Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A puzzling story

I'm revising a story for an editor right now. The process is never as straight-forward or as easy as I'd like it to be. Every time I make one change--to the plot, or to a character--it results in a whole host of related changes that have to be made.

It's like my story is a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece has to fit with all of the other pieces. So when I change the shape of even one piece, it doesn't quite fit with the other pieces anymore and I have to reshape several other pieces to make everything fit together again. Frustrating at times, but ultimately satisfying when the new puzzle is solved.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Role Models

I went walking and had a cocoa at the local Starbucks with one of my best friends this afternoon. She's a woman twenty years older than me, a retired junior high librarian. We both worked for the same school district years ago. Phyllis travels constantly, sometimes by herself. We've taken one trip together to Mexico. Phyllis has been to India, Vietnam, China, all over South American and Mexico, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Italy, and dozens of other countries. I admire her adventurous spirit and aspire to be more like her, though I usually only manage a couple of trips a year right now.

Besides being ready to travel at the drop of a hat (or the drop of an airfare), Phyllis lives by this rule: "If someone invites you to do something fun, just say yes." Another of her rules: "If there's something fun you want to do (like going to a movie or a concert), and you can't find someone to do it with, go by yourself." I like Phyllis's rules. I try to follow them too.

Who are the role models in your life?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hooray for Us!

Joan Holub and I emailed our first two "Goddess Girls" manuscripts to our editor at Aladdin a few days ago. Whenever a writing project leaves my desk it's such a good feeling--even if it's only until the story comes back for revision. It's both amazing and a relief to see something that starts out as a bunch of vague and ill-formed ideas finally come together. Of course, the process was that much easier this time because I was working with Joan. I admit that I gnashed my teeth over a few of the harder changes she wanted to make, but of course I knew she was right. Thanks, Joan. I think we make a great team!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again

During the last several years I've written stories about princesses, flower fairies, and, currently, goddesses. I think it's about time for another "boy" series. I've had a couple of proposals making the rounds for a while now, and decided a few days ago that it was time to review them again. I asked my husband to read the sample chapters and synopsis for the first proposal and give me his "inner-boy" reaction. He liked the chapters. He thought they were well-written and "a good set-up." But he wasn't sure just what they were a set-up for. "Nothing much happens in the synopsis," he said. My heart plummeted. "What do you mean?" I asked. "Can you be more specific?" He thought about it for a while. "There's not enough action. Also, Ray [the main character] doesn't really solve his own problem. He's just carried along by events. He needs to be more heroic."

As my husband tossed a few plot ideas my way, building on traits I'd given my main character in the first three chapters, but failed to follow through with in the synopsis, I began to get excited by new story possibilities. At the same time, I felt chagrined that I hadn't seen the flaws in the synopsis myself. I've been writing for nearly twenty years now. I've had 27 books published. I KNOW that my main character needs to solve his own problem. I KNOW the importance of heroism and action. So why do I seem to forget this with each new story? Fortunately, writing's more forgiving than something like, say, brain surgery. If I'm doomed to forget the things I already know about good writing time after time, at least I can write myself out of my messes.

Hobnobbing with Children's Writers

I'm blessed to live in the Seattle area where there are probably 150 published children's writers and a very strong chapter of SCBWI with superb and energetic leadership. For many years, I didn't attend as many monthly meetings as I would've liked. I just couldn't seem to find the energy or time for the 45 - 60 minute commute (depending on traffic) from my home south of Seattle. My children were young, I was still working my "day job," plus I really don't like to drive. In the last couple of years, however, I've been trying to get to more meetings. I was even a guest speaker in November, and a critique group leader for the annual "Great Critique" in January. No matter what the meeting topic, I always come away with some new ideas to think about and, just as importantly, good feelings from chitchatting with my fellow writers--whether published, or on the road toward publication.

Children's writers are some of the nicest folks you'll ever meet. You might think that, as difficult as it is to get published, competitive feelings would run high. I imagine we all battle the green envy monster from time to time when we hear of someone else's sucess, but there is always a greater sense that we're all in this together.

Last weekend I was one of a group of twenty-six children's authors invited to speak at a state reading conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What a delight it was to visit with these fellow authors--some of whom I'd met before, but most of whom I hadn't. We laughed a lot as we traded tips, talked about current projects, our families, and the publishing biz. Talk about instant camaraderie! I returned home feeling like I'd made several new friends.