Saturday, May 29, 2010

Virus and Thinking

Hi, folks. I spent most of this week in bed with a fever and an incessant cough. A week like this can be discouraging. It's a setback. All the goals have to be pushed back at least a week. In a normal week, there is hardly ever any time to get anything done, and I spent most of this week, huddling under the covers and struggling to be patient for my body to heal.

The good news is that I've had time to think. And thinking has led me to consider what I am trying to say. What I love about novels is when they reveal something about the human condition that I was either unaware of, or I was aware but never had the right words to express my feelings about. A good novel brings me to understanding -- what it means to be human, what it means to be me. It is some deep alchemy that wrests this from my heart and soul.

So, in a way, writers are modern day alchemists. We stir together the elements of life, in hopes that we will find the gold of meaning. We mix together circumstances and personality in search of the elixir of longevity -- perhaps our words will cure some of disease of heart and soul, or, at least, alleviate it with our words. In the end, we spin out the wisdom of the ages, the ancient paths, so true and noble. Great story telling is grand adventure, it's self discovery, it's excitement, but it's ancient, a cord that ropes together the generations.

Let's dig deep and shake the foundations, folks. Will we find the foundations solid? Will we find stuff built on sand? Whatever, let's find out. Good luck.

Today's doodle is "Tree".

This week's quote:

The Road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say. J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Writing lessons from moving in and Thank You!

Hi, folks, today all the lessons come from moving from a bigger house to a smaller house. You may ask how is that going to connect to writing, but it will for some, especially if you write big fat drafts that need to be pared down. A 500,000 word novel probably isn't going to sell, folks. I remember an editor telling me about a manuscript she had recently read. She mentioned that there was a good novel there but about half of what she was reading needed to be trimmed away. Who wants to to be person with a great novel, except it's 2x too long? So today is about trimming. What do you get rid of? What do you keep?

1. Duplicates. This is an easy task to accomplish. How many times does your character really need to get out of bed in your novel? Take a shower? Make out with some cutie? Cut unneccessary duplication.

2. Useless. Yes, that knick-knack frog from that casino in Las Vegas seemed like an important purchase at the time, but really? You have to cut out the stuff that doesn't move your story forward. It's just there because you are a writer and you can write that. My advice, let it go.

3. Remainders. Your parents have had a secret mission to fill your house with stuff they don't want and you are a mild hoarder. Yikes, a 10x10 storage shed couldn't hold all this stuff. Get rid of it! Goodwill! Now! Think about this. Some stuff made sense a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But your current draft is in the here and now, and you need to ditch that stuff. Are you feeling better?

4. Perfectly good stuff but there is no room. This is one of the hardest lessons of all. You have to get rid of perfectly good scenes. This stuff needs to find a good home and not your book. Save it for another book. Yes, that character who is intruding on your story may deserve his or her own book. That side trip to the African wilds is beautiful, heartfelt, deep, but needs to be in another book. Put that stuff somewhere safe where it will get all the love and attention it deserves.


5. Keepers. Your grandmother's rocking chair. Yes, it's sentimental but irreplaceable. It's full of history and rife with meaning. Keep the stuff that is deep as the ocean and wide as the sea. Keep it.

I hope you are able to do some of the hard work of writing this week. I hope that you open yourself up to the freedom of downsizing. Seize the day.

No doodles again, but this is a big thank you to all my Seattle area writing/art folk. Shortly before I moved, they threw this great going away party for me at the Secret Garden Books in Seattle, and I'm finally in a place I can look at the pictures without too many stray tears. Special thanks to Allyson Valentine Schrier for getting this all together. Here is the group photo: these folks are a solid representation of all the people in all my close community of writers and artists.

Front row: Eileen Anderson, Lois Brandt, Molly Blaisdell, Louise Spiegler. Middle row: Susan Greenway, Katherine Grace Bond, Heidi Pettit, Peggy King Anderson, Jill Trepp Sahlstrom, Judy Bodmar, Conrad Wesselhoeft, Holly Cupala and Stasia Kehoe. Not pictured: Allyson Valentine Schrier, Father Andrew Bond and Kevan Atteberry. I hope you aren't blinded by the light of all this talent surronding me. :)

There in heart: Cathy Benson, Janet Lee Carey, Vijaya Bodach, and Dawn Knight.

I have two quotes this week because I've just gone crazy with the length of this post.

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.-- Raymond Lindquist

Friday, May 14, 2010

Writing lessons from the road

Hi, folks, I'm in College Station, Texas. Whew, that was some trip. We drove from Woodinville, Washington to here. 2500 miles -- that's a looooonnnng way.

1. Pace yourself. Don't try an be a successful published author in one day. Work a little each day and you will find yourself at your destination, eventually.

2. Pick yourself up when you make mistakes and get back on the road. You're never going to get there if you are not trying.

3. Don't eat fast food every day. Yes, there are quick ways (low paying and offer little respect to your work) into publishing and this is OK for every once in a while, but dedicate yourself to the ages.

4. Enjoy the scenery on the journey. Enjoy the creating of your works. Enjoy the friends you make on the way. Enjoy all that you do.

5. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You will run into road blocks on this writing journey. Have friends to phone. Get writer GPS (I call it the KidLitosphere). AAA is wonderful, I spell that SCBWI.

I hope you reach your destination. See ya next week. Keep seizing the day!

No doodle, here is a photograph: "The Open Road". Yeah, my window is really cracked.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime. Mark Twain

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Beautiful Dreams

I'm traveling across country right now to my new home in College Station, Texas. I keep waking up with beautiful dreams. In one dream, my screenplay sold. In another dream, I got a book contract. I'm trying to be very open to the positive that could be. I'm not sure why this trip is turning up such wonderful thoughts in me. My writing is really at the corners of my life. It's mostly about driving, feeding the cat, hanging with kids, and knitting hats currently.

Be open. That's my advice to you. Open your soul for good things. Believe that you, in your time, will find the pathways of good purpose. I yearn for my voice to heard, for my stories to shared, for those stories to run off to the edges of the world and do more than I could even imagine. I'm open. I'm ready. I'm expecting my dreams to take flight.

One big SHOUT OUT for my friend Stasia Kehoe! She got an agent and sold a book in about a week. Check out her blog, WRITER ON THE SIDE for the inside scoop. (Uh, Stasia, you need to put the inside scoop there or a link or something.)

No doodle this week, but instead I will share this very weird thing that I saw in a grocery store in Wyoming. Yes, that is a three pound can of HONEY POWDER. This will really come in handy for anyone who was stocking up for the end of the world.

My quote for the week because this little phrase keeps coming to me from all sides:
Never, never, never, never give up. Winston Churchill

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Favorite Things

I'm a rolling stone this month. I'm moving on to Texas. My books are all packed up, so we will have to get back to my stacks of books another time. Oh, my gosh, I have way too many things to box!

I thought I would throw out some memorable stuff that has flitted around the edges of my mind for decades.

From art: Andy Warhol. He surprised me BIG TIME. The photos of his work never interested me. I thought, Campbell soup cans? Weird and not for me. Then I went to the MOMA in New York. I came around a corner and saw that massive wall of Campbell soup cans. This is a big piece of art. It was like being physically struck with some sort of lighting bolt. I laughed out loud and felt like crying at the same time. This sense of a world that doesn't see the beauty in the mundane and a world that at the same time is a bit ridiculous and out of control, nearly knocked me over; that all happened in a second. I loved that surprise.

From music: Oh, Brendan James, my life is so much better because you are writing songs. I love ALL I CAN SEE. How could I face my life without this kind of stuff? The revolution of the Earth around the sun is teaching me too; let me learn the lessons all around me.

From the final frontier: I love the astronauts. They are just the most awesome ones. I've met a few space travelers (though technically we are all traveling through space), and the thing that sets these modern day explorers apart is they always seem to be Renaissance people with interests in multiple disciplines whose curosity leads to some wild risks. I'm so glad that we have a contingent on our planet who wants to see what is out there, who wants to boldly go, who is willing to risk life and limb to achieve their goals.

So this week, ask yourself what surprises you. Listen to some inspiring tunes. And boldly go. Yes. Go!

Doodle of the week: "Astronaut."

I don't know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets. John Glenn