YA Wednesday? Is this a Thing?

Ok. So I know that this is Wed which means it’s Wrap it up Wed, right? Weeeeell, the thing is after Hurricane Irma shook up my entire state….Ohhhh Florida….

I decided I was going to shake things up a little here on the blog….

Yup. There is no controlling me. Instead of wrapping up what went down in critique group yesterday, I’m going to talk about the YA books I’m excited about reading…I know. I KNOW! It’s insanity. It’s too much. It’s going to happen, so you may as well take a seat.

The thing is, Reading was my first boyfriend. And I still get giddy thinking about spending time with him.  So I’m going to let you all know what’s on my TBR pile. Right this minute. Then maybe, you can show me yours after I’ve shown you mine! Fun, right?

 

So this book has been on my radar for a long time! I love Cyn Balog’s work. She’s a Sourcebooks sibling (we both have books published at the same house) Have you read her book Unnatural Deeds yet? If not, why not? It is so so so good. This one is her newest. It releases Nov 1st. Here’s the blurb:

This must-read for lovers of Stephen King’s The Shining will leave readers breathless as Seda and her family find themselves at the mercy of a murderer in an isolated and snowbound hotel. Get ready for what Kirkus calls “A bloody, wonderfully creepy scare ride.”

OMG! The Shining for teens? So there! Add this to your list. We can read it together and compare notes. Kay? Kay.

My secret author crush right now is Anna-Marie McLemore. Weight of Feathers was her debut and I could not get how incredible and lush the writing was. And talk about all the feels! This one releases October 3. Already pre-ordered!

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

 

Finally, there’s this book I’ve been meaning to read since it came out last spring.

Here’s the log-line:

Every story needs a hero. 
Every story needs a villain. 
Every story needs a secret. 

Interesting, yes? That’s the intrigue of Wink Poppy Midnight. 

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

So that’s it. My picks for this week.

What are you guys excited about reading?

Free Friday!

It’s that time of year again, time to start back at my day job.

 

For me, it’s a love/hate kind of thing.

I love the kids I work with, but I hate giving up my writing, thinking, walking, just existing time.

It’s kind of like being immersed in a daydream, and having someone snap you back to reality.

The reality is that I’ve got to work. But the dream is that one day I will be able to just write.

Just write.

That sounds good, doesn’t it? But the thing is, we don’t ever get to just write, do we?

There’s the researching and the brainstorming. There’s the outlining and creating. There’s seeing the problems you have in a manuscript, and figuring out how to make it work anyway. And that’s just the writing part.

What about the rest? There’s marketing. There’s making connections with readers. There are appearances to plan and workshops to write.

But the key for me is time management. Because how do I make it all work? It’s a challenge, for sure. But then as an author it’s all part of what we get to do. It’s a privilege to write for kids. It’s a pleasure to meet with them. It’s the reason we do this writing thing to begin with. To have an opportunity to reach as many people as we possibly can and to have an impact on their lives.

So while I’m setting my clock for 5:30 AM and trying to work in bits and pieces of an artist’s life around my day job demands, I still dream of a day when I’ll get to create full time. Or at least Netflix binge, walk, market, plan and then write full time. Life. Is. Full. Especially when you’re an author, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

Writer’s Block or Butt-on-Couch?

There are times that it’s hard to write. Sometimes those times are days. Sometimes weeks. Months. God, I hope they never become years. I don’t consider this writer’s block. I think it’s just recuperation and rebuilding. Each work takes heart. Takes soul. Takes guts.

And with each piece of work we try to dig deeper.

So I give myself a break.

At writing conferences and all over social media I see the mantra butt-in-chair. Butt. In. Chair. And I know that this is the way to get writing done. I get that. But sometimes it’s too much to contemplate writing what we write. How we write it. Even the humorous ones take grit if we do it properly.

So if you see me on Facebook or Twitter talking about the fifth Netflix binge. The seventh viewing of Harry Potter movies, the pure unadulterated joy of not creating, give me a nod of acknowledgment and understand that I’m just refueling.

#writingisabadboyfriend because he wants it all. But even He understands that after bleeding out we may need bedrest and popcorn and movie transfusions. Maybe even Sour Patch Kids and Twizzlers, too. There’s plenty of time to eat healthy, live healthy and be productive. Give me this bout of butt-on-couch bliss.

So I can return to the page renewed.

It’s who I am.

It’s what I do.

It’s how I live.

So. Be. It.

When is a wrap-it-up-Wednesday not a wrap?

Hello Tuesday readers, don’t you look lovely today. I am always so so thrilled to see you all here. And I hate to disappoint you loyal Tuesday Writers followers. It’s the last thing I’d want to do. But, you see, the thing is…..we did not have critique group yesterday. Yeah. No. Oops.

I don’t like to point fingers, you know how affable I am, after-all. Jonathan, affable means good natured. (Sometimes big words upset him). But….someone had to be out of town, actually a few someones were. And that left the rest of us to deal with our unwieldy manuscripts at home, by ourselves.

So what’s a girl with an entire afternoon free, with not just one, but two books that need to be finished, with tons of MFA work to be done, what does she do when the boss gives us a day off? Can you all guess? I bet you can’t. What, you in the back, you think I did all of my work? Awww, aren’t you cute. Nope. Anyone else? Ok you think I did some work and then had some fun? Well, I’ll tell you. I did not work. At all. I should be ashamed to admit this, but I’m not.

You see, with the work world always invading my personal headspace, with the house usually full of people, with deadlines (thankfully) always looming, I found myself needing a tiny little break. I ended up calling in sick– to myself.

To be fair, I did go to sleep very early last night feeling under the weather. And I woke up feeling pretty darn puny. So I actually was sick. But I probably could have done some writing. I probably could have done some revising. But instead I just sat on the couch and watched Downton Abbey. I’m one of those fortunate people that never have time for television series. I can’t be expected to record them because our DVR is full most time or nearly full or I forget to take that record five most recent episodes thingy off. And then we’ve got only part of the episodes of Magician season two recorded. Sorry, JKR.

That’s why I love series binging. I love not having to wait for the next episode. I hate waiting for the next season. Which brings me to Downton. Right now I am all in for my binge watching. All in. But when it’s time to move on to the next show or series or movie, I’ll be just as bought in.

That’s the true power of story.

And with Netflix and Prime and Hulu and all now we can all be all in. Whenever we like. As many episodes as we can cram into a sick day. Hooray!!!

You might ask me what I do in the evening directly following a sick day of series binging?

Movie time!

Tonight’s feature, Kong: Skull Island

Bring on the super species. Bring on the the cool 1970’s music and vibe. Bring on the cool camera with the film you have to load and have catch on the reel in order to take pictures, the way I learned to. I am all the way in. All the freakin way.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s the real Beauty and the Beast. (sorry, Emma).

And until the movie ends, I’m going to be there with those people on the island. (hopefully not with the big spider thingys) but definitely with Kong. One of my fave monsters (which may explain my dogs…) And his struggle to survive a world gone mad. I’m betting on it being nail-biter. I’m hoping Kong is huge and over the top. Most of all I want to be entertained.

Which, by the way, is what we are supposed to do as writers. So count this as homework.

See you all next week when, hopefully, we have a class to wrap up. In the meantime I’m going to keep doing this #authorlife the way I know how.

 

And that’s what I call a wrap!

 

 

Do you ever lie to yourself?

Sometimes I lie to myself.

When I’m waiting for news on a project, sometimes I lie to myself. Sometimes I tell myself it’s already sold to an editor who loved it. Sometimes I envision the letter I’ll get. The launch party I’ll plan. Sometimes I lie to myself and allow myself  that amazing feeling of being happy about my writing.

Some people would say this isn’t lying at all. It’s simply envisioning the future, putting it out there, for the benevolent Universe to provide. Sometimes I believe that, too.

But then the days turn to weeks and the weeks to months and how do we sustain ourselves in the meantime when all we can see is the next five minutes and the emails that don’t miraculously appear just because we’ve closed our eyes and believed our intentions?

We just keep writing. The next book. The book after. The one we always wanted to, even when we thought nobody would want it, because nobody wants (fill in the blank) this year. Good thing, too, because this year is going to turn into next year and then the next and then maybe this book, the one we want to write will get noticed.

And it’s the thought that the only thing we can do is keep writing that feels so beautifully simple. Because sometimes the lies do come true. Most times they don’t. Most times that particular editor doesn’t take the book or doesn’t even respond. At least not on our timetable.

I was watching a Winter’s Tale this weekend (for the fifth time) and I loved the part when Lucifer says demons  don’t understand the concepts of now and time.

Writers definitely don’t.

Because sometimes the it-didn’t-sell blues is just the it-didn’t-sell-yet blues…yet. Man, I love that word. Yet.

So we keep writing, counting our progression in terms of word counts or chapters or drafts or revisions. And at some point that writing amounts to something. Maybe it’s not a deal. Yet. Maybe it’s not an agent signing. Yet. Maybe it’s just the time that it takes to get better or to see more or to understand entirely. But until then I’m gonna be honest with you, I’m probably going to lie to myself.

I’m doing it right now.

Right now I’m telling myself that this book, the one I’m working on now, that I wrote initially six years ago. This is that book’s time. Right now. Good thing, too, because this book has me distracted enough to not check my emails every five minutes concerning my last book. The one I started last year. The one that hasn’t sold. Yet.

I always say Writing is a bad boyfriend, and it’s true. But right now, Writing believes in me. Truth is he always has. Through every draft and every revision and every rejection, He has shown back up, held his hand out with a really cute expression on his face as he asks. “Wanna dance?”

And my answer is always the same.

Writing distracts me from everything bad in my life. Writing listens to all my sad stories. The funny ones, too. Writing tells me other people will want to hear them. One day. Maybe not this day, but that’s cool. Because Writing may be an audience of one, but he always, always throws roses on the stage for me when I’ve dug so deep I’ve spilled blood all over the place. Writing bandages me up and tells me we can always paint over that damage.

Writing is always, always there, even when I stay away, even when I’m sure I can’t do it anymore, even when I’m at my lowest with this whole process. Writing tells me all I have to do is write the next word. The next scene. Writing tells me I just have to keep going. Because even with all the times I’ve lied to myself, I know Writing never lies to me. And if I’m going to be honest with myself, I’m going to have to admit that Writing makes my life better. Even when he makes it worse.

Writing’s like that. Complicated. Deep. Difficult. Demanding. Gut wrenchingly honest. So when he tells me to get back in that chair and do the work, I listen. But I don’t tell him that the whole time I’m still telling myself little lies…I can live with that.

Wrap it Up Wed Stacie Style

Hello Tuesday readers,

I know I’ve been a little scarce lately, but I’ve been working on major deadlines, revisions, and, oh yeah, the whole getting my MFA thing. Whew. Life is full. But enough about me. You guys are here for the wrap up, right? Ok. So let’s pull back the curtain on the Tuesday critique group yesterday.

For those of you who did NOT follow us on Twitter during the class, may I ask why not? Jonathan will probably ask you for some kind of note excusing your absence. Want to know a secret? He really can’t require that. Seriously. He’s been spoken to by some of the Tuesday Writers higher ups and he’s actually been sanctioned for doing that in the past. But….even if his methods have been a bit brutish(that’s what the complaint said), I sort of agree with the sentiment. Because we are giving you a rare opportunity. To see inside a functioning, successful critique group. Three of us are published, the other three are so close, it’s going to be any time now. So you might want to watch and learn.

But for those of you with legitimate excuses (you had to work, you had appendicitis, your dog needed a bath) and you missed our Tuesday Tweets, I will tell you how it went down.

First up, an anonymous person wrote in and requested a change in the reading order: so we read, according to this anonymous source’s request; in alphabetical order. Yup. Crazy right?

So Joanne was up first. She has been working on this possession story and for many of us Tuesdays we felt she’d really turned up the heat on the possession angle. Way. To. Go! We did give her feedback for ways to continue to make the main character be a more active character, but she definitely stunned us with this chapter.

Next to read was Cathy. She read an opening to a Circus story featuring a young trapeze artist. The first line was so perfect, as was the last line. Melody said she’d bookended the chapter perfectly, and she was right, but the thing is, the rest of the chapter was also pretty tight. Way to go, Cathy!

Melody read next from her contemporary realistic Young Adult novel about a girl whose mother is grappling with addiction. I have to tell you, this chapter was almost perfect. She nailed the emotional arc, and kept it tight and active. We were with the main character the entire way. Way to go, Melody.

My read was supposed to be next. Well, here’s where we had to go off program a bit. I had nothing to read. I know. This never happens, but like I said earlier, I’m in the middle of a revision and my first semester of a MFA program, so really I just needed to talk through some of my revision decisions, discuss a new project I might be undertaking, and get help on writing a note to my readers that my editor is going to put into my next book, The Secrets We Bury. So the Tuesdays lent an ear and gave me some great ideas for how to start my letter to readers. I can honestly say that their input today was so helpful.

The last reader was Jonathan. He likes to go last and with this new alpha order thing, he got to keep his coveted position. He read from a brand spanking new book, and of course it was hysterical and so smart. None of us Tuesdays know how he keeps this writing great books from the get-go, but one day we are going to kidnap him and take him to a scientifical location and do largely non-invasive tests on him. Mostly non-invasive. Well, some might actually have to be a little invasive, but it’s all for the greater good, right?

Anyway, that’s what happened in the famous Tuesday Writer’s critique group. Tune in for real next Tuesday because I will not be wrapping it up and you don’t want to miss all the fun.

Ta-ta for now,

Stacie

(P.S. Parker picked out the images for today’s post)

Tuesday Tips for Teaching Writing

 

Last week  I gave a class for future authors.  This week I have another. It’s one of those rare treats when you get to speak to kids about what you love to do, when you know they totally get what you mean.

I’m always really nervous about these sorts of sessions. I’m never sure what each person needs to hear from me. Encouragement? Maybe. The key to success? That’s easy; love what you do and keep doing far past when you love it, until you hate it and still can’t do without it. But honestly writing as a middle school or high school kid doesn’t have to be so extreme. The authors of the future have tons of time.

So once again, what to tell them?

If I imagine that I’m giving this talk with the full Tuesday group, I’m pretty sure I know what my critique-mates might say. Or at least I could guess. Comes from knowing them pretty well and also having sat on panels with them in the past.

Cathy would give them inspiration in the form of a quote about writing or a great Ted talk. Cathy is very inspirational.

Melody might talk about how meticulous her process is. And then about how she tries to break out of that sometimes, is surprised with the results of that experiment, but then continues  to work away, using order and scrutiny to make her way through the meat of the manuscript. With a starred Kirkus  review and an award under her belt, it’s hard to argue with those results.

Faran would probably give them a sports analogy. Then he’d talk to them like they were his kids, I’m sure. And he’d metaphorically ruffle their hair and send them on their way. The kids would smile after meeting, Faran, I’m sure. He’s like that. All the kids love him.

Joanne is our best detective. She’d ask them a bunch of questions they wouldn’t mind answering and they’d leave feeling like the most interesting people on the planet. She’d probably also tell them to add conflict into their stories. I know she’s working on that and she’s very generous with sharing her knowledge.

Jonathan would act sheepish, but would be entertaining as hell with his snarky-boy one liners. He’d tell them hard truths but by the end of it, he’d have everyone wanting to write what he writes because he makes it look so easy. It isn’t.

So what did I tell these kids? The truth is I’m not entirely sure how I write what I write. For me, It all starts with characters, of course. So we did a bunch of character work.

We broke down character into the convoluted way I see it. It’s all about deconstruction and reconstruction. Of taking characters/or people you know and putting them in different settings and different stories. Putting them in a time machine and see where they are spit out. Before they were in this story. After. Depending on the character.

I’ve got no idea if this was helpful to anyone, but I hope it was. I know that by the time you read this, dear Tuesday Reader, I will be preparing my read for my favorite critique group, The Tuesdays. I haven’t been able to attend as regularly as I would have liked to these past few months, but next week I’ll be there. Notebook in hand. Reading. Waiting for Faran to find the humanity in what I’ve written, Joanne to find the conflict, Melody to help me plan, Cathy to inspire me. And Jonathan, hopefully will help me be entertaining.

It’s a lot to ask for, but I’m asking anyway.

See you in group!

 

Wrap it Up Wed

Tuesday class was cancelled today so that leaves me with a wide range of possibilities to wrap up. Stacie just loves her some wide range. Yes she does.

So what should we talk about, lovely Tuesday Readers? Hmmm, I know…how about summer plans? You know what mine are? Pretty simple. I intend to rewrite a book I’ve written 17 times. Just for fun. Maybe the 18th will be the charm? Who knows. But regardless of whether it’s fun or the right version of this story this time, finally, or not, I will write it.

Want to know how?

Well, I’ll tell you. It takes more than grit and determination. It takes a solid plan. Mine goes something like this:

  1. I will get up early despite not having to be anywhere in particular most days this summer. Why not sleep in? This book isn’t going to write itself. So I better get up and at ’em.
  2. I will walk 10,000 steps a day. At least. While I was at my first MFA residency I got in the habit of doing this, and why not include good physical health into my new plan? Makes the mind agile. (or so I’ve heard)

    accountabilty partner, Steven dos Santos and me in front of The Brown Hotel

    it’s easier to make words happen when you work with a friend…

  3. I will read two books and write two critical essays. Ok. This is cheating because I have to do this for my MFA packets. But since I’m making the list, I’m including this.
  4. I will completely clean out every closet in my house AND redo my son’s bedroom, making it into a working office for me.
  5. I will write not only this book, but get a good start on another. Yes. I said it. I will write my butt off. It’s going to be word counts and accountability for me. I will be working harder this summer than I ever have before. But I’m going to do it gladly. Because I’m lucky to have this writing for children job.

I get that this list is pretty long. And that it’s probably a lot to do, but I feel like I need to get serious about my writing, my health, and my life. It starts here and now. See, I started an MFA this past month. And it gave me a glimpse into the person I used to be back when I was in college. I liked that person a whole lot. I liked how much I could do. So, Tuesdays, let’s do it. It’s an insane list, for sure, but there will also be summer movies and summer fun. (more on that later…hint: think book launch for a Tuesday writer)

Let’s make great things happen. Just you and me(oh, all right, invite your friends, also). Together we can clean our houses and our lives and write our damn books.

Can I get an amen? Good. Now let’s wrap up this post and get to work.

Land Ho! (not sure why that applies, but feels good to say it!)

Fun Friday after all the work is done

So sorry my dear Tuesday Readers, I’m sure you thought I’d forgotten about you. Never! I’m writing to you today from Louisville, totally immersed in my next venture. Read on to see what I’m up to.

I’m one of those people who make decisions quickly about what I want and then deal with the reality at some later point. Procrastination is not just for homework assignments, housework, and blogs.

 

With writing, however, I’ve taken a very careful and almost meticulous approach. Despite the outcome of my attempts at getting an agent and eventually an editor, I always knew where I was heading and mostly how to get there.

 

Then one day a friend of mine suggested I look into getting my MFA in creative writing. It’ll be fun, they said. And I got all excited. I loved college. Loved graduate school. So I applied to Spalding University’s Low residency program and waited to hear. When I was accepted,  I was thrilled…it’s the academic life for me! But then reality set in. How the heck was I going to pull this off? So I didn’t. Instead I put it off. An entire year, to be precise.

But then this semester came and the focus was going to be on writing for children and adults so I decided, despite the lousy timing (my daughter graduated the day before residency started), I was going to do it. Damn it. So I packed my very large bag (10 days with no laundry facilities!) and headed to the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

Oh, I forgot to mention that along the way, somehow, miraculously, my good friend, Steven dos Santos got the I-want-to-do-my-MFA bug and applied, was accepted, and voila, we were rooming together like we always did at writing conferences. Huzzah!

 

With a bestie in the program, I thought it was going to be a breeze. Together we planned our packing lists, highlighted our schedules, and talked about how cool it would be to be in college again. I said I was going to hit the college store and buy a bunch of Spalding stuff. He was going to go sightseeing. Maybe fit in a ghost tour or something.

 

But when we got to Spalding, we quickly realized what we’d gotten ourselves into: a lot of work! Makes sense. It’s a graduate program, afterall. And with Steven leading the charge we started checking off assignments right and left. But…that came at a price (mainly no social activities). Some days we worked from 9:00 AM until 12:00 AM and then emerged from The Brown, hoping to connect with people, not realizing that most had been in bed for hours.

 

It’s now almost the end of our first residency and because of our dedicated (some might say insane) approach to getting it all done instead of putting it all off, it’s all downhill from here. And from where I’m sitting now, I’m feeling relieved and awfully proud.

 

Thanks for listening, Tuesday Readers. Here’s to hoping you have the kind of summer where you take some time to push yourselves to do something you’re really proud of. See you next week!

Woeful Wednesday Wrap Up

If you read Jonathan’s live Tweet from group yesterday, you know I wasn’t there. But before you Tuesday readers ask me to supply a note explaining my absence, let me tell you, I have a really good excuse. An excuse NO ONE(even Jonathan) could argue with:

Everything changes. Yup. That’s my excuse.

Everything changes. I know this, and yet it’s a big issue for me. 

Like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory I like things to stay the same, but, darling Tuesday readers,  that’s not the nature of things. I know. I know.

 

When I first started writing, I also started attending a weekly critique group. You guessed it, The Tuesdays. And I almost never missed class (because it was a class back then). I would attend if I was sick. If I was tired. I would attend in all kind of weather. If I had to miss for a holiday or family event, I pitched a huge fit. Lovely, I know, but being honest here. I kept my practically perfect attendance going well past when I was agented, past when I sold my first book, and my second one.

 

But something happened the past few months that have led to an absolutely abysmal attendance record for me at The Tuesdays.

 

But what was it? A meteorite? A string of really bad hair days (well, yeah, it IS Florida…), my dog needed a bath? What could keep me from The Tuesdays?

 

Get ready for this. Things changed. Gasp. I know. ERMEGAD. I hate that shit.

And some of the changes made It harder to make the trek every week or every other week or even once a month, sometimes.

Here is the list of my most recent reasons/excuses

 

  • For those of you who follow me on social media, you may have seen that my minivan caught fire on Jan 1, 2015, just after I turned to JKR and said, “Babe, this is going to be such a good year.” Kaboom!!!! Good times. Well, we did buy a new car, but gave our surviving minivan to our son and JKR and I have shared one car for two years now. At first it was fairly easy working around all of our stuff in order to make way for Tuesday group but now….even that has changed. JKR has appointments more often than he used to. The car is needed elsewhere. We decide who gets it by Rock-Paper-Scissors and JKR is way better than I am at that. No fair!
  • I’ve been doing book promo. Some of that has landed on actual Tuesdays,(curses!) but even when the events are not on a Tuesday proper, sometimes that means JKR has put off doing stuff he needs to do with the car on other days and has to take it on a Tues. (Please see bullet point,above)Sigh.

    me at book promo events

  • Pennsylvania germs are heartier and generally more thuggish than Florida germs. Hate to profile, but it’s true. I went to Pennsylvania to do some book promo in March (see bullet point above) and got the flu + bronchitis= a very, very, very sick girl.
  • Babygirl is graduating this year. That means she’s got all of this extra stuff she’s doing or needs to do and that has led to my needing to be around (with the car …see first bullet point please) more often. Many times on Tuesdays. Le sigh.

 

Change is not always a bad thing (I guess) but it is a different thing. Because change. It’s like the butterfly effect or something. You know, one thing affects another affects another. All that sciency stuff.

 

But have no fear, Tuesday readers, summer is coming and that’s a good thing because Tuesdays should be relatively clear and easy and conflict free for me. And my attendance card should be punched weekly (or someone should be).

 

Unless…. something changes. Gulp.

 

See you next week, when I give you my writing tips and hopefully live Tweet from class (fingers crossed).