Saturday, August 27, 2011


Hi, folks. I hope you have written pages and pages of great stuff this week. A friend of mine was reading my work in progress and said it was exciting up to a point and then the story lost all tension. Ouch.

Tension is a part of storytelling. Lack of story tension for me is almost always the same cause, I am afraid to bring my character on scene during the "bad stuff." The side character dies but my main character hears about it. I have to make the brave revisions and bring my main character into the thick of things.

Things always seem flat if the action is happening outside the page. I see this in work often. The author hints at a relationship but doesn't take the plunge to define it and show it in the present but reveals it through a flashback or vague dialogue.

Another misstep, the bomb blows up and we read a strong account of it from the main character's mailman. And, yes, if one of the important characters in a story dies, be sure that Luke is standing there screaming as Darth Vader offs Obi Wan Kenobi. I mean get the main character on scene.

I hope you look for opportunities to create tension this week. Open your work and ask yourself what is not here. That should help. See you next week with more good stuff.

The doodle this week: "Flower".

Tension is the great integrity. R. Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Better than Yourself

Hi folks, I hope you are writing. I'm working on a novel right now, and I thought that I had really gotten the thing together. I have all these beautiful sentences, and I'm right, the writing is gorgeous, but it's not producing the right stuff in my readers. I have to cut the sentences because I'm info-dumping and also just pulling away from the central plot. I had to have a good cry to do these cuts. I've been working on this book for a long time. I'm the slowest writer ever. I really am.

My advice is: it's okay to cry, but don't give up. I think being kind to yourself is a good plan. It really helped me to go back to a draft in 2003. (I said I was working on this for a long time). I see my fear there -- fear to reveal my character, to let anyone see into the window of her soul to know her anger, her desperation, her hunger. I've been slowly carving out the shape of this thing. I stand by the cuts and additions I made then. I must be brave and stand by the ones I'm making today. I want so deeply to express to others what I know.

I struggle with verbal communication. I talk too much, don't listen enough, blurt out the wrong thing at the wrong time too often, have to say things 20 times to get to what I mean. I'd be lost if it weren't for the written word. I want to spin a story about what it means to be hungry to know things and yet have little access to knowledge and how that hunger shapes you. I'm summoning up all my courage. Calling out the better angels of sacrifice and endurance and doing the bravest hardest thing I know: saying what I mean.

If you are truly going to create something worthy, it's going to hurt. It's going to be wonderful too. Open up and let it happen. Peace.

I'm posting a silly doodle of a story I love: Noah's Ark. Noah was supposed to have taken about 120 years to build the ark after he got wind of the vision of it from the creator of all good things. It takes time to do something truly amazing that will lift other above the floods in this world.

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.
William Faulkner

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Hi, folks! We are having the biggest drought ever here. Folks are losing plants all over the place. One of my bushes in the front yard is looking mighty parched. I'm not sure it is going to make it. It needs extra care. So what does this have to do with writing? The thing about the drought we are experiencing is that it is likely a sympton of climate change and not just an isolated event.

I feel this huge shift in the writing industry. No one seems to know what is going to happen. Online books are driving down book prices. It seems like fewer people are reading than before in recent history. Libraries are disappearing. We are in the midst of a huge "climate change" event in terms of books. It's hard to narch forward when the ground is shifting under you.

This is the season and time to be inventive, to be entreprenurial, and to be evolutionary. These are the skills that will propel you forward in a changing times. I ask you this week to take risks, to open yourself up to revolutionary ideas. Don't worry if you are a mouse at heart. Mice are very adaptable. I tell myself this a lot.

Peace, friends. Good things are ahead if you are willing to go with the flow. Open up.

I call this week's doodle: "Oahu".

Human knowledge has been changing from the word go and people in certain respects behave more rationally than they did when they didn't have it. They spend less time doing rain dances and more time seeding clouds. Herbert Simon

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Martha Weston Grant

Hi folks, I'm in Los Angeles this weak at the SCBWI International Summer Conference. The Hairston family on a journey to honor and remember Martha (Hairston) Weston). Martha published 50 picture books and easy-readers as an illustrator and/or author. Her first middle-grade novel was published shortly before her death.

Martha took time to encourage others in life and still her generous spirit is giving and has reached my way. I'm the 2011 recipient of SCBWI's Martha Weston Grant funnded by the Hairson family and that's why I'm at the conference.

I'm the author of 30 easy-readers and picture books, and I dream of seeing my YA books finding a home -- the hearts of teens all over the world. Thank you, Hairston Family! Thank you, grant committee! Thank you, SCBWI! I will to honor Martha's memory in every way, specially by generously giving back to others.

I know, short post. I'm kinda busy. I hope you all do whatever you can to inspire others this week and every week. Life is about each other more than anything else. See you next week.

This week's doodle is called: "Mom and son".

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be. Douglas Adamas