Sunday, March 18, 2018

SCBWI: Cheerleaders for the "Not Yet"

Writers live notoriously lonely lives. And maybe a few people make it really big and get to tour their published books, greeted by thousands of adoring fans. But even those folks still have to go back to their laptops/desktops/notebooks and sit down and write new things. All by themselves.

And yet we know that we need community. We need collaborators. We need encouragers. And for those of us who are not (yet) published, we need people around us to give us that voice of face to face encouragement, that little nudge to keep going. Much of this can happen in relationships with agents and editors.

But I am not there yet. I hope to be someday. In the meantime, I have SCBWI.

This is the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. They can be found at

I stumbled across them while living in Germany. I found a critique group because of them. Then, when I moved to Portland, Oregon, I found another. I started going to mini-workshops and conferences.

There were maybe two dozen people at my first workshop in Stuttgart--I had no idea what it would be like. I didn't know any of the publishing terms. I wouldn't share anything out loud. And still, these lovely people welcomed me--at least they let me eat lunch with them and ask dozens of questions.

In the next and the next and the next, I learned more publishing terms and protocols. I started to learn how to hone my craft. I am still learning, and at each event I can squeeze in--which are admittedly few and far between--I take away one more small nugget of insight or encouragement.

At one of these, a newly published author encouraged us all that if we weren't published, it was a matter of "Not Yet" not an issue of "Not Ever". It had taken her two decades to get that first book out in the world. "Yet" became the watchword for the weekend. And I have been hanging on to it since.

Thank you to all of the people I have met through SCBWI--for your encouragement and enthusiasm and for making me a name tag that reads "writer".

Friday, December 1, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017

Good Morning NanNoWriMos!

Congratulations to everyone who took the challenge and wrote something--anything--during the month of November. You rock!

This was my third year of trying to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. And apparently the old cliche is true--the third time is a charm. I actually finished it this year!

But I don't want to belittle the experience of previous years. Every time we sit down to write intentionally, good things happen. Maybe not the best writing. Maybe there is a whole lot of pretty terrible writing, actually, but somewhere in the muck, some small gems rise to the surface, and those are the things that keep us going--when we find that one good thing, that we can develop, and polish. Maybe it is how a character really came to life for just one scene. Maybe an arc that was bothering me worked itself out. Then all of the terrible writing is worth it.

Today, I am enjoying a slowly consumed cup of coffee, and I think I might just read a little--something that isn't mine. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Question: Traditional or Self-Publishing?

The publishing world has begun to change. A lot. And it leaves writers wondering what the best route is for getting their "stuff" out there.

It used to be that self-publishing was an expensive option for people who just couldn't get their work published in traditional means. That idea is changing. It is not the last-ditch place anymore. It is no longer so expensive, and in fact leaves the writer with more freedom regarding how and when their work will be released. It can also be, from a percentage standpoint, much more lucrative for the author.

So, why isn't everyone flocking to the self-publishing option? Is it just the esteem? That may be part of it. But I have the feeling there is more going on.

Writer friends--on both sides of this aisle--talk about the benefits they gain from interacting with their readers. All writers learn something, strengthen their writing, and find encouragement when we share our writing. Otherwise, why would we do it? When the first to look at a text are "professional readers", meaning they are in the business of publishing, their eyes are trained to find the best and worst in a story. Editors, agents, and critics can be really helpful. They can enhance the process. They can push people like me to become better writers.

On the other hand, my critique partners, past and present, have pushed me to really find the story I want to tell, without having the burden of marketability. They don't have to care whether or not I can sell my story--they just want me to write it as well as I can.

It is quite possible that writers need feedback wherever they can get it. Some of it isn't always so friendly or polite. It is, however, essential.

If I choose self-publishing, then I must seek out professional copy-editors at a bare minimum, because someone--who is not already my friend--has to give me honest feedback.

And from there, the construction of sale-able book continues. Self-publishing is a lot like contracting your own home. Yes, it can be done. And yes, it provides much more control over the whole process. But everything from selecting a graphic artist for cover design, to marketing must then be managed by the author. It is a lot of work.

It might be worth it. But it might not. What are your thoughts?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Question: What do age categories do for literature?

Hi everyone. I am going to start proposing some questions to some things am I thinking about. I would love your comments. You will help me to "talk it out" in my own head.

So I am wondering about some of the limitations set by terms like "middle grade", "YA" or "Adult" in fiction. I like to write characters who are 18, 19, 20 years old. They are no longer "coming of age". That has pretty much happened. But they ARE coming into BEING. Who they are going to be as adults is forming.

As I think back onto my own life development, so, so, so much more happened from the 18-21 years than in the 14-17 (not that a LOT wasn't going on then, too) in terms of WHO I was really on my way to becoming. This stage really interests me as a writer. It interests me as a person. When I was in the classroom, I loved my seniors the best. I loved watching those who were graduating stepping out into a "real world", seeing them just transitioning to their soon-to-be adult selves.

I find college students delightful. Both their messiness and their maturity. I am just lucky enough to get to interact pretty regularly with a handful. Seeing the world through their nascent experiences is pretty awesome.

So, I want to write about them.

But WHERE do we put them? What type of category do we give to a "coming of being" story? It's not really adult. It's a little past typical young adult.

I do not want to criticize genre or sub-genre here. It has served the world of published fiction well. It serves me well when I wander the aisles in my favorite bookstore or mine the shelves of the library. I have some expectations for what I might find because of categorization. We need them. But I do want to suggest that there are limitations.

What do we do about this? Post your comments. I want to hear from you.