Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Love Letter to Severus Snape

The lovely Frankie Diane is hosting a blogfest today! Yes, that's right, today is the Love Letters to Literary Crushes blogfest, where we all chime in to share the love about our favorite literary guy or gal and take the attention off Edward and Jacob('s abs) for a change. And my literary crush is certainly unconventional.

*Waits patiently while every double and triple checks the title of this post.*

Yes, folks, that's right, my literary crush is one Mr. Severus Snape. (I don't think I need to warn you that the rest of this post will be absolutely rife with spoilers for the entire Harry Potter series, particularly the seventh book, so if you happen to be someone who hasn't read the Harry Potter books, may I suggest that you stop reading this post immediately and run to your nearest bookstore, library, Kindle store, or online purveyor of goods and pick them up immediately? Thank you.)

I know what you're thinking. Snape is...a weird choice. But I think all you have to do is read my letter to him to discover why Snape - who is, I think, my favorite character from literature probably ever  - is someone truly worthy of love.

Dear Severus,

Can I call you Severus? I hope that's OK. I just feel like I know you, and Professor Snape seems to formal, and Snape is too mean, so Severus it is.

I would like to take this moment to declare my undying love for you. OK, maybe you need a shower - greasy hair isn't really the best thing for anyone. And perhaps you have some skeletons in your closet...or tattooed on your arm. But who doesn't love a bad boy, particularly if that bad boy comes with his own ultimate bad-ass tattoo? The truth is, I much prefer to imagine you, my dear Severus, looking like this:

Vulnerable. Mysterious. Rickman.

Than this:
 Angry. Hateful. Eyebrows.

But, no matter what you look like, it's really your heart that matters. And I've seen your heart, Severus. You're part of the greatest love story never told. Even though your rash decisions and loyalty to the wizarding world's biggest bully killed the only person you ever truly loved, you did everything you could to stop it. And when it happened anyway, you continued to love her, to protect the things that she couldn't, even though it also meant protecting your enemy's child.

Despite everything you went through, your upbringing, your pureblood mania, in the end you changed it all for a girl you fell in love with on a playground. Your whole life revolved around her, nearly every decision you made. You were loyal to her even when it meant losing everything else. You risked your life daily to protect the thing your love died to save, even as every single person around you questioned your motives.
That, Severus, is love.

And so, Severus Snape, tonight I express my love for you, a love that I believe Lily never lost, even if you did say hurtful things to her. No one who can think of someone else with their last breath could possibly be hateful. There is so much love in your heart, Severus, if only you had room in it for me. But, alas, I know your heart belongs only to Lily Evans. And so I'll leave you, my dearest Severus, forgiving you for the mistakes you made, knowing that the torture you put yourself through is more than enough penance - though for you, you will never believe it to be.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Funday! (31)

Yesterday's Sunday Funday was interrupted by a Very Important Post, so I'm doing Monday Funday instead! Here are some great links from around the blogging world and the Interwebz:

Have you read The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride? If so, hop on over to Forever YA Lit to participate in a discussion of the book! (It started today and will continue through tomorrow. One commenter will win a copy of next month's book club choice!)

Elana Johnson offers some sage advice on how to write.

Inky Girl, maker of fine writing cartoons since...awhile...discusses cliches in writing. Although most of them are journalism-related, you should probably avoid them in your fiction, too. Because cliches are totally lame. (I wanted to come up with a cliche there, but I couldn't. That doesn't make them any less lame though. Maybe it makes me more awesome. ;))

A long time ago, before e-readers and foreign rights agents and movie deals and laptops were in use, books were made a very different way. Vicarious Reader talks about how books used to be made, and how times have changed since then.

The ever-fabulous Emilia Plater has done it again! This time, she takes inspiration from a parody trailer for every Oscar-winning movie ever made and parodies it in her own way - a book trailer for every YA novel ever made! Watch it, then go Twitter about it.



Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dude, Your Book Could be a THEME PARK! (My trip to WWoHP!)

I know it's Sunday, which means it should be SUNDAY FUNDAY!!

But who cares about that, because I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Friday! And I know you all would much rather see pictures and read about my time there than get awesome links (J/K, but I'll be delivering those links tomorrow instead. I still want to spread the blogging love.) I think this is totally justifiable because Harry Potter is book-related (more on that later).

We got up at 5:30am, which if you know me in real life is SUPER early for me. I mean, I have to be at work at 8:30, I live 10 minutes from my office, and I think I roll out of bed at about 8:15 most days. So that should tell you how I feel about early wake-up calls. But we wanted to be on the road by 6 so that we could be there right when the park opened at 9, and hubs wanted to stop at Cracker Barrel for a delicious, filling breakfast to get us through the morning.

We walked into Islands of Adventure (the area of the theme park which houses WWoHP - remember, it's not a whole park on it's own, though that would be awesome) a little after 9. We did have to wait in line to get inside the Harry Potter area but it was only about 30 - 40 minutes, and the line moved the whole time. Mostly they were just herding people slowly through the park, I think, and trying to keep us from storming the gates.

So I walked through the gates into Hogsmeade, squeezed my husband's hand, and made this emoticon come to life: :D

The first thing we did was ride the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. The wait was about 60 minutes, and the longest I ever saw the line was 90 minutes. Considering that, at one point, we were pulled out of the park (those who follow me on Twitter got to see me rant about that ordeal - it wasn't the park's fault or anything, and we got to come back later and see Hogsmeade at night so it ended up being totally fine) and went to the Universal side and waited 60 minutes for the Simpsons ride, that wait time is legit. Plus the details in the line are ah-MAZ-ing. It makes it not even seem like a wait. (And park workers-er, wizards- said single riders get on right away, if you don't want to wait at all. But then you miss out on the castle.) Here are a few of my favorite details (and trust me, this is barely the tip of the iceberg!!):
 The ride itself is awesome. I don't want to give a lot away, but suffice it to say that I've never been on a ride quite like it before - and I live two hours from Orlando, and right across Tampa Bay from Busch Gardens. The only thing is Aragog and his babies are prominently featured, and I am terrified - no, terrified - of spiders, so I spent a portion of the ride with my eyes closed, squeezing hubs' hand. I did really like that the ride featured a little cubby in the back of the seat so you could stash your camera while you ride, since all your bags, etc. have to be stored in lockers before you get in line.

The rest of Hogsmeade was awesome. Honestly, if you take away the tourists, it was like being there. The shops were small, just like they should have been, but this meant that there was about a 15 minute wait to get inside them. (Later in the night, like at the very end, though, you could walk right in with no problem. This is also the best time to go into Honeydukes if you visit in the summer because chocolate frog + Florida sun = disaster. Also they had specials on some of the baked treats, like rock cakes, pumpkin pasties, and cauldron cakes at the end of the night.)

The dragon challenge coaster and the flight of the hippogriff coaster had almost no wait - we walked right on to the dragon challenge coaster every time we went on (it's always been like that on this coaster, and since there are two completely different tracks, it's essentially two rides) and the hippogriff coaster line was about 10 minutes (never, ever more than 30 minutes that I saw). At the hippogriff coaster ride you can see Hagrid's hut, and it looks exactly like the movies. The hippogriff coaster is super fun even for a kiddy coaster - not remotely scary, and it provides a great aerial view of the park (photo op!) The details in the dragon challenge coaster - the champion's tent, the triwizard cup, are just awesome. Noticeably absent, though, are banners cheering on Cedric - I guess they decided he was a franchise traitor. Also, if you happen to be afraid of coasters or rides in general, you should still walk through the lines to see the cool stuff - there are exits or child swaps at the end of everything so you can always get off, and seeing the detail is worth it for sure. You won't be disappointed!

We ate at the Three Broomsticks/Hog's Head for dinner. The food (all English-inspired - Shepard's pie, fish and chips, pasties, etc.) was surprisingly tasty, with lots of vegetables, and the prices actually seemed semi-reasonable (around $10 for a dinner entree with side salad). The beer (Hog's Head brew) was delicious - amber in color but not too heavy/dark tasting, with just a little spice. I would totally buy a six pack. The Butterbeer was everything I thought it could be - cream soda with a hint of butter, and a butterscotch foam topping. So, so good. I got the take-home mug because refills on that are cheaper (I think around $4), so I'll bring it back next time I go. 

I got to see the end of a frog choir performance, which was funny, and the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons dancers, both pretty cool. Pretty much the only thing we skipped this time around was Ollivander's wand show, because the line was ridiculous and there was no shade, so it would have been two hours of standing in the hot sun. I know I'll be back, hopefully when it's a little quieter, so I can go then.

This place is seriously merchandise heaven. I'm writing this in my new Gryffindor PJ pants. One of my mother in law's friends works there, and she said they can't keep things in stock because they had no idea things would move off the shelf so fast.  I guess they underestimated Potter fans. But really, if people started reading the series as kids when it came out, they're at the height of their buying power now - many are in their mid or late-20s, possibly with no kids, so all of their disposable income can go to MERCH. Or they have kids who want toys. It's genius.

I do have a few gripes. I wish there was another ride or two. Compared to the other areas of Islands of Adventure, it seems smaller.  But it's also way more immersive - even the signs about the rides and the park announcements are on-theme (and most staff stay in character, too). The stores are combined, which is weird - Zonkos and Honeydukes are together, and Dervish & Bangs, Ollivanders (the part where you buy the wand), and the Owl Post are all in one (extremely crowded) shop. If you want a wand, it's actually best to get it from the cart outside the Forbidden Journey ride, although they do have a different selection, so you might want to check both places. And then there are some things that don't quite jive with the series, like Weasley products hanging up in Zonkos, but it was still fun to see them so I won't gripe about that ;)

All in all, though, the experience was truly amazing. You could spend all day there, but you could also easily spend half a day there, go enjoy the rest of the park, then head back in for dinner - because seeing Hogwarts castle lit up at night is amazing (and my camera just wouldn't capture it well enough to do it justice).

The coolest thing of all, though, is that all of this - eight hugely successful movies that launched the careers of three (and more) bright young stars, a theme park, and more - came from a book. A middle grade book. Written by a debut author.

Just remember that next time you're struggling to put your sentences together or make time to write. You better finish that book - it could be a theme park one day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I Love Picture Books

After I got accepted into VCFA, the assistant director of the writing for children and YAs program sent me a few lists of suggested reading. One of those lists was The New York Public Library's 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know. (The other was the School Library Journal's 100 Books that Shaped the Century, which also has a lot of picture books on it, along with some chapter books, MGs, and a few YAs.)

I'll admit that, up to this point, I never gave picture books much thought. I don't have kids, and I haven't babysat someone who was PB-age appropriate for about nine years, so the need just wasn't there. And I don't write picture books, I write YA, so I didn't think I would need to look at that section of the bookstore for at least 3-10 years, when hubs and I start having kids (you can see the jury is still out on when that will actually occur). So when I was at the library last week, I figured I would pick up a few of the picture books, just for fun, and bring them home.

And, wow.

Picture books are amazing. They are funny, heart-warming, and even bring tears to my eyes. They have beautiful lessons about morality, friendship, courage, being true to yourself, humility, and all of those things that kids (and most adults) need to learn - but always presented in a fun, easy-to-access way.

There is no way that writing picture books is easy. (Not that I need to tell any of you that.) I read one book about riots in L.A. (Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz). It talked about riots, obviously, but also about race relations, and used cats and children to demonstrate the point that tragedy will often bring together people who have had major differences in the past, even if they're very different from each other. There's this kind of amazing moment in the book where the child narrator says a line of dialogue, and he says all the adults get very quiet - it's exactly how the moment would have happened in real life, because the moment was poignant and pure. I never knew picture books could be so powerful, but they are.

I also loved Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett. This one is meant for a slightly younger audience than Smoky Night, and it had me laughing out loud. I even made my husband read it, I thought it was so great. Then I read Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann, which was just wonderful. It's about friendship and loyalty, and shows how teamwork is the key to success. Plus the illustrations on the inside covers are so funny, I appreciated them even more after I finished the book.

I guess the point of this post is that there is definitely a subtle art to writing picture books. You need to appeal to the right age group, get the right lessons across without being too preachy, and adding a touch of humor is always nice, too. And revisiting picture books as an adult, especially as an adult writer (whether you plan to write picture books or not) is a great exercise in studying the basics of powerful storytelling. Because these books elicit strong emotions, and stick with their readers for years to come. (Remember how you feel thinking about your favorite book as a kid? I remember I used to make my dad read The Monster at the End of This Book almost every night to me, even after I was old enough to read it myself. I think once I even told him I could read it, but really I'd just memorized the words from multiple tellings.)

I don't think I'll try picture book writing anytime soon. But maybe someday, after reading and studying enough of the outstanding books out there, I'll give it a try. I have a feeling there's no way I'll measure up.

Now, you tell me: What's your favorite picture book?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Funday! (30)

Happy Sunday everyone! I spent the day reading a few picture books, and let me tell you - they are AWESOME. I got a list from the assistant director of VCFA's Writing for Children and YAs MFA program called "100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know." (I also got "100 Books that Shaped the Century" and a few suggestions for books on craft. Needless to say, I have a lot of reading to do before January.) I decided to start my picture book reading this weekend, and grabbed a selection from my local library. Then I brought them home and read them aloud. To my dogs. (Maybe this makes me crazy. But I think picture books are meant to be read aloud, and I don't have kids. And hubs was sleeping.)

Of the books I brought home, the one I enjoyed the most was Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett. It made me laugh out loud more than once, and the pictures complemented the words so perfectly. I think my dogs liked it, too, because Evie put her paws on me while I was reading, and she even sort of looked at the pictures a little.

OK, now that I've exposed my crazy for all the world to see (thus negating any credibility I may have had) and recommended a fabulous picture book, here are some of the best links from around the Web this week!  

Have you heard about Write on Con? I'm sure you have. But just in case you haven't, let me break it down for you. I bet you've always wanted to go to a writer's conference, but you haven't been able to afford the travel or hotel arrangements, or maybe the registration fees were too steep. Well now, some of your very favorite kid lit bloggers are bringing an online conference to you absolutely FREE!! It sounds phenomenal, and it's happening this summer.  I can't wait!

Over at the Query Tracker blog, 20 agents talk about what gets their attention in a query. (In a good way, not n a crazy-stalker way.)

Have you heard about QUERYPOLITAN? It is awesome. And hilarious. Just like its editor-in-chief. My greatest goal in life is to someday be the editor of a magazine as awesome as QUERYPOLITAN. I guess for now I'll stick with being a lesser editor of a financial magazine. Anyway, here are two fabulous articles from the "magazine." What 81 Percent of Agents Expect on the First Page and 50 Query Tricks

Forever YA Lit gives the low-down on ARC tours, along with some great links to tour sites.

My greatest weakness in writing is dialogue. A dialogue-heavy scene will take me to write (which you know, if you follow me on Twitter and see my tortured frantic tweets.) Kody Keplinger, teen author of up-and-coming (and much buzzed about) The DUFF, guest blogged on The Other Side of the Story about how to write realistic teen dialogue. Being a teen, a writer, AND a person who can talk, I think Kody knows what she's talking about.

SlushPile Hell. Read it. That is all.

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Character Did WHAT?! Notes on Character Consistency

You might remember, oh dearest blog readers, that I've been watching How I Met Your Mother recently. (You might need reminding that, since I don't have cable, I generally catch on to shows about five years after everyone else realizes that they're awesome.) And although I generally think the show is totally amazing (Jason Segel? NPH? Kissing?), I do think they have some characterization issues they need to sort out. Specifically, with the Ted character, and how his adult narration is totally inconsistent.

The other night, I watched the season 5 episode, "Robin 101." In it, Barney gives Ted the finger by pulling the classic, "Is this loud enough? Want me to turn it up for you?" gag. But adult Ted, who's narrating the story, doesn't tell his kids that Barney gave him the finger. He says Barney gave him a thumbs-up, presumably to protect his kids from the evilness that is The Middle Finger (but more likely because you can't give someone the finger on CBS).

In another season 5 episode, "Bagpipes," adult Ted tells his kids about how he can never concentrate because his upstairs neighbors are always playing the bagpipes very loudly. But really, "playing the bagpipes" is a euphemism for having sex very loudly. Again, the way adult Ted tells his kids the story, it's clear he's using the substitution in order to protect his kids, and he catches himself just in time.

Another example is in an episode (I think this one's from season 4) where Ted is discussing the Lethal Weapon movies. He mentions the classic Roger Murtaugh line, "I'm too old for this...stuff." Because the real line (which involves a different s-word that I'm not putting on this blog today because I know for a fact that I have underage readers) is, apparently, offensive to his kids.

And all of that is great. It shows that adult Ted cares about protecting his kids, and is a bit of a fussy old dad. Better yet, it totally jives with who young Ted is, because young Ted is definitely on track to be a bit of a fussy old dad.

Except for one, teeny, tiny detail.

The entire show is built on the premise that Ted is telling these stories to his kids. In fact, the first word in almost every episode is "Kids," reminding us that we're still in story mode, and that these are still flashbacks. But not every episode has a bagpipe euphemism to make it more kid-friendly. In fact, there was one episode that was almost entirely about Barney meeting his 200th conquest - Barney, who adult Ted calls "Uncle Barney," so it's obvious that the kids still know who he is. Another episode revolved around the various methods and tricks Barney uses to pick girls up at bars. Still other episodes mention how Ted and Co. get drunk, do beer bongs, drink shots, have promiscuous sex, and are frequently irresponsible.

Maybe the euphemisms are unspoken, and adult Ted is actually always using them. But maybe there's actually some inconsistency going on here. Would Ted (who is probably, let's face it, a fuddy old dad much like the character formerly played by the man who voices him) really expose his sweet little kids to all this sex, beer, and discussion of architectural porn?

No. It's just not consistent to his character. It's not consistent with his young character, and it's not consistent with the behaviors he sometimes exhibits when he randomly chooses to censor himself when it's convenient for the network.  

Of course, I totally understand that it just makes for better TV to have Ted censor himself sometimes and not others. And I still think the show is hilarious. But for character-development purposes, this makes no sense. When you're writing, you want your character to be as consistent as possible. Barring any growth your characters undergo, the decisions they make and the actions they take need to make sense to who they are as a person, and what they would do needs to be true to who they are. Don't have them say on one page that they're a devout Catholic, then in the next chapter say GD when they stub their toe. Don't say they're vegan, then put them in leather pumps for their college acceptance interviews. And don't have them claim to be protective one second if the next they're going to throw caution to the wind and talk about how Aunt Lilly has a stripper doppelganger.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Working Out is Definitely NOT as Awesome as Writing

I joined the Y yesterday. As in the YMCA. As in the place where I'll be going (hopefully) every day after work (and maybe some days before work instead, although that's really effing early) to get myself into seriously awesome shape. Or just be able to zip up my favorite jeans again.

While I was suffering through my 20 minutes on the Arc trainer this afternoon, I couldn't help but think about how working out is definitely not as fun or rewarding as writing. You see, I've already gone to the gym twice. Yesterday, I did 40 minutes of cardio and then some strength training. Today, I did 45 minutes of cardio and more strength stuff. And all I have to show for my efforts is sore arms and a slimmer bank account (those Y memberships aren't free, you know).  My thighs are still thunderous. My butt is still booty-licious. And that "Hey Sally" flap underneath my upper arms doesn't appear to have dissipated in the slightest.

But if I had spent that time writing, I would have actual, measurable results. Spending three hours total on my WIP at this point would probably get me about a chapter and a half, maybe even two chapters, nicely revised and sparkling like a Cullen on a sunny day. Maybe it would only get me a sentence, but it would be a darn good sentence. The flaws in that area of my MS would have faded away. Even if I was working on a new project, on a good day I can write 5,000 or more words in three hours. On a bad day I can still hit 2,500. Sure, if I looked at the project as a whole there would still be plenty of flaws, but every day that I write I see an actual result, while working out...well, the change is gradual. I don't like gradual. Plus when I write I can do nice things like sip coffee and munch chocolates and snuggle with my dogs. Working out just makes me sweaty.

Still, I guess there are some similarities between the two activities. Every day that you write you get better, and the same can definitely be said for working out - the more you exercise, the stronger you get. And both writers and exercisers set goals. Plus, getting into the habit of writing or working out every day is important, even if you're not feeling up to it - though I admit "not feeling up to working out" is a much more common occurrence 'round these parts than "not feeling up to writing."

I'm not sure that I'll ever love to exercise. Right now, I spend the whole workout listening to my book, wondering how much longer I have to stay in the gym before I can move on, go home, and turn on my computer. But even if I do get used to working out, develop the slim hips I want, and turn exercising from a chore into a "fun" task (I can't even imagine it will be fun in the future right now - hence the quotation marks), it will never, ever, be as awesome as writing.

Hey, guess what! Frankie also talks about exercising and writing sometimes!    

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Funday! (29)

Happy Sunday everyone! As SCBWI-LA draws closer, I'm trying to get my WIP in it's finished state so that I can have an actual, finished novel to show off/talk about at the conference. But it's coming up fast, and I'm worried that I won't make it? Will I be able to get it done in time? Or will I have to leave the hundreds of editors and agents who will no doubt be lined up outside my hotel room begging for copies of my MS in suspense a little longer? (/sarcasm) Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of "Will Heather ever finish this novel??"

When I'm not revising, I'm trolling the internet looking for awesome blog entries so that I can share them with YOU every Sunday. Here are my picks for this week!

Write it Sideways asks...Do literary agents actually read your query letter?

Non-verbal communication is an important part of every character's persona. Sharp Pen Dull Sword discusses the importance of getting it right, and the different options.

Lit agent Rachelle Gardener held a pitch contest where she invited readers to submit one-sentence loglines for their books. She then chose winners, and gave suggestions on what went wrong with other entries. Reading about the the winners and those who weren't as successful can be tremendously helpful for people struggling with writing a logline. (I didn't enter, but some people from my writing group did, and we all ended up helping work on their pitch. Then we worked on everyone's pitched. And I learned that you can really improve a pitch by getting group input - brainstorming with people you trust can help tremendously in a case like this!)

YA Highway introduced me to The Seventeen Magazine Project, a blog where a teenage girl is attempting to use Seventeen Magazine as her teen "bible" for one month. Every day, she'll use one fashion or beauty tip and try to participate in one activity suggested by the magazine. Reading this blog proves that there are intelligent, well-rounded teens in the world - and that there's nothing wrong with having a smart teen voice in your book, because those kinds of teens obviously exist. It also makes me want to be friends with the author of the blog, and either punch the editors of Seventeen in the face a little, or go get a job there so I can change things - I can't decide which.

Not Enough Words talks about an issue that we've all had to face, and how to overcome it - Writer's Block.

We've all heard before about when it's time to give up on a manuscript or idea. But Emilia Plater of Punk Writer Kid fame talks about when not to give up on a project, as part YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday feature.

This week, I have not one but TWO awesome videos for you. The first comes courtesy of Tahereh at Stir Your Tea, one of my most favorite blogs (of which I have about 200). It's called FONT CONFERENCE, and it is awesome.

The next video needs no introduction, because most of you have probably already seen it. What I bet you haven't seen is the hilarious commentary provided by Forever Young Adult. Read it. Love it.

Have a great week!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Are You a Writer?

Earlier this week, I went on a business trip to Denver. Denver is approximately a million miles away from Florida. (OK, it's actually about 2,000 miles.) All of those miles meant a lot of time in the plane and airport, which meant I got a lot of writing done. (It's amazing what you can do when Twitter, gmail, and other blogs are not within your reach. Although on one of my flights I did get Internet access, and it was aMAZing. #TweetsOnAPlane is my new favorite hashtag.)

On my last flight, a very nice lady was sitting next to me as I clacked away at my MacBook. She mostly kept to herself, reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and sipping her diet Sprite. But at one point she turned to me and said, "Are you a writer?"

I had two options. I could say, "No, but I want to be." Or I could own up, say "Yes!" with confidence, and understand that being a writer means a lot more than having a book on sale at Borders.

When you're a writer, you wake up in the morning wanting to write. You might carry notebooks around with you in case you get ideas, and if you forget your notebook you'll write on napkins, scrap pieces of paper -- whatever you can get your hands on. If you've ever posted a blog entry, kept a journal, or shared a story with a friend or family member, then you are a writer. You don't have to write a book to be a writer -- but if you are writing a book (or even a story that you're really excited about), you'll probably bring your laptop or notebook with you, even on a business trip, just so you can get a few minutes of revisions in.

When you're a writer, you read. You read novels that you love, novels that you hate, classics and contemporary pieces. You read books that were recommended to you and you recommend books to others. You read the back of a cereal box if that's all there is.

When you're a writer, it doesn't matter if you get published or not. Sure, that would be great (obviously) and you spend plenty of time daydreaming about what your cover will look like and doodling your author signature (we've all done it, come on people.) But ultimately, you write because you love it. If your first book doesn't catch anyone's eye, you'll write another, and another, because you can't help but write -- it's in your bones, it's in the air you breathe.

So, back on the plane, when my neighbor asked if I was a writer, I almost said no. I don't have a book published. You can't find me at Barnes and Noble. But I am a writer. So I smiled back at her and said, "Yes!" with gusto.

On her way off the plane, she asked if I was going to pursue publication, and I said yes. She wished me luck, and said she hoped she could read my book one day. I hope so, too, but if not, I'll still be a writer.  

Monday, June 7, 2010

You might be married to a writer if...

  • You think nothing of your spouse getting out of bed in the middle of the night just to run into the other room and write down an important plot point/story idea that came to them while they were sleeping/winding down for the night.
  • The "middle of the night" is actually 3am because your spouse goes to bed around 2am - when else will they have time to write?
  • Your spouse has ever told you they couldn't hang out because they had "work" to catch up on, then pulled out their computer. And probably opened Twitter, their blog, or some other writer "chat" before opening their actual WIP. (It's about moral support, right?) 
  • You don't think twice when your spouse starts analyzing plotlines or character motivation in books, TV shows, or movies (even if it really, really annoys you). 
  • You're not entirely sure what it is that a literary agent does, but you know that hearing from one makes your spouse squee (or the equivalent of squee, if they aren't a person who squees).
  • You've ever had a Very Serious and Important conversation with your spouse about people who don't actually exist. 
  • Your biggest vacation of the year revolves around a writer's conference, which you're not attending. 
  • You have to remind your spouse to do things like bathe, eat, pick up their clothes, do their laundry, or wash their dishes, even though your spouse is obviously an adult. 
How else might you know you're married to a writer?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Funday (28)

Happy Sunday! Hope you all had a fabulous day! I did some revisions, ate Mexican food, finished How to Say Goodbye in Robot (loved!), and watched KStew in the space version of Jumanji which the hubs thought he should get from Netflix. (I have no idea why, and no it definitely wasn't as good as Jumanji.) I have some more revising to do before I scurry off to bed, but before I do that, here are some great links from the last TWO weeks (because, you know, I slacked off last week, but I still had these links saved...)

The Merry Sisters of Fate - the writing group to which Maggie Stiefvater belongs - discusses why adults are ashamed to read YA books but not ashamed to watch teen movies. (Let the record show that this 25-year-old is ashamed of neither.)

Tahereh interviews Nathan Bransford. She is hilarious and charming, as always, and he imparts his wisdom on the masses, as always. Everybody wins.

Laural over at Laurel's Leaves talks about overwriting by explaining what it is, and gives some tips on what you can do to get it out of your writing.

In one of my favorite posts ever, find out why it's actually a good thing if an intern reads your query before an agent.

Veronica Roth over at Got YA? shared all she learned at a Backspace workshop on queries. I couldn't go, so this is almost like being there...almost.

The ever-wonderful Emilia Plater rewrote the lyrics to the Fresh Prince theme song into a query for her novel - and then sent them to her agent. What can I say? The girl's got pluck. I like it.

Feeling down on yourself? Laura Renegar gives a list of the 10 things writers can do instead of throwing themselves a pity party.

Shannon Messenger talks about ways you can support your favorite authors - without spending any money!

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I'm in the process of making some major changes to my plot, thanks to some input from my crit partners. It's not anything HUGE, like so big that I have to rewrite the whole thing, but it is big enough that every single sentence needs to be reevaluated under the new terms. Which is a major task, of course.

Before I started, I was freaking out a little. How do you even start something like this? My last round of revisions was much less intensive - trim the fat, add in some new scenes, and make sure everything was consistent. But that was before anyone else had seen it, so naturally my WIP was still a mess.

I decided the very first thing I needed to do was make a list. I thought this would be the best course of action for several reasons:
  1. I love lists.
  2. A list would help me organize my thoughts, and get down all the major revisions I wanted to do in one quick cheat-sheet. That way I could easily reference it as I went to make sure that it all matched up. 
  3. But mostly I just love lists - especially the part where I get to cross things off. (I even sometimes put things on lists that I already have or that I've already done just so that I can cross them off.)
So I headed into my office for an assortment of colorful Sharpies and index cards. We didn't have index cards, but we did have bright pink shimmery envelopes left over from my wedding, which already have our wedding monogram on them (complete with date) and therefore can never be used again, but like a hoarder I refuse to throw them away (even though they were hella cheap) because I am convinced they will come in handy some day - and today they did.

I used one envelope for plot changes, and one for character changes. I'm going to start with a plot pass, and work my way through the end of the book, cleaning up all the messy ends that don't make sense with my new direction. Then I'll go back through and look at my new character directions and make sure every thing every character says and does matches exactly with their intentions. And hopefully my plan of attack will work and get me a totally, 100% shiny novel by SCBWI-LA. Which is a little less than two months away. 

I better get revising.

So, that's my plan of attack. How do you handle major revisions?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

OMG!! o.m.g. O!M!G!: The Various Emotions of Life-Altering News

On Saturday, I got some life-altering news.

I know, your first thought is, "WTF, Heather? You got this news on Saturday. It's now Tuesday. You say you love your followers, and yet you waited three whole days to tell us this news?" But I do have a three-part defense for this:
  1. I didn't check the mail on Saturday, which means I didn't actually get the news until about 11:30pm on Saturday, which is pretty much Sunday anyway.
  2. Sunday was my one-year wedding anniversary. And that definitely can't be held against be.
  3. Yesterday was a holiday.
So, you see, when you add it all up, I'm actually telling you the day I found out! Totally logical.

Anyway, my big news:

I got accepted into Vermont College of Fine Arts' Masters of Writing for Children and Young Adults Program!

Woot! This makes me so happy, I think it's time for a dance party:

Thanks, boys.

Anyway, when I first got the news that I'd been accepted, I literally squeed. I know that we use "squee" all the time on the Internet - I myself most recently used it over on Frankie's blog for reasons that are so awesome they are still blowing my mind. But I saw that big manila envelope from VCFA, and part of me knew - after all, the only reason that they would send a rejection letter to me in a big manila envelope is if they also included my MS sample with a huge red REJECTED stamp on each page (and that was definitely something I had nightmares about). But when I finally ripped open the package and saw all of the pages inside - the student handbook, the enrollment agreement, and finally, the congratulatory letter, I squeed.  This was my top-choice program, the only program I ended up applying to, and I was in. OMG!

Then I started thinking, and that always leads to trouble. I panicked. What am I getting myself into? Debt. Time spent doing homework. A week and a half in Vermont - in January. Not to mention being a full-time student while also being a full-time employee. Can I handle this? Am I ready? o.m.g.

But then I started thinking...again...and it led to awesome things this time. I would be attending five amazing residencies. I would get to learn how to be a better writer from some of the best children's and YA writers out there. And the alums have done some impressive things. Most importantly, I would get to spend the next two years getting feedback on my writing and focusing on my craft. O!M!G!

I imagine that this range of emotion must be a lot like what it feels like to find out your book is going to be published. (I admit this has never happened to me, so I'm totally guessing at emotions here.) Yes, it's pretty much the most amazing freaking thing to ever happen to you. But what if it's not successful? What if no one besides your mom and your weird Uncle Barney buys it? (Like what I did there?) But what if it is successful? And even if it's not - your name is going to be on the cover of a freaking BOOK! OMG! o.m.g. O!M!G!

In the end, every victory counts - no matter how big or small.
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