Monday, August 19, 2013

Touring the Backlist: LUCY THE GIANT

I've been feeling nostalgic this week, thinking about the other books I've written.  Mostly, I've been wondering how the heck I did it.  Yes, I'm still up to my elbows in a rewrite and while I'm not entirely in the weeds, it feels like a long hike back to the clubhouse (A weird golf metaphor, I think.  I don't play golf, but I watch TV shows where they do.).  No matter how many books I've written, I suspect I will always reach a point where I think it's impossible/horrible/terrible/no good.  And then I remind myself, "You've done this before," and I try to remember how so I can do it again.
So, this week, I'm taking a look back at my very first novel, LUCY THE GIANT.  This one was a doozy because I had never written a story longer than 30 or so pages before.  I remember having the idea and feeling driven to complete it.  Then I drove right off a cliff, down the wrong road a few times, and final found my way to a satisfying "The End."
The hardcover dust jacket
I learned to persevere when writing LUCY.  I learned that despair is just a bend in the road before reaching hope.  That it was okay to not really know what I was doing, as long as I knew what I meant and stayed sincere about it.  Which meant not quitting.  And loving the characters.  And seeing, I mean really seeing the world they lived in-- taste it, touch it, smell it, feel it in my bones.
The paperback
That's something I forgot to do early on in this current manuscript-- really feel the world.  I had an idea of it, knew what it looked like and just threw it on the page.  I was more interested in getting it down than I was in breathing life into it.  It's a common problem with my earlier drafts.  I am too busy telling the story, rushing from A to Z, to really stop and smell the roses.  So I'm smelling the roses now (and dashing around in the new scenes... I promise I'll smell those roses later).  I spent a long afternoon in the study carrels Central Library with a stack of books on history, costumes, toymaking and the clockmaker's guild.  When in doubt, I say, do some more research.  The little details you stumble across give your story depth and a sense of veracity that is difficult to just "make up."

Wandering those shelves, sitting at the long tables with other silent readers, I remembered there is a whole world happening around my little story.  It's a fantasy, but it's historical, which means Napoleon and war and the Congress of Vienna and all sorts of things are happening at the same time as my guys are trying to figure out how to open a nut.  Which immediately sounds like a writing prompt to me.  And it was.  I came home, and I wrote.  And I'm still writing.

And I learned that from LUCY THE GIANT. 

Sadly, Miss Lucy is out of print for the time being.  You can probably find her living in the warm dusty arms of a used bookstore somewhere.  It's a fun, sad, moving little book about a man-sized girl finding her way in the rough world of Alaskan crabbing.  There's a pretty good feast written into that story, and a version of a dress I used to own (or maybe just wished I did).  And there's crab.  I love crab.  And Alaska, which I also love.  LUCY is a thank you letter to the Last Frontier State because, while I always knew I wanted to be a writer, it was a trip to Alaska that made me one.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Teen Drama Queen

Yesterday, I lead a writing circle with the theme "Teen Drama Queen" for a local Hedgebrook fundraiser.  (Hedgebrook, you might recall, is the Shangri-la of writing retreats for women in Washington State.  Applications are open now, check it out!)

Seriously, this is part of Mount St. Mary's Doheny Campus.
Classes were taught in and around a Victorian mansion on the Doheny Campus of Mount St. Mary's.  So beautiful!

My particular workshop was designed to help adults get in touch with their inner teen in order to write YA.  One of the most popular prompts was about high school crushes.  Here it is-- give it a go!  If you are still in high school, think back to elementary school and have at it:


List three to five people you had crushes on

  • Choose one
  • Write a moment when you acted on (or reacted to) the crush from your point of view
  • Write the same scene from their point of view
  • Write it from the point of view of an distant observer
  • Write what you WISH had happened
Have fun!