Ways to combat the human rain delay

Tuesday tips

Faran Fagen

Over the years, I’ve had my battles with that evil entity. That belligerent Balrog. Visceral villain. One stall to rule them all, one stall to find them.

That “stall” is procrastination. It seems to come in spurts when writing my latest revision of Strike Zone. Here’s 10 ways to combat it (this post is more for me than you, but I hope you get something out of it)

1. “I’m just gonna work on this for 10 minutes”. A friend gave me this idea. You basically trick yourself by saying “I’ll just work for 10 minutes” because once you’re in scene you don’t want to stop. This works for me about 60 percent of the time. The other 90 percent I need to combine it with some of the following other ideas.

2. Change of scenery: Walk the dogs or just go for a walk or run. This can clear your mind and get your endorphins going to give you a fresh perspective when you get butt in chair.

3. Pomodoro: Got this idea from author Donna Gephart at the January SCBWI conference. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named pomodoros. Helps break the writing into digestible chunks. Also good if you’re multi tasking.

4. Get to know your characters: Free write with your character in a weird situation or interview your character. Easier to write about your characters if you know them better.

5. Grand finale: When you finish a chapter, just below the ending, make a list of bullet points for the next chapter. That way when you sit down to write again and you get hit with the procrastination demon, you have a sense of direction to overcome it.

6. Take a break: sometimes playing with your kids, your pets, or watching tv can relax you into moving forward with your WIP.

7. Past inspiration: looking at notes from a class, conference, or advice from an expert can spark an idea.

8. Phone a friend: call a Tuesday critique buddy and bounce ideas. If you’re not lucky enough to have a Tuesday friend, call a friend for any day of the week. Sometimes just having someone to listen helps.

9. Zzzzzzz: When all else fails, nap is good. Just closing eyes lets your brain recharge.

10. Reading is fundamental: This one’s my favorite. Read a book similar to one you’re writing. I’m reading Ghost by Jason Reynolds and it’s also about a troubled teen athlete.
I really admire his writing, and seeing a book with a similar theme in print is always inspiring.

So there you have it, ways to combat procrastination in a nutshell. What are your methods for dealing with this human rain delay?

Interview with Neil Nyren, Editor at Putnam Books

Neil Nyren is the Executive VP, associate publisher and editor in chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons,  a division of Penguin Random House. He has been at Putnam for over 32 years, and before that, at E.P. Dutton, Little Brown, Random House, Arbor House, and Atheneum.

Among his current authors of crime and suspense are Clive Cussler, Ken Follett, C.J. Box, John Sandford, Robert Crais, Jack Higgins, W.E.B. Griffin, Frederick Forsyth, Randy Wayne White, Alex Berenson, Ace Atkins, Alex Grecian, Carol O’Connell, Owen Laukkanen, Michael Sears, and Todd Moss. He has also worked with such writers as Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell, Daniel Silva, Martha Grimes, Ed McBain, Thomas H. Cook, and Thomas Perry, and he was the first to publish books by Carl Hiaasen, Jonathan Kellerman, Gerald Seymour, Garrison Keillor, and Ian McEwan.

Among his nonfiction authors: A. Scott Berg, Maureen Dowd, James A. Baker III, Dave Barry, Joe McGinniss, Charles Kuralt, Andy Rooney, Jeff Greenfield, Senator Harry Reid, General Tony Zinni, Abba Eban, John McEnroe, Pat Riley, Bobby Orr, and Wayne Gretzky.

JB: I want to congratulate you for winning the 2017 Ellery Queen Award for outstanding people in the mystery publishing industry. That’s very exciting.

Mr. NN: Thank you. I love the mystery and suspense genre. I always have.

JB: Thank you for sharing your time with the Tuesday Writers. It’s an honor to have you as guest on our blog. What’s your routine in the acquisition process? Where do you start?

Mr. NN: The manuscript comes in attachment form, no one sends paper any more. Either I read it or my assistant does. There are some that I take immediately myself, but most everything she reviews for me. If the manuscript is something I really like, I take it to my boss. We discuss it, do profit and loss projections and figure out what we should pay for it. We talk to the agent, try to figure out whether or not to get a pre-empt or go to auction, then whether to buy or not to buy it.

JB: Would you explain to our readers what a pre-empt is?

Mr. NN: When we talk about pre-empt it means we go to the agent and say we want the book. That’s because we don’t want it to go to auction.  When we do that, we need to make an offer that’s good enough for them to take without the book going to auction. I ask the agent’s permission to talk directly to the author.

I once had a book sent in that was about a gang of criminals but there were a couple of law enforcement characters that I really liked in it. With permission, I asked  if the author would consider doing a series about those characters.  He said he hadn’t thought about it, but yes he would. From that conversation came a series that has proceeded nicely ever since.  I find you get a lot of information and intangibles from that kind of one on one conversation. You can assess if the author is serious and willing to be helpful.

JB: How do you feel about some of the short books in the 30,000 – 40,000 word range that are coming on the market?

Mr. NN: I don’t feel like it’s a trend. I know there are James Patterson’s bookshots and some others, but by and large there aren’t a lot of those. Most books are average size.

JB: What are your criteria for having a book made into an audio book?

Mr. NN: Penguin Random House, as a total entity, has its own audio department. They pick and choose from all of the of imprints to make their audio books. The ones they decide not to do, we try to sell to other audio publishers.

JB: Books that are favorites of yours?

Mr. NN: We go with the more tried and true authors. We do try some new authors, but generally stick to those we know well.

 

We buy a book because we like that book. Other things can be shaped or tweaked afterwards.

 

JB: How important is social media presence to a publishing house? Do publishing houses check an author’s social media presence?

Mr. NN: Yes we do keep up with the social media relationships authors have. Social media presence is very important for an author. It’s the way that an author connects to the outside world and to his or her fans. It’s the way authors get information out to them about an event or a new book coming out. Through social media, they can engage their fans and form allegiances through blogging, Facebook or Twitter creating an attachment to that author. When we sign a book, our promotional department reviews an author’s website and other social media connections then makes recommendations to the author. Essentially, we are buying a book because we like that book. The other things can be shaped and tweaked afterwards.

JB: What do you find is the most successful marketing for debut authors?

Mr. NN: It’s a combination of things. We want to make sure we get enough readers copies out there. We want them sent out with enough time to get into the stores, especially to the mystery book stores. A lot of people like to review first novels and feature debut novels. They don’t necessarily do as much for second, third or fourth books. As a publishing house we want to make sure the book is out there with the people that count.  We want to make sure reviewers have copies and the right bloggers have a copy. We like to have lots of people review a book in advance because good reviews are really important for word of mouth. And, we ensure the author has their social media factors as well-honed as possible. At times, with some authors, we pre-plan a book tour. It depends on the book.

JB: How about for mid-list authors?

Mr. NN: It depends on their sales trajectory and whether it’s going up, staying flat or declining. A mid-list author has already established themselves and you can’t really change that.  I’ve had many wonderful writers who for some reason don’t get traction with readers. It’s just breaks your heart. Everything has been done right, but for some reason, they don’t catch on immediately. It depends on the alchemy going on in the market at the time.

With each successive book, we reassess the plan. We figure out what needs to be done for that book, what extra things could be done, or what we don’t need to be doing anymore. We review all of the social media things we just discussed.  We look at whether we should be spending money on Facebook ads or time with Goodreads.  It will vary. The more familiar we are with the author, we can better assess what we should be doing.

JB: Thank you very much, Neil for spending time with the Tuesday Writers and for your dedication to mystery and suspense writers as well as the organizations that support our craft. 

Mr. NN: It’s been my pleasure. Crime and suspense is what I like to read and what I like to publish.

 

 

 

Sharing the Debut Spotlight

Hello Tuesdays!

Welcome to my Fun Friday post!

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to write one of these. And as usual, I struggle to come up with topics to write about. But, then it hit me . . . I should just write about what I’m going through in my life. Lately, it’s been a combination of good times and stress. I know, when isn’t life like that?

But, this is a fun kind of stress.

As most of you know, I have a book coming out this year. (For those in the pool, it only took me a little over a paragraph to mention it!) But, anyway, I also belong to a group which had been called The Swanky Seventeens, but was retitled The 2017 Debuts. And in case it’s not self-explanatory, it’s because we all have debut novels coming out this year. When I joined that group, it was the early part of 2016. And while everyone had books coming out this year, it all seemed so far away. Still, it was fun to discuss things about our debuts within that group. What we were each going through at the time, until our launch dates. It was great to share these experiences with others who were going through the same thing as you.

Well, when this year rolled around, and those fellow 2017 Debut members, actually have started having their books come out. It’s been an incredible thing to see those books that we all discussed together, finally in the stores. Last year, all of this was an abstract for us. Now, it’s a reality. It was fun going in and buying the books of people, who I’ve come to call friends. I’ll try to buy each one of the books of the group, because I feel like I’ve been a part of their process.

It’s been fun seeing what each of them do for their launches, which in turn, pushed me to come up with something good to do for mine. (By the way, I still have no clue, so any ideas would be appreciated!)

The main thing is, the sharing with people going through the same things. It’s a group of people who all have put in the same hard work and are seeing the fruits of their labor at the same time. So, with each new release from a member of this debut group, I’ll applaud their success, while at the same time, count down the days until August 1, when my debut is scheduled to hit.

It’s going to be an exciting year and I’ll get to watch and share it with all these fantastic debut authors, until my own, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies hits.

(C’mon, you knew I was going to mention it!)

Our Favorite Book Titles

Do you have a favorite book title? We’d love to hear from you.

Faran Fagen

Faran: Going with a classic this week for favorite title. I always liked Lord of the Flies, but not just because of the big metaphor. In the novel, which opened my eyes as a sophomore in Ms. Vincent’s English class, the image of the pig’s head surrounded by circling flies haunted me. I couldn’t get it out of my own head, like a persistent drop of water stuck in my ear. The idea that the young boys were as savage as those little flies both creeped me out and taught me a lot about human nature at the same time. Anything that does that can win my favorite title any day.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: Ditched by Robin Mellom is my all-time favorite title. Her main character is thrown from a car into a ditch after prom. I always love a short, catchy title, but the metaphor puts it over the top. Are you there Vodka? It’s me Chelsea runs a close second. The title makes me want to pick up the book because it’s so funny that I presume the author’s voice will be highly entertaining.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: I have two favorite book titles and I’ve spent the last week trying to narrow it down to one. Nope. Not gonna happen. So, sorry Tuesday Readers, I’m going to have to cheat a little on this one. First of all I only considered books I’ve read, because I think that’s only fair. If I was going to name a book I haven’t read yet, it would be Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. The title alone makes me want to read that one, but it’s still waiting on my TBR pile. Of the books I have read, Going Bovine and Daughter of Smoke and Bone are my top two. I can’t help it. Going Bovine is this incredibly unique read with talking gnomes and a punk rock angel named Dulcie. I loved that book! As wild as the ride was, however, the title tells the tale. Going Bovine is about a kid who is suffering from Mad Cow Disease. Right on. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is intense and beautiful and quirky and brave. The title draws you in, as does the lush cover. It’s not until you finish the book that you get how deep the meaning is for that title. Read the book. You won’t be disappointed.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenanceturned out to be a great book, but it made me feel smart to be carrying a copy around… if I was the kind of person who would do that.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: This was a hard one for me. My initial choice was to go with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, because what sounds more exciting than a book about a lion, a witch, and a wardrobe? But then I got to thinking about trends in book titles. Ever notice how many titles have the word “girl” in them of late? (Gone Girl, The Girl With All the Gifts, The Girl on the Train). I’m thinking that trend might have been kicked off by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, so maybe I should choose that as my favorite title.

Wrapping it Up

Voice.

It’s the area I have to work on the most.www.tuesdaywriters.com

My husband teaches voice lessons, but actual singing lessons are not going to help me with my characters.

However, I have created an amazing, phenomenal, super-fantastic voice for my MG main character using internals. Way too many internals. Slowing down the action internals. Ugh.

I can tell a good story, but what I really need to do is show a good story.

That’s my feedback from the last two meetings: love where the story is going, love the voice, cut down on the internals.

When Jonathan read from his WIP, Joanne commented how he seems to be able to put all the parts in perfect combination the first time.

Ugh. Back to work.

Sell Yourself with your Pitch

Have you ever heard that you should have a minute-long  ‘elevator pitch’ ready in case you hop on an elevator and have an opportunity to introduce yourself to someone? That someone could be an agent or editor, other writers at a conference or perhaps a movie producer. At some time you will need to introduce yourself and talk about what you’re working on. Be prepared. Just because you’re in conversation with a friend or a small group doesn’t mean you should wing it, they’re potential readers.  Your elevator pitch is an opportunity to market yourself for thirty seconds to a minute. It should be conversational and flexible. Get your point across in one sentence or elaborate with details should the opportunity present itself.

Practice discussing your latest work with acquaintances at a party. You can talk about the type of book you’re writing, the premise and why you’re impassioned to write it. You might say something like this: “I’m working on a thriller about a terrorist who wants to fill the stadium with poisonous gas at a football game and his cheerleader girlfriend who must stop him.” You could explain that you’re a chemistry teacher and you’re alarmed at how easy it is to get poisons via the internet.

How do you reduce your whole story into one sentence? Author Alison McMahan says INKTIP asked agents who represent screenwriters what they want to hear in a pitch. They boiled it down to this formula:  Nouns + verbs + irony = logline. Simple formulas like this one are powerful and easy to remember. You can play around with it until you find a logline or tagline that you’re comfortable with. Remember, the shorter the better. Sarah Jane Freymann, who has a literary agency of the same name says: “If you are able to sum up your entire book with a title or a one-line description, that’s gold.”

Pitching your novel at a conference is just an expansion of this concept. After your initial blurb, pause and give the agent time to ask questions just like you would in a regular conversation. They will likely want to ask you more about the book. If you were at a party you wouldn’t start going into all the details of your sub-plots and your secondary characters. You would stick to the basic premise. Do the same with an agent or editor. A pitch to an agent isn’t the synopsis of your book, nor is it the back cover copy. It’s a short, conversational cross between the two. Throw out your hook and your premise, and show how it all works.

An editor or agent may make suggestions. Jot them down and move on. The next day you can ponder if they fit the concept you want to portray. Agent Katherine Sands says “Red flags wave when a writer starts to huff for any reason.” So stay calm, smile, and make sure they can see your name tag. With practice, you’ll be able to keep your cool in any scenario and enjoy the opportunity to get people excited about what is exciting you.

Interview with Ann Mallen of The Cream Literary Alliance

I first met Ann Mallen years ago at a critique group meeting in PGA, but between her busy schedule and the constant changing nature of critique groups, I didn’t see or hear from her for a long time. Then in January of 2015 I received an email forwarded by the leader of the PGA critique group, from Ann, saying that she was going to host a small reading in her living room. I am always looking for new and exciting ways to feed my art, so I RSVP’ed right away to attend. Only I didn’t read the email carefully enough and I ended up on the list of people to read. Ooops. I read in her living room that night in front of a friendly audience. It was wonderful. In just a two short years The Cream Literary Alliance has become a not for profit organization of which I am proud to be an active member as well as a board member. Ann agreed to ‘speak’ with us today. First let’s find out a little about her.

 

Ann Mallen graduated magna cum laude with a B. S. from the University of Connecticut where she received a fellowship award and was inducted into the Phi Upsilon Omicron Honor Society. She received her Master of Arts in Teaching from Quinnipiac University where she also received a fellowship award. After a decade of teaching, a serious illness forced her to stop working and she opened her own tutoring business. Eight years later, Mallen left tutoring to pursue a life-long dream of writing. In 2008, she was a finalist for an award at Wesleyan Writers Conference. She studied at the Writers Academy at the Kravis Center for four years and received a fellowship to attend Summer Literary Seminars in Montreal. In 2012, she attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference as a contributor. She also went to Eckerd College’s Writers in Paradise on scholarship. In 2015, she founded a nonprofit, The Cream Literary Alliance, which organizes public readings and craft classes by accomplished writers.

SR: Welcome to the blog, Ann. We are so glad you are here with us today. I must say reading your bio, you’ve got quite an impressive resume. What types of things do you write? Tell us about your publishing history.

AM: Thanks, Stacie, I appreciate the opportunity. My short stories have appeared in The Cortland Review, Grey Sparrow, CALYX: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, and The Evening Street Review. My collection of short stories was a finalist for the Eludia Award from Hidden River Arts. My essays have appeared in The Palm Beach Post, The Hartford Courant, The Washington Post, and Reed Magazine (a top five finalist for the Gabriele Rico Nonfiction Challenge). Another essay was produced as part of The Creative Nonfiction Foundation’s Writing Pittsburgh Project.

SR: Wow. That’s a lot of publishing cred! We at TheTuesdays Writers have attended many writing conferences and workshops together and individually. What is your favorite piece of writing advice?

Years ago, I met Josip Novakovich, International Man Booker Award finalist, at the Wesleyan Writers Conference. He told me that if I were disciplined enough I could design my own course of study that might be comparable to an MFA. The key word here is disciplined. Another mentor, Julie Gilbert, a Pulitzer nominee and an excellent writing teacher, insisted that a serious writer should keep a journal with thoughts and feelings about one’s daily writing practice. Both of these mentors stressed discipline. Of course, when I maintain a daily practice, it shows in my writing. At times, I’ve had to set it aside for some crisis, but I don’t abandon it. To have any chance of creating decent work, one must write and read. A lot. And daily.

SR: Wholeheartedly agree. Can you tell our readers how the idea for  The Cream Literary Alliance was born?

AM: After attending several conferences and meeting many writers, I noticed social media posts of literary readings in cities all over the country. I knew of only one such event in West Palm Beach. I wanted more. I also had just received some lousy news about my health, and I needed a distraction. So, I invited local writers to my house to read from their best work in my living room. I bought a table-top podium, wine, and hors d’oeuvres from a local chef. I baked desserts and whipped cream to go with the treats, which inspired the name of the group. I expected maybe six writers would show up for the first night, but twelve arrived. We grew in the next three months until we no longer fit in my living room. I asked if we wanted to form a nonprofit, and the answer was a resounding yes. So, I filed the ridiculous amount of required paperwork, and voila.

SR: What other literary groups has The Cream successfully partnered with?

AM: We are honored to have partnered with several local entities. Aoili, a wonderful café, agreed to host our first event. Habatat Galleries, provided us a gorgeous colorful venue for a reading. The Palm Springs Library worked with us to create an inspiring and well-attended community event focusing on race. Additionally, EmKo, a multi-disciplinary art gallery, collaborated with us for a literary reading dealing with immigration. Our next event will be held at Oxbridge Academy. They’ve been incredibly supportive and actively involved.

We also promote other local literary events like the Palm Beach Book Festival, The Palm Beach Poetry Festival (a group who has supported and guided us well), The Writers Academy at The Kravis Center, and critique groups. The board chose the name to include the word “alliance,” as one of our goals is to form connections with other writing groups to increase the literary energy in South Florida.

SR: Why should people check out The Cream events?

AM: You don’t have to be a writer to attend TCLA events. Often, guests and family members come up to me after a reading to say how much they enjoyed it. We don’t want our events to be boring literary snoozers. We hope that by sharing stories, poems, and memoir excerpts, we can entertain and help people see that we are all more alike than we are different. Our tag line, “The Cream Literary Alliance, where words rise to the top” refers to our desire to share quality with the public.

SR: What do you see in the future for The Cream?

AM: We want The Cream to continue to grow, but we know that we can’t just hope this growth will happen. It takes hard work, planning, and fundraising. And, we’ll need to practice discipline. Our next goal is to host a mini literary conference in early 2018. We have a stellar list of top writers, editors, and teachers who are interested. We hope to have an agent or two as well. In seven or eight years, we envision a brick and mortar writing center where we can hold events, provide classes, and a support writers.

SR: What do you want people to know about The Cream Literary Alliance?

AM: I think the most important thing about TCLA is our inclusiveness and desire to work with other community groups. Our people write in many genres: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and YA. We have writers who focus on oral histories. Some are beginners; some are accomplished. We are young and old. Some of us have medical challenges. We come from many different countries. Yet, we are all connected by our words. At every event, I’m awed by the transformation of the crowd. We often walk into the venue like strangers, hesitant and shy. Yet, we leave as friends, hugging and exchanging contact information.

SR: Here’s your chance to plug upcoming events…

AM: On March 3, we will partner with Oxbridge Academy for a literary reading. Lise Funderburg, award-winning author and editor, is flying in from Philadelphia to read from her work. Local authors: Mary Simses and Stacie Ramey, faculty members of Oxbridge: Kevin Colling and Mike Brennan, and students: Sarah Ackerman and Liam Hart will also present. A reception begins at 6:30. This event is free and co-sponsored by The Cream Literary Alliance and Oxbridge Academy.

On March 4, from 9 am to 3 pm, Lise Funderburg will teach a craft class “Wrestling with Revision.” This writing class is designed for writers at any stage, from beginners to accomplished. $195 includes the class, breakfast, and lunch. There is no substitute for a writing class taught by a pro. It can be a career-changer. Register on our website at thecreamwpb.org. Look for the Professional Craft Class tab and click on the photo.

April 22, Lynne Barrett will teach a class “What Editors Want” at the Palm Springs Public Library from 10 am to noon. She will offer tips and strategies for submitting to journals and magazines. If you write, you need this class. Free. Co-sponsored by TCLA and the library. Details on our website.

We’d love to see new friends at our events.

If you’re interested in what we do and would like to support us, we will be participating in The Great Give, May 17, a day sponsored by the United Way of Palm Beach County to benefit local charities. Watch our Facebook page and our website for updates.

Also, Amazon Smile is a painless way to help us out. Instead of ordering on amazon.com, go to smile.amazon.com and choose Cream Literary Alliance, Inc. Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase to our nonprofit.

SR: Thank you so much for joining us, Ann. And to my Tuesday Readers out there, feel free to write to Ann in the comments below to tell her how you feed your art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freestyle Friday: How do I love thee?

  • Faran Fagen

In honor of Valentine’s Day this week, what better than a Freestyle Friday that embraces my top ten books about love. Here we go in no particular order except the last one, which I feel very strongly about. Please comment if you agree/disagree:

1. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins. Sure, the action plot is amazing, but easily the most tantalizing love triangle of all time. Anytime you can overcome your true love being brainwashed against you by an entire district, you know you have something special.

2. Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli. Anyone who ever dated anyone who went against the norm in school loved this book. A lesson in nonconformity, it’s impossible not to fall in love with Stargirl.

3. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck. The love between Lennie and George is as touching as any husband and wife. It’s not a romantic love, but the lengths these two best friends go to in order to save their relationship will touch – and haunt you – forever.

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald taught me the difference between real love and superficial love. Ironically, for me, like many readers, the strongest love was not Gatsby for Daisy, but Nick’s love for his friend, Gatsby.

5. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams chronicles the story of a stuffed rabbit and his desire to become real, through the love of his owner. Through love, the stuffed rabbit magically becomes real. Beautiful.

6. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare has to be in the conversation for all time love stories. When it comes to love, not much beats ultimate self-sacrifice. Enough said.

7. Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom is based on fourteen Tuesdays Albom met with a dying college professor he admired. Morrie’s lectures and life experiences are interspersed with flashbacks and allusions to contemporary events. Album’s love for his mentor is both nostalgic and beautiful.

8. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks is a tender story about the enduring power of love and miracles. You may also know it from the movie with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. One of the rare instances where the book and movie are both emotional roller coasters that won’t let you go.

9. I Will Save You by Matt De La Pena is the story of Kidd, a teen boy with severe mental problems who’s been abused. It’s a love story because the only think holding Kidd together is his love for Olivia, who sees the good within him. The book also has one of the greatest twists I’ve ever read. And it’s directly related to the relationship between the two.

10. This last book is very special to me, and in my opinion the greatest love story of all time. It’s a story about the love between a tree and a boy. Yes, it’s the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I’ve read this book to both my children many times. Every time I get to the end when the tree straightens up her meager trunk so the boy can sit and rest, it’s emotional for me. I think about all the sacrifices I’ve made for my children, and all the sacrifices my parents made for me. And the last line has to be one of the all-time best in its simplicity: “And the tree was happy”.

The Guests At Our Dream Dinner Party

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? The Tuesdays share their picks.

Faran Fagen

Faran: At my dream dinner party, I’d have all my close friends from my high school years, along with all my teen idols. That way I can fully immerse myself in my teen years so I can get inside the heads of all my characters and make my writing as authentic as ever. Oh, and it would be cool to see all my friends again as well as meet my heroes, such as Cal Ripken, Bob Costas, and the Beastie Boys. What could be better than that?

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: When we were given this task of listing dream guests for our dinner party, I forgot to ask pertinent questions, such as how many guests, and living or dead. I mean, it makes a huge difference. I’ve been to parties where the guests were dead and it was no fun at all. But, for the sake of this assignment, I’m going to mix them up. Also, this is off the top of my head, so it may change if I had to put more thought into it! First up is one my favorite authors ever, as well as one of the most intriguing people, Mark Twain. Next is Albert Einstein. Brilliant man. Would want to hear about his life and of course, theories regarding time travel. George Gershwin is third. Love his work. Rhapsody in Blue is my favorite piece of music of all time. and would want to hear him talk about his life during that time. Fourth on my list, and the only living member of the party, is Keith Hernandez. He’s one of my favorite players ever and I’d love to hear him talk all about baseball and the ’86 Mets. And with the fifth spot, that’ll go to Alfred Hitchcock. Loved his movies and would want to hear all about his thoughts on storytelling.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: There are people from my past that I never get to see anymore. One of the magical aspects of Facebook is connecting with some of them. I would love, love, love to have dinner with Jack and Linda Lyon. Jack was my German teacher in high school. He and his wife Linda opened their home to their students. On a summer evening, you could drive by and find them on the porch where you could join them for conversation. They took many students on camping trips to Europe. I went with them and spent a month traveling through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. As a teacher, I have anxiety taking students on a bus across town much less across an ocean! Going on that trip opened the world to me in a way that I couldn’t get from reading a book. Jack and Linda are retired and spend time in Illinois and Arizona. I think it would be an evening of much laughter.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: It’s easy to imagine my dream dinner party. First, I’d like David Bowie. I’ve always been a huge fan of his. Next I’d like Stephen King. He’s the master of story telling and I imagine he’d be the best conversationalist. I think I’d round out my party with Jim Morrison. Because he’s a dark prophet. Maybe Nelson Mandela to give the party a little class. And Jane Austen because she’s Jane Austen.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: The people I would like to have at my dinner party are all dead, but after serving a few appetizers with lots of wine the discussion could get interesting.  I’d invite Jesus Christ for an overview of how to deal with hatred and fear in our world. I’d invite the Egyptian goddess Isis for her historical view on femininity and Egyptian principle. Physicist Albert Einstein would be on my list for a scientific explanation of the concepts ISIS and Christ put forth. I’d have author Ernest Hemingway at the table to explain how to weave it all into a powerful tale.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: Rutger Hauer in his Blade Runner/Ladyhawke days (so I could stare at him all night). Richard Adams (author of Watership Down, who died in 2016), U2 (all four band members), and Barack and Michelle Obama. On second thought, I’d probably spend the whole night staring at Rutger Hauer, so maybe I’d have to leave him off the list.

Resisting Change in your Writing

I’m always grateful for the input I get from The Tuesdays. When they critique, I write down every word even if I disagree with what was said. I review all of the comments the next day. It’s easy to tell  most of the time that I need to change something, but at times a part of me resists and I need to ask myself if I’m resisting because I don’t want to admit that change needs to be made. If that’s the case I won’t make the change in question on Wednesday, I’ll revisit it on Thursday or Friday after it’s been churning in the back of my brain long enough for me to know I can’t hide from it anymore.

About a month ago I read a scene where my character had a lot of revelations. It was right after the low point of my story at a time when revelations should be happening so the main character can strengthen and have the tools he needs for the climax. But my critique group said it was too many. I argued, something I don’t usually do. They pointed out that the reader had to get used to the new ideas. It was too much all at once.

The next day, I acquiesced and made the changes. I cut most of the information from the scene, added some to a scene in the next chapter and created a new scene for it as well. I resisted spreading it out further because I was still stuck on the idea of having these revelations available to build strength.  I was anxious to read on the following Tuesday to hear how well I’d parceled out the disclosures, but I was busted. AGAIN! This time it hurt. I’d done what they wanted.

 

I went home and reread half a dozen chapters trying to decide where I could place tidbits of information. I figured out this grouping of realizations needed a learning curve, its own arc. What I had done originally was the equivalent of someone describing a character’s looks, inch by inch from head to toe in a huge info dump on page one. My critique group had helped me push past my resistance, by pointing out small nuances in inconsistency until I figured out the concept I needed to learn.

I’ll be reading the last of the information trickle as part of my chapter this week. I can’t wait for Tuesday!