Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lucky 7, Cute Dogs, and a Couple of Contests

I’ve been tagged in the Lucky 7 meme. Thanks to Katrina DelalloKaren Wojcik Berner, and Peaches Ledwidge. Over the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed getting glimpses into others’ stories. I hope you feel the same when I share mine. The rules are:

1. Go to page 77 of your current WIP.
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they're written.
4. Tag seven authors.
5. Let them know.

I haven’t reached page 77 yet with my current WIP, a lighthearted contemporary YA novel, so this is taken from page 7.

“When I slip into my seat and look to my right, instead of Granville seated behind a stack of computer books, I’m eyeball to eyeball with Tiffany and her unnaturally long lashes. I give her a confused look, expecting her to respond with some kind of explanation for the bizarre change in seating arrangement. But instead she shoots me an icy stare, colder than the winds over the arctic tundra. “What are you looking at?” she snaps.
Scanning the room, I see Granville cloistered away in the back corner where Tiffany usually sits texting her boyfriend-of the-week and touching up her two-inch talons. He looks different somehow.”

And I'm passing the Lucky 7 Challenge along to:
Celesta at CelestaRimington
Karen at KarenCantwell

Speaking of lucky, Sarah C. Pilon was nice enough to invite me to guest post on her blog today for her Unlikely Teachers segment. I hope you’ll click over to read Three Things My Dogs Taught Me About Writing I had a lot of fun writing this post. I hope you have fun reading it.

Also, today's the last day to enter these two great contests. Are you feeling lucky?

Marcia Hoehne is hosting a critique giveaway here.

To celebrate the latest Gallagher Girl release, Amanda at Born Bookish is hosting a book giveaway here.

Good luck!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Being a Bad Mother

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” – Rumi

I came across this quote a few weeks ago and not only did it pierce my heart, personally, but it got me thinking about writing and opened my eyes to the value of letting my characters become wounded.

I tend to mother my characters a little too much, wanting to protect them from problems, mistakes, and bad decisions. While these tendencies are very natural and motherly, they don’t make for the best writing.

Photo courtesy of Free Artistic Photos

I placed the Rumi quote on my desk as a reminder, not to be afraid of the hard things in life (and in fiction.) If I can remember that ultimate good often comes from uncomfortable, even painful circumstances, I can stop pampering my characters, let them live on the page, give them problems that might trip them up, but will make them (and the story) better in the end. And if I want them to learn and grow and become real to readers, then I'll have to allow them to become wounded.

Photo courtesy of Free Artistic Photos

Do you over-mother your characters?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Two Lyrical Reads to Transport You

This month, as part of the Novels In Verse reading challenge, hosted by Amanda at Born Bookish,  I read Inside Out & Back Again by Thanha Lai and Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. I didn’t realize it when I picked these two books out, but they had a lot in common. To start, look at the covers:

I must admit, it was the beautiful cover that first attracted me to Thanha Lai’s book. You know how I love trees ;)  Then when I learned that it was written in verse, well, there was no question. I had to read it right away.

Although classified as fiction, both of these books are based on the real experiences of the authors.

Inside Out & Back Again

From Amazon: 

"No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.
For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.
But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next."

Inside Out & Back Again  is beautifully told in free verse. Through the seamless flow of poems, we experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of Ha's journey as she, her mother, and her three brothers travel from Vietnam to America. Ha's fears, her curiosity, her guilt, her temper and her bond with her family, all make for a compelling tale and we hope beyond reasonable hope, right along with Ha and her family, that in the end they will be reunited with her father, who has been missing in action for years.

Under the Mesquite

From Amazon:

"When Lupita learns Mami has cancer, she is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of her close-knit family. Suddenly, being a high school student, starring in a play, and dealing with friends who don't always understand, become less important than doing whatever she can to save Mami's life.
While her father cares for Mami at an out-of-town clinic, Lupita takes charge of her seven younger siblings. As Lupita struggles to keep the family afloat, she takes refuge in the shade of a mesquite tree, where she escapes the chaos at home to write. Forced to face her limitations in the midst of overwhelming changes and losses, Lupita rediscovers her voice and finds healing in the power of words.
Told with honest emotion in evocative free verse, Lupita's journey toward hope is captured in moments that are alternately warm and poignant. Under the Mesquite is an empowering story about testing family bonds and the strength of a young woman navigating pain and hardship with surprising resilience."

In Under the Mesquite, Lupita's story is told in rich, picturesque language. The author carries us, along with Lupita and her family to homes on both sides of the United States-Mexican border. And she makes us feel at home there too, successfully incorporating Spanish words and glimpses of Latino experiences.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Deeper Joy of Writing

This week I read John Rember's MFA in a Box and it hooked me in the introduction with this paragraph:

     “I hope that when you finish this book you’ll be able to balance the despair of writing with the deeper joy of writing. I hope you’ll find the courage to put truth into words. I hope you’ll find reasons for being kind and intelligent in the presence of your readers and characters. I hope you’ll understand that writing is a life-and-death endeavor, but nothing about a life-and-death endeavor keeps it from being laugh-out-loud funny.
     “I hope you’ll finish this book with more reasons to write than not to write.”

I’d like to share a few of my favorite bits from the text with you here:

“If a part of your story doesn’t puncture or betray another part, you haven’t finished the story.

One crystal-clear vision is worth more to your reader than a dozen brilliant conclusions. Let your reader draw the brilliant conclusions from your vision.

If a story or poem isn’t ending well, go back to the point where you saw what you had to do next and decided it was too scary or too much work, and took the easy way out.

Every draft takes a layer off the surface of your consciousness. Rewriting is a form of personal archaeology, and the good stuff is never on the surface.

Don’t pride yourself on your empathy. You have less than you think you have. Most of the time what you think is empathy is projection, where you assume that someone else’s inside is just like your inside, warts and all. It’s not. People who have been married for twenty years sometimes look at each other and discover they have no idea who the other person is.

Keep a list of the images that have awakened your soul. It’s your personal iconography.”

For me, finding words like these that resonate with my writer’s soul, can be just what I need to keep me at a project, when it would be easier to cast it aside and start something new.

Do you have a favorite quote that keeps you writing through the rough spots?