Tuesday Writer Blog Under Construction

We’re under construction here at the Tuesday Writer blog. Next week we will be starting a new format.

  • Tuesdays we will talk about new books being released on the market.
  • Themed Thursday will continue in the same manner with each of us contributing our thoughts on a weekly theme.
  • Fridays will be for anything book related. It will include book reviews, conference information, as well as interesting things about books and writing like: My novel, Rager, is a finalist in the thriller category for the Florida Edgar Alan Poe (Freddie) award. Rager is about a college freshman who parties like he’s possessed and the girl next door exorcist. The winner will be announced at the Sleuthfest writing conference in Boca Raton, March 1-4.

We are excited for this new format and look forward to bring you lots of fabulous information about books and writing. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday!

The Most Fun Friday of the Year: SCBWI January Conference!

It’s that time again, people. It’s SCBWI January conference. I’ve been attending this conference since 2009 and have only missed it one time since.

The January conference is magic to me. I used to go with hopeful expectations about meeting that agent or editor that would see promise in my work. Now I go to see good friends, hang with writing people, and work on craft.

One of my favorite events at this conference is the First Books Panel. This is where those who have published their first book the previous year get to stand in front of the room and tell their story. It is inspirational. It is beautiful. It is not to be missed.

This year one of own Tuesday Writers, Jonathan Rosen, will take his place on that stage and I can’t wait. It’s one of those rites of passage and he’s earned it. He knows we will all be cheering him on from the audience.

Also this January, my agent (also Jonathan and Marjetta’s), will be in attendance. Nicole Resciniti has changed my life, is changing my friends’ lives, and is just so smart. I can’t wait to see her. I can’t wait to pitch my new idea to her (yes, I have a new idea!). She makes me feel interesting and talented and worthwhile. Those are things us writers need on a regular basis.

I also hear from some sources that The Tuesdays will be doing a group costume for the costume ball on Saturday night. And it’s hilllllarious. Tuesdays rock. We are all in!

On Saturday, one of my good friends, Shutta Crum, will also be presenting on how to write books that matter. Shutta is such a great example to the writing community. She was a librarian, and knows so much about the writing process from beginning to end. She. Is. The. Real. Deal. I can hardly wait.

But most of all, I think for me, this conference is going to be about getting to be a real writer for the entire weekend. My third book (The Secrets We Bury) releases in March and I’m really excited about that. And this weekend I’ll be spending time with most of the people who helped me make that happen. Talk about finding your bliss.

So as I get to watch friends get critiques, I also get to hope they get to live the dream I’m living. I get to cheer everyone on. I get to clap for the  Rising Kite winners, which will be announced on Sunday. And I get to hang with super cool, fun, hard working dreamers like myself.

Bring it on, Florida SCBWI. I. Am. So. Ready.

A Shout-Out to My Family

Well, it’s my turn for Fun Friday, and since I had such a wonderful time with my family over the holidays, I thought I’d write about how important family is to my productivity as a writer.

Fifteen years ago, my husband’s home-grown business was doing well enough that one of us could quit our nine-to-five job. Because he knew I wanted to someday be a published writer, he graciously decided that I should be the one to quit so I could dedicate myself to my dream. Years later, he was also able to quit working for someone else, so now we both work from home—only he’s the one who supports us. (That’s right—beginning writers like me don’t tend to make a lot of money.) So thank you, Adam, for giving me the freedom to write.

My son, too, is part of my support system, even if it’s passive support. Because he’s only thirteen, he’s not allowed to read my first (and so far only) published novel, so he has a hard time appreciating what I do. But he does respect it—and he knows how important it is to me. He understands that even though I haven’t left the house, I am in fact working, and he knows to keep the noise level and disturbances to a minimum. So thank you, Caleb, for never making me feel guilty for sitting at my computer for half the day, even when you want me to pack it up already and play video games with you.

Finally, there’s the family I grew up with. I only get to see my mom, three sisters, and brother once or twice a year (they all live in Illinois and I’m in Florida), but I can feel their cheerleading vibes from a thousand miles away. Knowing they support me no matter how dark, disturbing, or graphic my storylines get is invaluable to me. When I write, I lay myself bare—all my vulnerabilities, fears, defects—and knowing that I’ll be loved no matter what allows me to feel safe, even while I’m setting myself up to be judged. So thank you, Mom, Dawn, Eva, Harrison, and Megan (and also my numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, brothers-in-law and family members who are not officially family but close enough) for giving me the confidence to write what’s in my heart.

Writing is a solitary business, lonely sometimes and definitely isolating. Which is why it’s so important to have support from family. Friends and acquaintances sometimes don’t understand how all-consuming writing can be—they’re less forgiving of the time commitment—but family, or at least my family, gets it. So thank you, my awesome family. I wouldn’t be able to dedicate myself so fully to writing if I didn’t have your support and encouragement. 

SCBWI’s 2017 programming a real page-turner

By Faran Fagen

For Fun Friday, thought I’d share an article I recently wrote about all the great things the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators does for lovers of childrens books in South Florida. Some familiar Tuesday folks you might recognize. Enjoy!

The characters in books should feel like authentic walk-off the page people. They exist before your story takes place, and endure long after you close the book, at least in the minds of your readers.

This was the message relayed by Wellington author Stacie Ramey as part of a monthly series of writing workshops at the West Boca Raton Library in partnership with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Ramey’s October lecture on character development encouraged the 40 writers in attendance to put themselves in the shoes of their characters and to discover more about their characters’ backstories and possible futures.

The workshop was the eighth of 2017 in a series created by SCBWI to promote the written word throughout South Florida. The classes are offered the third Saturday of the month, and culminate with a short trip to Panera Bread for casual follow-up conversation with food, coffee and friends.

“These workshops have helped me hone my craft in so many ways,” said Ramey, whose third young adult novel, The Secrets We Bury, debuts in March of 2018. “Lorin Oberweger’s workshop on iconic characters was fantastic and taught me how to write epic characters.”

Oberweger, of Tampa, is an editor, ghost writer, and literary agent. One of the aspects she touched on in her workshop, one of the first of the year, was getting to know your characters and their good traits by “how they battle adversity”.
For Cathy Castelli, an aspiring children’s book author from Delray Beach, her top “Aha moment” came during a workshop taught by author/illustrator Fred Koehler, of Lakeland.

“He asked us to write a death scene without using all the words generally associated with death. It was certainly a way to avoid the cliché,” said Castelli, who attended several of the library events. “The workshops are important because I can get into too much of a routine with my writing. Attending a workshop stirs up my work in the best way possible.”

Castelli also attended an SCBWI Boot Camp in October. The Boot Camps, offered in Wellington, Davie and in various cities throughout the state, offered a full day of writing craft and helpful hints. SCBWI expanded its activities this year for those who can’t attend the annual SCBWI conference in Miami in January.

This year’s SCBWI Miami conference, Jan. 12-14, features Greenacres resident Shutta Crum, one of the guest speakers and author of 16 children’s books.

“We have some great speakers coming to the conference,” said Davie’s Dorian Cirrone, SCBWI Florida Co-Regional Adviser. “I’ve always wanted to meet Melissa Manlove, who is a senior editor at Chronicle Books. She discovered the best-selling picture book, Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site in the slush pile. We also have Sylvie Frank from Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster and Amy Fitzgerald from Carolrhoda.”

Literary agents attending the conference include Oberweger, Jennie Dunham, Nicole Resciniti and Marcia Wernick.

Author Jonathan Rosen of Tamarac will be speaking on the first book’s panel at the conference. His debut book, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, was released over the summer.

In the monthly library series, Cirrone’s teachings pushed Boca Raton author Debbie Reid Fischer to rethink how to write a modern-day version of an old classic novel.

“I’m already outlining a new novel based on her excellent tips,” said Fischer, whose middle grade novel, This is Not the Abby Show, received three book awards last month. “Now I have a new book in the works and I’m so excited.”

Fischer, known for her sharp wit in her young adult and middle grade novels, was a library speaker on the topic: Humor, Pacing and Plot.

“It’s always worth it to show up to these workshops,” Fischer said. “You never know what the result will be from a nugget of inspiration or instruction. If you come away with just one thing you can use, it’s time well-spent.”

On Nov. 18, author and writing coach Joyce Sweeney, of Coral Springs, gave the West Boca Library workshop: From Image to Inspiration, from noon – 2 p.m. Sweeney shared the story of her poetry collection, WAKE UP, and read selected poems.
South Florida SCBWI Meeting Volunteers Mindy Weiss of Delray Beach and Marjetta Geerling of Hollywood run the monthly library workshops. Contact Weiss to RSVP, if you have questions, or want more information: Mindyaweiss@yahoo.com

For more information on either local events or the upcoming SCBWI Miami conference, visit florida.scbwi.org.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Thanksgiving at our house includes a tour around the table where everyone mentions what they are grateful for. The responses vary from: “my new job”, to “the beauty of nature”, to “my partner’s colonoscopy”, which can send the group from gentle reflection to riotous laughter. Gratitude is an emotion that expresses appreciation for what one has, rather than what one wants. So what does gratitude do for us?

No matter where you’re from, it is evident that of late, people are on edge. Recent psychological studies have shown that people who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice little things and think about how they’re thankful for them, show more compassion and kindness, have more positive emotions, sleep better, have a joi-de-vivre about them and have better health. There is even a Science of Gratitude.

Michael E. McCollough of the University of Miami and Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, the top researchers in the study of gratitude, showed its effects on their test subjects in a research paper called Gratitude and Thankfulness. In the study, their subjects experienced:

  • Better health and exercised more
  • Attained more personal goals
  • Increased attentiveness, energy levels and enthusiasm
  • Were more likely to help others
  • Felt more interconnected with others
  • Were less envious and more willing to share

When I worked as a registered nurse at the hospital, I found that my patients who had an attitude of gratitude got better faster, and had more energy to sit up in a chair or walk. Robert Emmons maintains that gratitude lowers blood pressure, fosters a stronger immune system and adds to more pleasurable life experiences.

Gratitude can create happier memories. Studies on subjects with PTSD and people fighting addiction, showed that changing a person’s mood through being grateful for one aspect of a traumatic experience, actually re-framed the memory. A person could then think of the negative situation they kept remembering, as a positive or neutral experience.

Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations the same way they always had. The second group, who was assigned to work on a different day, got a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who discussed with the fund-raisers how she was grateful for their efforts. The people who heard her message of gratitude made fifty percent more fund-raising calls than those who did not, in the week that followed.

Other studies have looked at how gratitude can improve relationships. Whether it is bosses with workers or in couples, research has shown that individuals who expressed gratitude not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns. Marriage counselors suggest that couples retrace their steps to the beginning of their relationship to remember what it was they appreciated about their partner.

A study using MRI technology has revealed the act of giving activates the same sections of the brain that are roused by food and sex. Generosity toward others, along with gratitude can create a dopamine release making a person feel not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful.

Now when I find myself sad or upset about something, I’ve taken up the practice of reminding myself to be grateful for things like fresh air or a beautiful sunrise and somehow it always makes me feel better.

 

Naming Things – Characters, Towns, and Files

I suck at naming things.

Okay, maybe not everything. I think we found the perfect name for our son. However, my husband, who I think is a genius at naming things was heavily involved.

One thing you might not know about Stacie is that she hates it when you decide to change a character’s name mid-book. So of course, The Tuesday try not to do that. I have done it though. C’mon, we’re all trying to find the next Katniss, right? In my current WIP my main character has been named Ana, Abra, and Fia. In the current rewrite, I’m thinking of changing it – AGAIN. (Please don’t kill me, Stacie.)

I have resorted to name generators. Google them. They’ve got fantasy name generators or ones where you can pick the nationality of your character. It can be helpful or a time suck.

There are some great old books like this one:www.tuesdaywriters.com Nicknames and Sobriquets of US Cities, States, and Countries. Sobriquet? Fancy work for nickname! (Try and use that in a sentence this week, and let me know what happens!) Published in 1979, this book gives nicknames of cities all around the US. Delray, where is where I live, is also known as, Florida’s Dissimilar Resort, The City in Florida with a Difference, The Island of Distinctive Resort Life, and the Luxurious City of Traditional Simplicity. Or how about this book? www.tuesdaywriters.comHandbook of Pseudonyms and Personal Nicknames published in 1982. Here’s an example: Lippert, Thomas Ray (1950?-) American Kidnapper – The Love Kidnapper. Just looking through these books can give a lot of story ideas.

Now for the real reason for this post. I rewrote the plot for my current WIP, shared it at critique group over a month ago, and now I can’t find it on my computer. What you need to know is that I work in Google Docs. Everything is automatically saved. However, Google lets your start a new document and saves it for you without requiring a name. You know what? That doesn’t really matter though, because I wouldn’t have named it something as easy as Plot – Flying Blind. Nope. I’d name it something like – trying out a new plot – or – amped up test.

This is where the genius of my husband comes in. Every time we are working together on the computer, he doesn’t move forward without saving the document and placing the document in the correct folder. I’m thinking, can we just hurry up? But he’s going to name it in such a way that he will be able to find it in less than three clicks. Why hasn’t this ability rubbed off on me yet? If we are working on a publisher document, he saves each version along the way: bookmark001, bookmark002, etc. (Sigh.) Maybe someday I’ll get it. Until then, I’ll be here searching through my Google Drive. Ugh.

Fun Friday: Looking for Your Next Good Book?

I’m an avid reader, finishing about a book a week, so for this week’s Fun Friday, I thought I’d share three of my favorite reads from the past few months. And, hey, if you read any of them (or have already read them), let me know what you think!

  1. The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey. Set in the same post-apocalyptic world as The Girl with All the Gifts, this prequel centers around a team of scientists and military personnel (plus a very clever boy with autism) who set out to find a cure for the monster plague that’s infected their world. Unlike The Girl with All the Gifts, the main character in this book isn’t the title character. Instead, it’s the scientist who most believes in the boy’s genius. It was her who convinced the authorities that the boy with the odd personality should be part of their mission–and now he has to prove himself, because no one else on the team wants him along.

 

  1. The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson. True crime at its finest, Larson is a master storyteller, interweaving the true stories of Daniel Hudson Burnham, the brilliant architect of the 1893 World’s Fair, and Henry H. Holmes, a psychopath masquerading as a charismatic doctor who built a “World’s Fair Hotel” that he then used to trap and murder dozens of people. This is one of those true stories that’s definitely stranger than fiction.

 

  1. This is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel. An overworked but happy couple decide to keep it secret that their youngest child is transgender (born a boy but presenting as a girl). They’re doing this, not because they’re ashamed of their daughter, but because they’re afraid of how other people might treat her. And of course the secret comes out. Beautifully written with equal doses of humor and heartbreak, this is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Do you have a favorite book you’d like me to read? I’m up for the challenge!

Changing my approach at the plate

Freestyle Friday

By Faran Fagen

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”
One of my favorite and least favorite quotes (it’s from Captain Picard in a Star Trek episode)
Favorite because it’s true, and least favorite because I usually think of it when I follow the right road but still end up at a dead end.
I think we’ve all been there. Adhered to  the cooking instructions and the cake isn’t fluffy enough. Taken the prescribed medicine and laid low and still sick.
In baseball, when I hit a slump, I change my approach at home plate. Hands higher, knees bent lower. Throw in a leg kick? Sure, try that. Eventually, something clicks and swing gets smooth again.
So this school year (I’m a teacher so my writing tends to cycle through each school year), I’m trying a different approach. And it’s already paying dividends.
I’ve made two major changes to my writing that have sent a current through a revision that stemmed from input I got from editors and agents in 2017.
One comes indirectly from Tuesday colleague Jonathan Rosen, who told me (and stated in several interviews) that the biggest thing he did right before he got published was to sit down and write the funniest book he possibly could. In all his rejections, agents and editors always loved his humor, so he decided to focus on that.
That got me thinking, that I’ve had a similar experience with agents in regards to my baseball scenes and my action scenes.
So I’ve pledged to make sure that each scene is full of action and thrills, whether or not it’s on the baseball diamond.
The other adjustment I made comes from a speech I heard from award-winning author Richard Peck at a conference (miss him). He said that above all else, your aim as a writer is for your words and message to permeate a high school library and find that one student who desperately needs your book to survive.
So I’ve mixed the baseball/action thrills with this teen in need at the forefront as I piece together the heart of the story.
I’ve recently revised the strongest beginning of Strike Zone, and submitted it to a contest.
Whether I win or not, the cool thing about this writing gig is that it forces you to think. About what people find interesting and what young people truly need to feel accepted and understood.
So I guess in that respect, writing’s shaped me into a better person, just like I’ve molded my characters. So maybe I haven’t lost after all.

What do you read when you travel?

I flew to Winnipeg, Canada last week to visit my parents for Canadian Thanksgiving. There are no direct flights to Winnipeg from South Florida, so getting there is always an all-day affair. I’m a book-in-hand kind of person. I always make sure that I have a new novel or two so that I have at least twenty hours of reading.

Looking around at fellow passengers, I noticed that many of them were on their cell phones in the airport, but pulled out books once they got on the plane. As many of the books came from the airport vendor, I wondered what is the most popular read during air travel?

While killing time in the airport, I did a brief survey of

airport vendors for the dates of my travel. I found that David Baldacci, last year’s Sleuthfest key note speaker’s new novel, The Last Mile, was most popular at the Winnipeg airport. Dan Brown’s Origin was a favorite at Ft. Lauderdale Airport, and Liane Moriarty’s Truly, Madly, Deeply was the bestseller in Toronto.

 

 

 

Some of the passengers I talked to want a short read they could finish in one flight, but most wanted something that would last throughout their entire time away from home. I noticed an equal number of e-readers also, but a book in the hand always gets more attention from me. What will your new read be the next time you travel?

Free Write Friday when I’ve been anything but Free

It’s been a while since I spoke with you, Tuesday readers, and I’m so sorry about that. Truly.

I know I’m supposed to check in with my Thursday themes even on the weeks I don’t have a big post. Like this one. And I haven’t been keeping to my word with those. It’s not right or fair, but there it is. I’ve been a Themed Thursday slacker! And you deserve my participation on those days. You do. But the thing is, I have had so much going on.

 

I know it sounds like an excuse, but let me lay it on you. And then you judge. And if by the end of this you’re still annoyed, I’ll accept that. I will. But hear me out first.

Last May I started a low residency MFA program. Spalding University to be exact. Pretty cool, right? And I guess I sort of didn’t realize how much time it would take. Each semester, at the very least I have to read 8-10 books and write critical essays on them. I have to put together five packets of creative writing including new work and revised pages. In preparation for next semester I had to read a play (a really cool one) and write an essay on that one. I also have to read 2 more books, 3 short stories, and view a film and take notes on it. Oh, and prepare pages for workshop, and prepare commentary on the pages other people send. It’s a lot. All wonderful things, but still a tremendous amount of work. Have I convinced you of that?

So I’m doing that in addition to working my day job. Sounds exhausting, right? Well, I’m not done….

I also just finished my revisions and copy edits for my upcoming book, The Secrets We Bury. Now I’m working on the proofs. Would you Tuesdays like a little sneak preview of the cover? I think you deserve that. Here goes….

 

Ahhhh….let’s take a moment to simply enjoy this new little beauty!!!

In addition to all of the usually stuff, like writing and critiquing and working and all, I’m also putting together some writing workshops. This Sunday I’ll be giving a Bootcamp with Joyce Sweeney. Which is totally cool since I’ve been her student for years and now I get to teach with her! If you are a SCBWI member, this workshop is free. Info here: https://florida.scbwi.org/2017-boot-camps/

I’m also doing another shorter workshop all by myself on October 21st!

And these workshops don’t write themselves! If only they did.

Finally, I am currently participating in the Young Adult Scavenger Hunt from now until Oct 8th. Prizes galore and lots of fun to be had by hunters and hunted alike. Check it out. I’m on #TeamBlue!  http://www.yash.rocks/

So I hope I’ve convinced you that I’m not simply lollygagging around. I am busy, busy, busy! But I pledge to try really hard to come back into the mix again. Because I’ve missed you, Tuesday Readers. Take me back?