Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk are the hosts, and we'd love for you to join in the fun! Just hit up their blogs and sign up on the linky. J 

I finished THE SILENT WIFE (A.S.A Harrison) for my IRL book club. In terms of plot, it’s a little cliché, but the pacing must’ve been pretty good since I kind of devoured it in a day and a half ( NOT normal for me). Currently I’m reading THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING (Robyn Schneider) which makes me continually wonder why I try to write from a guy’s POV because Schneider does it SO WELL. That, and the story’s pretty awesome so far.  

WHAT I’M WRITING: Last Wednesday I hit 20K with the new story and I’m still kind of riding that high. But I’ve been cleaning up the front end of the story and am still getting to know my characters a bit as I draft and I’m really not in any big hurry. I didn’t think I’d be drafting this story until the summer so any new words right now are always a bonus. 

Speaking of the summer—Jaime Morrow, Erin Funk, Katy Upperman, and yours truly are gearing up for our second annual summer writing intensive Ready. Set. Write! We’re kicking things off next Monday (June 2) and we’re super excited! Plus, we have all the buttons. I mean, ALL THE BUTTONS! If you’re looking to get some serious writing/revising this summer and want someone to hold you accountable, dude—check out the intro post Monday. Or you can click here to see what we did last summer. Twitter parties, weekly check-ins, giveaways. And writing. LOTS OF WRITING.  

WHAT INSPIRES ME: Tru TV. I know—sad, right? But when you’re writing a story where the basic premise is founded on some light-hearted and not so light-hearted pranking, you tune in to shows like World’s Dumbest Pranksters and (Impractical) Jokers. Research can be so entertaining. J

WHAT ELSE I’VE BEEN UP TO: The beach. Cookouts. Sleepovers. End of school craziness. Letting my fifteen year old drive me places. All in the name of fun. J Here’s a pictorial glance at my past few weeks. 

the child turned TEN (WHAT?!?!?!)
the husband and I celebrated the 20th anniversary of our first date

putting together campaign candy for the 15 year old's Senator run (she won, btw)
celebrating May the Fourth (be with you) with a Star Wars selfie
field day!
 oh, and one of my Mother's Day gifts (still wearing it) 

What’s up on YOUR Wednesday?!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Writers on Writing

Last week, Liz Parker and Tracey Neithercott blogged about their writing processes in this really cool post entitled Writers on Writing, and they both asked me to participate this week. Twist my arm. Sounds like way too much fun!

Neuroticizing (again J) over the beginning to my most recent story THOSE MAGIC CHANGES. Which is fine—I love this story and never mind spending time on it. That, and I want to make the opening as strong as possible. So, between the six different versions I wrote last week (there are more versions *sigh*) and awesome insight and feedback from my fabulous Writers Voice Coaches and my amazing CP Katy Upperman (who tolerates way too many emails from me—she’s a saint), I think I may finally have something I’m pretty happy with. For now. J
I’m also about 15K into a VERY sloppy new story I’m temporarily dubbing MEAN BOYS. I typically write stories that are grounded in the here and now but that also have an element of magic in them. This current WiP’s straight-up contemporary. No magic. No superheroes. No special powers. Just three boys. And a whole lot of pranking.
I’m weird and abnormal and so my stories are too? Heh. Actually, some people say I’m pretty good at the voice and dialogue thing and that I can deliver the funny (which is funny (haha) because I’m the least funny person IRL—dorky, yes; funny, not so much).
Anyhoo—so yeah. I’ll agree with that, but I think what makes my work different is that every main character/narrator I write has a very distinctive and (hopefully) realistic voice. Some snarky, some in-your-face passionate. Some funny. And a lot of them are LOUD.  That, and I write fun stories that I would want to read. So…

I write YA, which, I guess makes sense. I used to teach YA. I tutor YA. I raise YA. I read YA. Then again, you’d think I’d be sick of it.

But I’m not.

I think I write YA because I never grew up.
J But honestly, I think I write YA because teenagers are some of my favorite people and I like to write stories about them. Plus, I heart me that whole hope thing. And firsts. And I’m a serious glutton for teen angst. And I get it. I get that age. I get them. And I love being immersed in their worlds.
Plus, once you start writing, you begin to find your niche. I’ve tried writing adult—hated it. MG—maybe. I’m not sure I could ever do non-fiction. I don't know. I can’t imagine writing anything but YA.
As far as subgenres…I typically write magical realism, but I’ve got contemporaries, mysteries, and even a weird fantasy/sci-fi on the back burner. My Mean Boys story was seriously something I used to joke with a couple of my students about writing. Now, it has a plot and I’m writing it. I just never know what’s going to pop up in the ol’ noggin. J

I like to think of myself as a plotting pantser. Here’s why.
I start every story by letting my brain stew for a few weeks/months. I spew tons of brain matter into a journal (or on random pieces of paper at the bottom of my purse), envision scenes, jot down bits of dialogue, and spend a LOT of time figuring out my main (and some secondary) characters. Then, I write a semi-detailed beat sheet which I’m constantly adding to/changing. And then I just get my butt in a chair and write. Sometimes it’s well-written—deeply formed thoughts and action and description and dialogue. Most of the time it’s just CRAP.  I’m a dialogue person, so I tend to write a ton of loose dialogue with not many tags and there are a few a lot of holes in my early drafts . If I get stuck, sometimes I forego research and just make stuff up. Sometimes I write REALLY LAME scenes that I would NEVER let anyone else see.
But it’s okay. While I need some direction, I do love the spontaneity that comes with pantsing. Already in my current draft, something I thought was going to happen at the catalyst never made it to the page because something bigger and better did. Some things I just don’t know are going to happen until I’m immersed in writing it. And I LIKE THAT.
And yeah—some of it’s crappy. But as my good writing friend Liz Parker taught me: there are plenty of diamonds to be found in that crap. And there are. And I’ve always written by the Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) philosophy: First draft, get it down. Second draft, fix it up.
Takes me around nine months (go ahead—insert creating baby thoughts; I was tempted) to do that. But I get ‘er done.
Daily, I set small goals and a schedule. I typically write for several hours first thing in the morning so that, as the (Stephen) King would say, the writing is an I wanna rather than an I hafta. And I usually (loose use of the word) end each writing session with a small outline of what I want to write in the next one.
Oh—one last thing. For just about every story I’ve written, the most vivid scene in my mind is the Black Moment—that part of the story where the worst that can happen happens and characters hit rock bottom. I don’t know why that scene is always so clear (maybe I have an inner sadist—scary), but that scene has always provided me my greatest motivation. I just want to write and write and write and GET TO THAT PART.
So, that’s how I roll. And now I’m going to tag two of my talented writing friends Melanie Stanford and Laurie Dennison. Make sure you check out their posts next Monday!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Writer's Voice Contest Entry!

I've been randomly selected to participate in The Writer's Voice Contest! I am super excited and a huge thank you to Brenda Drake, Monica B.W., Elizabeth Briggs, and Kimberly P. Chase for hosting! If you're curious to see how the contest works, click here. J

As part of the contest, I'm sharing my query and the first 250 of my YA Magical Realism THOSE MAGIC CHANGES. Enjoy!


Dear Writer's Voice Coaches:

Seventeen-year-olds Alexandra and Axl Reed may be twins but their interests are about as related as baseball and the theatre. Perfect Alexandra is the glorified virgin of Titan Heights; Axl's the renowned punk. They’re always in each other’s faces.

Until a freak accident puts them in each other's bodies. 

Alexandra’s been paying her theatrical dues for years, but after the magic change, Axl’s argumentative and carefree ways are going to get him kicked out of Grease rehearsals, very well destroying any chance Alexandra has of performing onstage again. Worse—he drinks. He swears. And, for the love of Fosse, he even rats her hair. Meanwhile, crass Axl’s been kicking ass at baseball since Little League and he’s finally got a shot at starting for the varsity team. But in his body, Alexandra’s too nice. Too freaking polite. And those jazz hands are going to get her a swirlie. Or worse.  

If the twins want to reclaim their bodies and their lives, Axl will have to lose his free-wheeling ways and take on the role of his perfectionist uptight sister, and Alexandra will have to step up to the plate and improvise the part of her brother. They'll have to learn how to relate quickly. Or be the other. Indefinitely. 

With the slapstick humor of a campy Broadway song yet the relatable soul of a classic rock ballad, THOSE MAGIC CHANGES will appeal to fans of Grease, Freaky Friday, Glee, baseball, and good ol’ rock and roll.  

It is complete at 86,000 words. 

I am a member of SCBWI and the Write Brained Network. I am also a founding member of the group blog YA Confidential, a resource for YA writers devoted to all things teen, all the time.  

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Grease is the word.
            The cast list goes up after first period drama, and I would have the best junior year ever if Mr. Fonda cast me in the role of Sandy. I don’t drink or swear. And, for the love of Fosse, I never rat my hair. It’s always in a tight ponytail, thank you very much. I mean, I probably look more like Patty Simcox than I do Sandy, but that’s why there’s blond hair dye. I spin a circle as I arrive at my locker. I cannot wait to see the cast list!
            I'm two swivels into my locker's combination when my brother’s body slams into it. Axl curses and I gasp as Michael Titan shoves him up against his locker. And mine.
“Mess with my girlfriend again, punk, and it’ll be your face in the toilet. Forget your friend.”
            “You mess with my friends, I screw yours, asshole.” Axl winks at Cassidy French, Michael’s girlfriend of the month (okay, two months and thirteen days—so annoying). “She do that swirly thing with her tongue to you too? God, so hot.” He gestures with his tongue at Cassidy in a most revolting way. She merely files her nails with an invisible emery board. Like anything’s more fascinating than the imminent fight between my brother and my crush of the century.
            Michael squares his shoulders. His very broad shoulders. “You can shut your mouth now. Punk.”
            “Make me.” Axl blows a spike of hair off his forehead. “Dick.”  

I hope you enjoyed my query and excerpt. Thank you again Writer's Voice hosts and coaches!