Monday, June 24, 2013

A word about letters

Occasionally, I am lucky enough to get mail from my readers.  Sometimes it's email, sometimes it's good old-fashioned snail mail.  I know it takes a special effort to pick up a pen (or open a word file) to write to an author, and these letters mean a lot.

However, if you've ever written me via snail mail you probably did not get a response.  I do apologize for this.  Snail mail goes through my publishers' mailrooms, cavernous places that I assume look like this:

Suffice it to say, I don't always get the mail, and rarely in a timely manner.  In 2011, an entire eighth grade class wrote to me as part of a class assignment.  They will be graduating high school soon.  I just got their letters. 

That said, please don't be discouraged!  If you want to write to me please contact me through my website email address.  I will do my best to respond.  I might not always succeed, but I do try.  Hearing directly from my readers is one of the most amazing things about being a writer. 

So, to all you letter writers, thank you for your patience and understanding.  And congratulations, class of 2014!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Writing Craft: Finding Your Way aka Novel Death Match!

If you've ever taken a writing class with me, you know that I am an outline writer.  When I come up with a story idea, the first thing I do is write an outline.  I like to think of it as a road map to get me from "once upon a time" to "happily ever after" with a minimum of confusion.

But, oy, is there confusion.  Have you ever been on a road trip or headed to a new place and gotten turned around?  I remember driving through the wilds of Central Florida with a map that had only northeast streets when we wanted southwest.  And the time my husband and I stood in front of the same address number on streets with the same name shouting in to our cellphones and crane our necks looking for each other.  Turns out, he was in the wrong town!  A mile away there was some sort of mirror universe he'd gotten sucked into.  It took a lot of asking strangers what was going on to figure that one out.

Writing can be a lot like that.  After all, before its been written, a book is nothing but possibilities.  Sometimes you are headed down the road, following your map and it's looking pretty good.  Until the trees look funny or there's a gas station where there shouldn't be and you realize there's this other place that looks just as good as the road you were on,.  And maybe it has better shops or an awesome view that you just couldn't see from your originally plotted course.

To switch metaphors, when I was a kid, I took my Lewis Carroll seriously and believed there was a different world in the mirror.  I would crane my neck and try to peer around corners to see if my mirror double also had a pink bathroom with a poodle on the pink toilet seat (yes, some insight into my life as a child of the 70s).  Science fiction writers and horror movies have had a field day with "the things inside the mirror!"  As it turns out, every writer sticks their head through the silvered glass and wonders, "should I be on this side, or that one?"

Now, I should give you sage advice on what to do when confronted with a mirror image of your story that is so much better dressed and clever than the one you started working on.  But I don't have any sage advice for such a Sophie's Choice.  What I do have is "put them on a small planet and have them fight to the death" advice.  Read both versions.  Let them duke it out for supremacy.  Which one excited you the most?  Which has the fewest problems (or at least the most fixable ones)?  Which version will get you to your deadline on time (not an artistic choice, but a realistic one-- you will still work your fingers off to make it the best version of that version as possible before turning it in)?

And so, today I am having a Novel Death Match.  I will read two versions of the first act of my current work-in-progress and see where the chips fall.  The best, if somewhat ghoulish, part about a novel death match is I can go Frankenstein on the remains.  If Version A wins with it's basilisk glare and dragon fire (ie. pacing and emotional throughline), except it could use the massive wingspan and talons of Version B (ie. scope and action), I can sew them together seamlessly and make Version C-- the mega novel!  A towering behemoth of rich literary awesomeness that staggers the mind.

Or, at least, that's the goal. 

So, um...what's your Tuesday look like?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Imagine... Little Free Libraries

So, I'm obsessed with miniature things-- little houses, little fairy doors, tiny giraffes that are REAL and live in a tiny zoo like the one I asked Santa to bring me when I was just a bit too old to think it would really happen (I mean, tiny zoos, come on! Everybody'd have one.).  Which is why, when I first heard about Little Free Libraries I just about popped with joy.

Imagine... tiny libraries crammed with books just sitting in the front yard with the flamingos and bathtub madonnas and mailboxes, FULL of FREE BOOKS to borrow and love and share. 

From the Little Free Library Gallery

I've known about them for a long time, but I've never seen one in person.  And then today, a very clever friend of mine who knows what I like sent me a link to the Little Free Library MAP OF THE WORLD!  Yes, the World, people.  These things are cropping up like fairy circles all over the planet.  And they work the same magic: reach inside and be transported to new worlds.  Courtesy of people who love and respect books.

There are little libraries all across the United States.  There are two in my neighborhood!  They are in Japan, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Pakistan!  I feel a reading road trip coming on.  I'll pack the tea and eye drops. 

So, this summer, wherever you go, check the map.  Maybe you can join in on the fun.  Of course, if you really want to join in and put up a little library of your own, check out the website,

Okay, now back to writing...

Monday, June 3, 2013

El Segundo is Numero Uno

Okay, that's a really lame title.  But today brought me to Main Street and Mariposa in El Segundo, CA and it. Was. Fantastic.  What a beautiful library!  What a lovely strip of old timey beach town charm!   Hooray for the El Segundo Author Fair!

As usual, my tempermental cellphone took blurry photos, so I'm afraid you'll just have to trust me-- it's a lovely little town, only topped by the incredible library staff.  The fabulous Youth Services Librarian, Julie Todd, gifted me an amazing necklace-- it's a book necklace!  Double sided!  ORLEANS and FLYGIRL!  And it matched my outfit perfectly.  She's like a fairy godmother.

We had a fantastic panel on YA in the Adult world, with Jessica Brody, Carrie Arcos, Gretchen McNeil, Jennifer Bosworth and me.  I learned a lot chatting with those ladies.  We all come at our work from different directions but, in the end, hope and adventure are a common ground. 

The El Segundo Library puts on this author fair every June, so do yourself a favor and mark next year's calendar now.  BONUS HINT:  If you go to the neighboring high school (which is bea.ut.if.ul!) you get extra credit for author signatures.  Who wouldn't want that?

Now, back to our previously scheduled rewrite.  Wish me luck!