Themed Thursday: Pantser or Plotter? Which kind of writer are you?

For those who may not know what I’m talking about here, a plotter is a writer who outlines. A pantser is a writer who flies by the seat of their pants.

Faran Fagen

Faran: I’m a little of both, outliner and panster. I plan ahead when it comes to key points (inciting event, binding point, turning point, etc.). But when it comes to writing each chapter, I easily get lost in each scene and I think that adds to the excitement and suspense of the story. Because of this spontaneity, I often have to go over each chapter when I’m finished to make sure there are no inconsistencies (sports stats, details out of order, etc.). One thing I find really helpful is to make a list of major plot points and powerful moments I know I want to include in each chapter. That way, I make sure to include those but also give myself the freedom to add in new exciting scenes as well.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: Pantser or plotter? Well, I’d like to think that, for once, I would get an easy question for Thursday, but noooooo! Truth is, I’ve done both. All my novels, I’ve insanely plotted, but for my last one, I just went with an idea and how I wanted it to end, and went with it. It was fun and freeing, but I still had the basis of the plot in my mind. I do like both methods and don’t say one is better than the other, but I will say, if you are a pantser, you better, at least, have a very good idea of how the plot should go, or you risk muddying everything up. So, my answer is both!

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I was a pantser, and I got pretty lucky that things seemed to fall into place where they were supposed to plot-wise. I have taken to outlining some of the story, but right now the re-write I’m in the middle of, in spite of the outline, is taking its own twists and turns.  What can you do? Go with it!

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I am definitely a planner, but you know what they say: “The best-laid plans of mice and men…” My plans often go awry, so I end up writing completely different, very detailed outlines for the same book.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: The answer to the age-old writing question, Do I outline or do I write by the seat of my pants? It’s not that simple. I sort of do a hybrid approach. I write a synopsis, blurb, and sketch out key scenes. Then I fill in the blanks as I write. Except when I write without a plan, whatsoever, just a vague feeling propelling me along. Like the one I’m working on now. Which I’m totally pants-ing. Sooo that makes me a poutliner, I guess.

Tracking Your Characters

My historical fiction middle grade novel has the largest cast of characters of any of the books I’ve written. Like, five times more. You do the math.

I didn’t have to do anything to keep track, but a circus has a lot of characters…even a small mud show like the one I’m writing. So I’ve moved to a spreadsheet. Right now the characters are listed in the order they appear in the book.

It helps. It really does. Yesterday I was having Ringmaster have a conversation with one of the circus hands, but I didn’t know who that should be. I didn’t want to add another character.  (I’m actually hoping to cull some people from the final document when it’s done.) All I had to do was pull open my spreadsheet, scroll down, and figure out it was Joe.

On her blog, Darcy Pattison  

suggests a number of ways to keep track, but she mentions eye color. You can’t have your main character’s eyes changing color unless it’s some fantasy world where that can happen.

I don’t think I mention anyone’s eye color in my circus novel, but you might! Here’s a handy image to help you:

You also might want to check out ‘s post regarding memorable characters. If you make your characters unique, your reader will keep track of hundreds of characters.  Check it out here:


What’s your favorite way to keep track?

One Day More!!

Hello Tuesdays!

Hope all of you are well today! As for me, I’m a mixture of excitement, hopefulness, and plenty of anxiety. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, or even for those who have, I’m here to tell you that my book, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, comes out TOMORROW!

Like, seriously, OMG!

Sorry, I wanted to appeal to the tween readers, in a language that they’d understand. But, in truth, I’m feeling very much, that way. I can’t believe that after all this time, what I started working on, almost three years ago, will finally be out in the world. I know there are some who roll their eyes and say about me or any author, “They’re posting about that again?” Well, I get it. Honestly, I do. There’s a fine line between necessary self-promotion and too much. And even authors feel, almost embarrassed to be posting about their books. Okay, some do. But, you’re all going to have to bear with me this week. It’s been such a long road to get here, and I want to savor every moment.

From the years of rejections, to the times of agonizingly, near-misses, to finally, acceptance and breakthrough. It’s been a lot of work and struggle. People who don’t write, don’t realize the amount of effort that goes into it. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to have such a strong community of writers, either surrounding me, or virtually, who have all endured similar experiences, and have made it easy to commiserate with, as well as, support each other.

As far as this book, it’ll always be special to me. For many reasons. The obvious one, is that it’s the book that finally broke me through to the promised land. As I said, I’d been so painfully close before then, that it was made all the sweeter, when it finally happened. I vividly remember the elation that I felt when I received the phone call. To say that I was stunned, is putting it very mildly. I didn’t know who to tell first, and was even scared to tell anyone at all, since it didn’t feel real and I didn’t want to jinx it. Thankfully, I got over silly superstition and managed to start informing people.

The next reason is far more personal. You see, this book was completed during the last year of my dad’s life. He had been suffering from cancer for a long time, until it finally consumed him. Believe me, it’s tough to write “funny” when that’s going on. But, my dad had a great sense of humor and looking at the funny was how I was raised. Also, he’d always wanted to write a book, but never got to it. It was one of his dreams. So, he always asked how it was going with me. He was intrigued by the process and had been proud that I was actually doing it, and that helped. It almost felt, like it was an extension of him.

Unfortunately, his last few months, he started not comprehending things any longer. When I told him that I got an agent, he said he was happy for me, but I knew he wasn’t really understanding what that meant. Shortly after that, he passed away. Amazingly enough, a couple of months after that, I found out that I had an offer and signed the contract. I was beyond thrilled, but felt sad that I never got to tell my dad that it had finally happened.

Until, recently.

I mean, I went to the cemetery and told him. On the anniversary of his passing, which was coincidentally the same time as his birthdate, I was able to go there and show him the finished product. Yes, it was bittersweet, but I was still happy that he got to see, up close.

And, while I’m proud of the finished book, and feel it’s very funny, it’ll always feel like something more, to me. Whether it sells a million copies or just one, I’ll know that I managed to fulfill a dream, and maybe, even two. I’ll always associate Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies with that time.

So, while I’m sure there are some of you who are tired of hearing about it, this week is mine. Next week, I’m sure, it’ll start to lessen, and the week after that, even more. But, this week, you’re going to have to grin and bear it.

I thank every one of you for indulging me, and for the generosity and friendship shown by everyone who has helped with this. From words of encouragement, to sharing posts, leaving reviews, and genuine excitement for me, it was very much appreciated.

Tomorrow, will be the culmination of all of it. Everything that has happened to me, the last three years, comes true tomorrow, when I unleash Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies into the world.

Again, thank you, and I truly, hope you enjoy it.

One Day More.


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.

Themed Thursday: Our recommended beach reads

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I just finished The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies. This isn’t a book I’d normally pick up to read (the synopsis made it seem like a historical romance), but a dear friend of mine recommended it, so I gave it a try. I didn’t want to put it down!

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: My beach read is: A Gentleman in Moscow by A. Towles. This book unfolds shortly after the Russian Revolution in a period of violent upheaval. A striking count named Alexander Rostov has been summoned and accused of writing a counter-revolutionary poem. His trial offers an indication of the count’s casual resistance to the spirit of the times. Asked to state his occupation, he answers, “It is not the business of a gentleman to have occupations.” Friends in high places keep him from being shot on the spot. He’s declared a “Former Person” and sentenced to life imprisonment in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol. The novel has more time for tea than high adventure, but it makes you appreciate what you’ve got, and those with which you can share it.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: To me, any book that I’m reading is a good beach read. I love reading by the pool or beach. Fresh air and seeing the water in the background puts you in another place, mentally. But, since we’re picking one, and I have a feeling that this will be on more than one person’s list, I’ll say Jaws. Jaws is a fun read, and what better place to read it than the beach? You’ll be peeking into the ocean every other paragraph and then be too scared to even go in! What’s more fun than that?

Faran Fagen

Faran: When I worked full-time at night in the Palm Beach Post sports department, I used to bike to Palm Beach almost every day (I didn’t report to work til 4 p.m.) Often, if I wasn’t making another lame attempt at surfing, I would take the latest Sports Illustrated magazine and read while I listened to the waves. A writer’s magazine, SI was full of colorful features, detailed profiles, and witty commentary. Some beautiful memories of reading those articles in the sand.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: A beach read for me needs to be a Janet Evanovich novel. Her Stephanie Plum series–funny mishaps of an ill-suited bounty hunter with a scintillating love triangle. Team Ranger.

Wrap-It-Up Wednesday: True Confession

Well, it’s my turn for Wrap-It-Up Wednesday, but I have a confession to make. I didn’t go to critique group this week, and not only that, I didn’t have have a real excuse other than, “I’m not in a good head space right now,” which was totally true. But it’s not like me to flake out on my obligations. (And since when is going to the Tuesdays an obligation? It’s not!)

So now I’m sitting here trying to figure out what made me not want to go to critique group this week. It’s not my writing. My book is progressing well. I think it’s because—even though I’m normally a very positive person—I’ve been feeling a little depressed, not in the clinical sense, but in the sense that, I turn 48 in a few days and today I spotted two gray hairs and I’ve been dealing with a lot of sickness and death lately.

So maybe it’s okay that I allow myself to miss a week of critique group. Or maybe I should have sucked it up and gone. Regardless, I think it’s important to realize that we all have days when we don’t feel like getting out of bed, and it’s okay. The trick (for me) is not to wallow in it for too long. I know this feeling will pass and I know in a few days I’ll be back to my positive self, plugging away on my book and feeling excited about meeting with the Tuesdays.

Writers, like the rest, need be dexterous and deft

By Faran Fagen

Tuesday Tips

“You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”
– From “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books of all time.
This time of year, as I set up my classroom, get my kids’ school supplies, and re-assess my writing goals, always tests my time management skills.
Every year, it all works out.
If you feel the same, you’ll enjoy these quotes about juggling and balance from writers, celebrities and other famous folks. See if you can guess who said what. A few of the authors are Benjamin Franklin, Ellen Degeneres and comedian Chris Rock. Enjoy!

“Life is a juggling act with your own emotions. The trick is to always keep something in your hand and something in the air.”

“Juggling and balancing effectively required that we make clear, legacy-driven choices about what we’re trying to keep in the air and how we sequence our movements down the beam. Because the ultimate grade in life is not based on how far and fast we’ve walked the beam or how many things we’ve juggled—it’s based on how much we’ve enjoyed the exercise.”

“Most of us have trouble juggling.
The woman who says she doesn’t is someone whom I admire but have never met.”

“Do three things well, not ten things badly.”

“I’m happy when I’m juggling, but I feel like I’ve gonefrom, like, 3 balls to 10 bowling balls. But, that’s a good problem. I don’t really have a complaint about that.”

“Juggling is sometimes called the art of controlling patterns, controlling patterns in time and space.”

“The fact of the matter is, when I’m on tour,
I’m juggling so hard to keep all the balls in the air that I don’t often get to really enjoy what I’m out there doing.”

“The world cannot be governed without juggling.”

“Some scenes you juggle two balls, some scenes you juggle three balls,
some scenes you can juggle five balls.
The key is always to speak in your own voice.”

“Speak the truth.
That’s Acting 101.
Then you start putting layers on top of that.”

“My grandmother was a Jewish juggler:
she used to worry about six things at once.”

“A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges.”

“Motherhood has relaxed me in many ways.
You learn to deal with crisis.
I’ve become a juggler, I suppose.”

“It’s all a big circus, and nobody who knows me believes I can manage, but sometimes I do.”

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.”

“The world cannot be governed without juggling”

“When I hear people talk about juggling, or the sacrifices they make for their children, I look at them like they’re crazy, because ‘sacrifice’ infers that there was something better to do than being with your children.”

“Juggling is an illusion. … In reality, the balls are being independently caught and thrown in rapid succession. … It is actually task switching.”

“You need not feel guilty about not being able to keep your life perfectly balanced.”

“Juggling everything is too difficult. All you really need to do is catch it before it hits the floor.”

“Writing is one of the few careers for which you essentially train yourself, the other two major ones being juggling and acting.”

“I like being busy and juggling a lot of things at the same time. I get bored easily, so I need to do a lot.”

“I need to recharge creatively, and get off the clock of having to be somewhere just because, and having to keep juggling all these things.”

I’ll leave you with this quote about learning from mistakes. One of my favorites:
“Our wisdom comes from our experience, and our experience comes from our foolishness”-Sasha Guitry

Interview with Melissa Roske, Debut Author of Kat Greene Comes Clean!

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m thrilled to be joined by friend and fellow 2017 Debut Author, Melissa Roske, whose book, Kat Greene Comes Clean, is scheduled to come out TOMORROW from Charlesbridge!

JR: Hi, Melissa and thanks for joining us today.

MR: Hi to you, Jonathan!


JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about Kat Greene Comes Clean and the impetus behind writing it?

MR: Okay, here’s the plot: Kat Greene is an 11-year-old fifth grader at the super-progressive Village Humanity School, in New York’s Greenwich Village. Kat’s lucky to have great friends, a loving blended family—including a caring stepmom and an adorable three-year-old half-brother, Henry—and the excitement of New York City at her doorstep. She’s also got a big problem: Her mom’s got an out-of-control cleaning compulsion, fuelled by her worsening OCD. She’s also terrified of germs. To cope, Kat reaches out to her best friend, as well as to the hippie-dippy school psychologist, Olympia Rabinowitz—but things start to spiral out of control when Kat’s mom decides to be a contestant on Clean Sweep, a TV game show about—you guessed it—cleaning.

The impetus behind the book is based on my own experience with OCD—or, to be more accurate, my dad’s OCD. His compulsions are the polar opposite of Kat’s mom’s, though, because my dad is extremely messy and keeps everything. (I recently found a datebook in his apartment from 1973!) He’s also a checker, which means he must check the front-door locks, and the gas jets on the stove, multiple times a day. I too have obsessive-compulsions tendencies, including the need to have my window shades fixed at a certain level, but I wouldn’t say they impede my life. They’re just extremely distracting—to my family, and to myself.


JR: I read that you used to be a journalist in Europe. That sounds fascinating. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

MR: Before my daughter was born, I lived with my husband in Brussels, London, and Munich respectively. My first gig, in Brussels, was at a newsweekly called The Bulletin, where I interviewed Belgian politicians, wrote restaurant reviews, and profiled minor celebrities (with the focus on minor). I did pretty much the same thing in London, but the celebrities were a tiny bit more high profile and I was able to get around town without getting lost! I also had an advice column in Just Seventeen magazine, Britain’s then-leading magazine for teenage girls, where I answered hundreds of letters from readers each month.



JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point? 

MR: How long have you got, Jonathan? Okay, here’s the short version: I started querying Kat—which was then called What’s the Problem, Ellie Gold?—in 2012. I got an agent after an R and R, and went on submission later that year. When the manuscript failed to garner interest from editors, my agent and I parted ways. I then reworked the book from top to bottom (and bottom to top, and top to bottom…) and started the querying process all over again. I found a great agent, who then sold the book to Julie Bliven at Charlesbridge. The deal was announced on September 29, 2015. I’ve since switched agents—I’m now represented by the awesome Patricia Nelson of MLLA—and working on my next book.


JR: What’s your writing process like?

MR: I try to write every day, although some days are more successful than others. On successful days (which outnumber the slacker days, thankfully), I like to do a little prewriting in my journal before I sit down to work. I test out ideas, explore plot points, and to ask myself plenty of “What if” questions. For instance, there’s a scene in my book where Kat goes trick-or-treating with her BFF, Halle, but Halle isn’t speaking to Kat.  I wasn’t sure how Kat should react at this point, so I asked myself: “What if Kat acted as if everything was fine?” From there, the scene developed naturally. Another thing I do is to write a synopsis before I tackle a project. I like to have a roadmap, even if I don’t follow it.

JR: What was your favorite childhood book and who’s your favorite author?

MR: This one is too easy! Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. Published in 1964, it tells the tale of Harriet M. Welsch, an eleven-year-old New Yorker who spies on her neighbors and writes down her observations in a notebook. I actually wrote a whole article on why I love this book so much, but I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say I’ve read Harriet the Spy more times than I can count—at least once a year, every year, since the age of 11. Don’t ask me to do the math. I will refuse.


JR: What’s your favorite movie?

MR: As embarrassing as this sounds—and it is, admittedly—it’s Legally Blonde. How can you not love it? It’s about a whip-smart fashion-merchandising major who aces “The History of Polka Dots” and gets into Harvard Law School.


JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

MR: I turned down the chance to be on the David Letterman show. I was a life coach at the time, and I’m pretty sure the producers wanted to poke fun at the coaching profession. Life coaches have a hard enough time being taken seriously, and I didn’t think David Letterman needed any encouragement. So I said no.

JR: I think your inclination was probably right. 


JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

MR: I actually had to do quite a lot for Kat Greene, because I wanted to make sure that the portrayal Kat’s mom’s OCD was fair and accurate. To that end, I read many books on the subject—including David Adam’s excellent memoir, The Man Who Couldn’t Stop—and interviewed several psychologists and psychiatrists. I also corresponded with people who suffer from OCD, and talked to members of their families as well.

My second book focuses on a girl whose stepdad is an ex-football player, so I’ve been learning more about football than I thought humanly possible. And there’s been a steep learning curve. I know nothing—and I mean nothing—about the game!


JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

MR: I used to be a member of a wonderful critique group, but it disbanded when a key member moved away. Now I exchange manuscripts with several writer friends, including the accomplished MG author, Nancy Butts. At some point I’d like to join a new group, but it would have to be the right fit. The sharing of one’s work is incredibly personal.


R: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

MR: The best piece of writing advice came from my mentor, the incredible life- and writing coach Sara Lewis Murre. She always says, “What you write is right.” That’s not to say what you write needs to be good, but it’s important that you let yourself write whatever you need to, at any given time. Self-criticism runs rife for writers, and it’s vital to keep it at bay.


JR: What are you working on next?

MR: I’m not sure if my agent wants me to blab, but I can say that it’s another middle-grade novel, this time about a sixth-grade girl whose family lands on a reality-TV show. Oh, and it’s set in New York. (Surprise, surprise!)

JR: That sounds very cool. Can’t wait to read it!


JR: Is there anything that else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media?

MR: Well, I can give you my bio, if you want. If not, well… here it is anyway. Melissa Roske was a journalist in Europe, before landing a job as a teen-advice columnist for Britain’s Just Seventeen. Upon returning to her native New York, Melissa contributed to several books and magazines, selected jokes for Reader’s Digest, and got certified as a life coach. She lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with her husband, daughter, and the occasional dust bunny.



WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Instagram


Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays, and I’m begging you, please don’t say Faran!

MR: Faran? Who’s Faran?

JR: And that’s why I like you so much! 

Thanks, again for joining us, Melissa, and here’s hoping for huge success for Kat Greene Comes Clean!

Fun Friday: The Joy of Writing

It’s been a long time since I felt this good about my writing. I’ve been working on my next book for going on three years, and only recently, in this, the third major rewrite, do I finally feel like the story is coming together. Plot pieces are falling into place. Character motivations are clear. Subtleties are coming out, and emotion is running high. As I type each scene, my fingers are deft on the keyboard. The words flow (mostly), and I find myself immersed in the world I’ve created.

I wish writing could always feel this good.

But it doesn’t—at least for me it doesn’t—not until I put in the hard work of writing and plotting and rewriting and re-plotting until finally, the story I want to tell emerges. I thought when I started this book that I knew what that story was, but I was wrong, and even though the story didn’t feel right when I was writing it, I still had to go through that process. I had to write crap in order to find out what the story was.

Unfortunately, this seems to be my M.O. With my first book, A Work of Art, I went through this same process. Outlining extensively, thinking I knew what the story was, only to totally re-outline and rewrite the entire book—not once, but twice. The third total rewrite ended up being the story I wanted to tell.

I’m following the same pattern with my work in progress.

I wish I were one of those writers who’s full of ideas. Maybe I am, but the ideas are lying dormant and I have to dig them out. Actually, as I write this, I realize that must be the case. Am I okay with that? I guess I have to be. Because even though I spent years painfully extracting words from my brain (knowing most of the time that they sucked), this feeling I have now—this feeling of the words flowing from my head to the page—that makes it all worth it.

E-reader or Book? What’s Your Preference?

Faran Fagen

Faran: I just love to sit in a comfortable chair and flip through the pages of a book. I love the smell of a book, the feel of the pages on my fingers, and the authentic look of the cover. Nothing’s better than rain patting the roof, a comfy chair, a cup of coffee in one hand, and a good book in the other. Not having to worry about charging the thing or other technical glitches is also a plus.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: My current favorite method is audiobooks. I download them from Broward County Library on Overdrive and listen in the car. I was in Dania for a workshop yesterday. It took me an hour to get home, but I didn’t mind. I had a great book! I also will read from an e reader on occasion, but normally, if I’m reading, it’s an actual book.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I started reading ebooks when I ran out of space on my bookshelves. Now I’m hooked. I usually read while I’m eating or drinking coffee, and with an ebook, you can just prop up the device (in my case, i use the Kindle app on my iPad) to easily turn the pages. I also read in bed at night–which means I can turn off all the lights and still see my book. That’s not to say I don’t love the feel and smell and look of paper books. I do! And I’ll still buy my favorite books in hard copy so I can display them on my shelf.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: I am definitely a book person. I don’t even own an e-reader. I love the texture of the cover in my hands, the smell of the pages, and the available reference should I want to revisit the book for a discussion. I keep most of my books in case I want to reread them, reference a writing technique, or share them with others. Some of my books have been passed down from my parents and grandparents who loved to read. I hope to pass along those favorites to my children and grandchildren.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: You’d think there’d finally be an easy question for our Themed Thursdays, but as always, it’s never that simple. There are times when I prefer reading via electronic device, but to me, there’s nothing better than holding a new book and flipping through the pages. It’s a thrill to open a book and get that feeling that an electronic device just can’t match.