "moving dolls around in a doll house." Isn't that *exactly* what it's like when we're struggling to make things happen? Sometimes, we have to do it and come back later and fix it, because there's no other solution. But it's SO much better if we can let ourselves move into that space where we are more inside the story than outside of it - living inside the doll house with the dolls, instead of trying to control them from the outside.

When I was writing my upcoming YA novel, THE DAY BEFORE, there was this huge moment that happened toward the end that I hadn't seen coming. It had been a long writing day. A GOOD writing day. One of those glorious, words-are-flowing and things-are-happening kinds of days that you never want to end. And then, from literally out of nowhere, comes one of those magical moments that we live and write for.

I'm typing along and lo-and-behold, this "thing" that up 'til now had just been a fun little thing between the characters became this BIG thing. My main character had this ah-ha moment and it was so real and honest because it was an ah-ha moment for me too!! I couldn't have planned it better if I'd tried. It was a shiver-invoking moment, and one where I literally stopped and whispered, "thank you."

When my editor sent me the marked-up manuscript, at that special spot, she wrote, "Yes! YES! Love how you take us through all this to get to this point. Yes!"

I almost felt like a fraud. Um, wait, I didn't do it! Did I?

Last Friday, Cheryl Renee Herbsman wrote a post in which she shared five reasons why she writes. Number 5 is my favorite. She wrote, "Because the little magical connections that happen all on their own remind me that I am not alone."

So true.

It is hard to not think too hard as we write. To not worry about where we're going, how we're going to get there, if the path we're taking is the right one or not. With every book, every single book, I have these worries. I start out with a general sense of where I'm going, but most of it, I'm on a journey of exploration. And at first I fight it! Everything inside of me says, this is wrong, you don't know what you're doing, this isn't going to be any good, you need to spend more time thinking about this book, blah blah blah.

AND, with each book, there comes a a day, a time, a moment where I get really tired of the doubt and uncertainty and my constant questioning of everything, and I basically say - "Okay. I'm surrendering now. I'm ready to give up trying to know and understand it all right now, and just let it happen."

That's when I set the doll down, look around, and step INSIDE the doll house. OMG, it's so much more FUN in there, you guys!!

Last week, I struggled along on my WIP, trying to move the dolls around. This week, I think I'm ready to set them down and see what happens. What about you? Want to join me!?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Video Sunday

I cannot hear this song without tearing up.

There is something so moving about it. It takes me back to the people and places who helped build me.

And then, amongst all those memories, my heart aches because I miss them.

Desperately miss them.