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The writer’s journey is the best part

January 14, 2011

Peaceful Warrior movie posterMy husband and I watched the movie Peaceful Warrior last night — based on the book by Dan Millman, whose life is supposedly the basis for the book and movie — and I found myself nodding and smiling a lot. Not that I’m half as wise as the movie’s Nick Nolte character, but I understand the film’s main message, which is, the journey is the best part.

In the film, a college gymnast (Millman) is on track to get it all; he already gets the girls, but he’s aiming for Olympic gold too. A chance encounter with an odd older man (Nolte) makes Millman think he’s missing something and that he could be even greater. Along the way, he discovers that gold medals are not the most important things in life and that being the best you can be is really about letting go of your worries for the future and concentrating on the present.

It made me think of writing. I’m halfway through my third novel and, like many writers, I think ahead to the time that it will — hopefully — be published. The story is a bit experimental, a 10-year-old protagonist with some pretty heavy — adult — issues, and often my thoughts question whether a publisher will take on the book because of it. But it’s a story that I like, that I feel and want to write, and ultimately that’s what counts.

The journey we take when we’re writing our books is the best part. Although I’m not yet published as a novelist, I have been a journalist/editor for 19 years and have seen my name in print over and over again. It was thrilling the first few times, but then it’s over. What stays with me most from my career is the moments when I’ve written a particularly poignant lead and learned something really amazing during research for a story, like when I wrote about an art exhibit by Croatian children who used their painting as therapy. I wrote that story some, hmm, 13 years ago? And yet it’s one of the closest to my heart. And it’s not because of when I saw my name on top of it in the newspaper. It’s because of the journey I took for the article.

I imagine it’ll be the same when one of my novels is finally published. Sure, it’ll be thrilling for a while — a long while — but that will fade, as writer Anne Lamott describes in her great book Bird By Bird. The best part of my novel will be the time I spent writing it.

So, if you’re worrying about publication and looking ahead to seeing your words in print, stop. Don’t dwell on that, because if you do, you’ll miss the best part of your work — right now, when you’re writing.

Write On!

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Need a good book to read?

January 12, 2011

We writers always have a stack of books waiting to be read, but when reading the best books helps us becoming better writers, what are the best books for us to read? The bestsellers and award winners in our genres are a great place to start.

The Association for Library Service to Children has just announced this year’s Caldecott Medal winner, for picture books, and Newbery Medal winner, for novels, plus honor books.

And there’s the Printz Award winners, for excellence in young adult literature.

On the bestseller side, Scholastic Book Clubs has launched a monthly children’s book bestsellers list, which will be available the second Tuesday of every month starting this month. The list will have the most popular five books, according to unit sales data, in these categories:

  • picture books
  • transitional readers
  • early chapter books
  • chapter books
  • middle grade
  • young adult
  • and nonfiction.

The list is available at the Scholastic Book Clubs Book Talk blog, but you can also request to get it emailed to you every month by sending an email to bookclubsbestsellers@scholastic.com.

Go grab a list and get reading.

Write On!

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Fun writing news

January 6, 2011

Lots of fun publishing news out the last couple days, so I thought I’d compile it for you:

Invasion book coverThomas Nelson has launched its science-fiction fantasy Chaos series for young adults with Invasion by Jon S. Lewis. Here’s the jacket cover:

When sixteen-year-old Colt McAllister’s parents are killed in a car crash, he learns it was no accident — his mother, a journalist, was writing an expose of the powerful biotech corporation Trident Industries.  Now, Colt has been targeted, and he and his friends Oz and Danielle find themselves battling the same sinister forces that took his parents’ lives.  A gateway between worlds has been opened, and Earth is in mortal danger.

Thomas Nelson says Invasion has “crackling plot twists, cliffhanger chapter endings, cyber attacks, alien invaders, and an undercurrent of teen romance.” As a sci-fi fan and writer, sounds good to me!

New York Times best-selling author Emma Walton Hamilton has launches the children’s writers’ salon Children’s Book Hub, a membership-based forum to provide information, resources and support for aspiring and established children’s book authors. There is a fee, $19.95, and members will reportedly have access to regular teleseminars with authors, editors, agents and other members of the children’s book industry. The site also will offer monthly newsletters, a members’ forum and lists of publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts, among others. The industry has lots of other places to get info and support, but another can’t hurt.

And in September, I wrote about the MeeGenius contest. They’ve now picked their winners:

Grand Prize: Pajama Girl by Sarah Perry and Ingvard the Terrible

1st Runner Up: The Cat Just Sat in the Chair by D.T. Walsh

2nd Runner Up: Floppity Phillip Flaut, words by Gary Guthrie, illustrations by Sunyoung Kim, characters by Taylor Lewis Guthrie

3rd Runner Up: Who Is the Most Beautiful Bird in the Barnyard? by Sharon Mann

and 4th Runner Up: The Little Green Bubbles by Kevin Malone, illustrated by Lee Hadziyianis.

Congratulations!

Got any news to share?

Write On!

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Going digital

January 5, 2011

KindleHappy New Year!

It’s a new year, and, now that I’m finally starting to settle down after my monster move, I’m back on Day By Day Writer. I’m excited and pledge that I’ll be with you at least three times a week.

So, with the new year comes good news and bad in the publishing industry: Borders is still in financial trouble and delaying payments to vendors in a short-term effort to fix things. But on the upside, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble reported strong sales of their ebook readers, the Kindle and Nook, respectively. Amazon says 2010 Kindle sales were at more than 8 million units, with B&N claiming “millions” of Nooks were sold.

I can attest to this, as I had a hard time finding one this Christmas.

Although a paper-book lover, I definitely see the benefits of going digital. Aside from the obvious benefit to trees, e-readers are great for avid readers who travel a lot. My father is one of those. He makes long trips a few times a year, and on those trips, he carries a good four or five, maybe more books. And I’m not talking about little thin books. When he left my house a couple days ago after the Christmas and New Year holidays, he left with me the James Bond Union Trilogy — a three-book pack — because it couldn’t fit in his suitcase. He had another three books already in there!

For people like my dad, an e-reader, at a little more than 8 pounds for the Kindle, is a great idea. And although we had had conversations about how we both preferred the feel of paper, I took a leap and bought an e-reader for my dad for Christmas. After much research, I chose the Kindle, but both Best Buy and Target — all my local stores — were completely sold out of the devices when I was shopping, proving their popularity. Amazon happily sent one my way, however, and my dad was surprised and pleased. A gadget lover, he quickly loaded it up with his favorite books, and I caught him reading his Kindle on the couch a few times before he left. Next time he flies across the world, his suitcase will be a lot lighter, but he’ll be able to carry with him many, many more books to enjoy.

The popularity of e-readers is great news for publishers and us writers. Book sales have been waning the last few years. But, if people like their e-readers, they’ll want books to read on them.

And good books are good stories no matter whether they’re printed on paper or e-ink.

So, this year, keep up the writing. E-reader lovers need more stories.

Write On!

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Win Storybook Treasures read-along DVDs from Scholastic

December 14, 2010

Scholastic's Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics DVD boxIf you haven’t seen Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures line of “read-along DVDs,” they’re a great blend of books and screen. Scholastic animated some of its best children’s books, along with award-winning titles, and put them on a DVD with the words so children can read along.

I’m all for anything that encourages children to read. Scholastic could have just made animated versions of all these books, but it’s wonderful (not too mention a smart business move) that they included the words of the books so they are read-along DVDs. Children who grow up with these with hopefully read books too. I’d say there’s more chance with these than for kids watching other children’s DVDs.

Anyway, my day-job website, www.discdish.com, is giving away huge bundles of Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures DVDs right now.

Wheels On the Bus Sing-Along Travel Kit DVD boxAmong the books on the DVDs in the contest are Where the Wild Things Are, Wheels On the Bus, The Ralph Mouse Collection, Curious George, A Very Brave Witch, Corduroy and Harold and the Purple Crayon. Here’s a review of one of the DVDs, the Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics 2.

DiscDish.com is giving away four bundles of these DVDs, the biggest valued at $685.

So, get over there and try out for your chance to win. You can enter every day, plus put up links to the page to get more entries.

Click here to enter the contest.

Write On!

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Interview: Kate Messner on writing and researching

December 10, 2010

Kate Messner headshotToday on DayByDayWriter, I’ve got a great guest post on writing and researching from Kate Messner, author of Sugar & Ice, a Junior Library Guild Selection, Amazon.com Best Book for December and on the WInder 2010-2011 Kids IndieNext List.

Here’s the synopsis of Kate’s book:

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s maple farm. But all that changes when Claire is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity-a scholarship to train with the elite skaters in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire soon realizes that her sweet dream-come-true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want her to fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

Sounds fun.

Now, here’s Kate’s advice on writing and researching:

It’s all in the details…

Sugar & Ice book coverWhen I was writing Sugar & Ice, I did a lot of the research you might expect – reading books about the different spins and jumps in figure skating, studying skater biographies and interviewing coaches and competitive skaters about what it’s like. But there are some things you just can’t get from a book or an interview.

How does a skater interact with a coach who’s really pushing him or her?  What kinds of things does a coach say to encourage a skater who’s struggling?  To push a skater who’s not working as hard as he or she needs to be?

To answer those questions, I spent several afternoons at the skating rink. Former Olympian and current skating coach Gilberto Viadana allowed me to attend several of his sessions with skaters, so I bundled up and listened in as they worked on everything from sit spins to salchows.

“The arms! The arms!” Gilberto would shout.  And I would scribble down his words in my notebook.  More than that, though, I watched him watching his skaters. I paid attention to the way he nodded, just a little, when they responded to his coaching, to the way a skater stood when he or she was listening to advice, to the body language of a coaching session.

When you read the scenes in Sugar & Ice that involve Claire’s coach, Andrei Groshev, Groshev’s personality is all his own. But some of his words, his gestures and his coaching strategies are borrowed from Coach Viadana.

Authors rely on experts not only to review manuscripts and answer questions, but also to open up their worlds for that inside experience, and I’m so very thankful for this. The tiniest details – the things that could never come just from my imagination – are what make a scene feel rich and real.

Want a personalized, signed copy of Sugar & Ice?

The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a Sugar & Ice launch party from 3-5 pm on Saturday, Dec. 11, so please consider this your invitation if you live in the area! If you can’t make it but would still like a signed, personalized copy, just give the bookstore a call at 518.523.2950 by Dec. 10. They’ll take your order, have Kate sign your book after the event, and ship it out to you in plenty of time for the holidays.

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A Winner and Character Naming

November 15, 2010

Thanks to all for your best wishes during my crazy move. (We should be finally getting settled at the end of this week. Phew!)

And thanks to all the commenters on the great guest post from editor Sherri Woosley. Sherri is giving away a copy of her Coffee House Fiction 2009 Anthology, and the lucky commenter (chosen by Random.org) is Cathy! Congratulations! I’ll email you for your address.

With my life turning into a roller coaster the last few months, and my brain pretty much turning to mush, I haven’t been writing, and the break from my story has not been good to my creativity. I’m still busy with lots of house stuff swirling in my head, but I wanted to get back to writing. The problem is, I’m having a hard time getting back into my story.

Over the weekend, I decided to try a new tack and write a few scenes as my protagonist, to try to get back into his head. When I started, I realized I wasn’t sold on his name. It’s not sticking the way I’d like. So this morning, I spent my writing time trying to figure out what name would be best for this boy. After many searches for meanings, I still haven’t come up with anything — but I’m still working on it — but I did find a good article on character naming on BabyNames.com.

It has eight tips, many of which you’ve probably already thought of, but some that you might not have. Either way, they’re always good reminders.

As I’m not having much luck finding a name through the meaning route, after reading these tips, I’m going to try the social security registry for inspiration.

How do you name your characters?

Write On!

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Guest blogger: Sherri Woosley with 3 rookie writer mistakes

November 5, 2010

Huge apologies for not being around. I’m still busy moving house, and my brain is fried with a bunch of things. But I keep thinking about all the things I want to write on here… then don’t get around to doing it. Lame, I know.

Sherri Woosley headshot

Sherri Woosley

I’ll be back really soon. But today, Sherri Cook Woosley is visiting DayByDayWriter with a great guest post about the top three rookie mistakes writers make most often.

Sherri is the editor of The Coffee House Fiction 2009 Anthology and The Fifteenth Dame Lisbet Throckmorton Anthology, 2010. She has an M.A. in English literature from University of Maryland.  She wrote academic articles in the field of comparative mythology before switching to fiction writing.  Her stories have been published in ZoneMom, Mount Zion Fiction Review, and New Lines from the Old Line State. She accepts editing work through http://www.coffeehousefiction.com. Check out this video of Sherri reading the winning story.

Thank you to Sherri for being here today. Let’s all give Sherri a big round of applause: clap clap clap!!!

Plus, Sherri’s giving away  a copy of The Coffee House Fiction 2009 Anthology to a lucky commenter from this page. So make sure you leave a comment!

Here’s her post about the writers three rookie mistakes:

Three Rookie Contest Mistakes

I’ve been chief editor at Coffee House Fiction for over six years now, which means that I’ve read a lot of contest entries.  Read the following list and make sure these rookie mistakes don’t tank your chances to win a writing contest or see your short story in print.

1.        The Mistake: Wrong Point of View

The Reason: Author thinks his or her entry will stand out if told from an unexpected source.

Worst Offenders:  A story told from a parrot’s POV.  I wanted to stop halfway through when the narrator (bird) called 911.  Really?  With its beak?  Did it know to press the ‘talk’ button first or was the phone on the wall?   Another story was written as if a horseback riding saddle was telling the story. Hard for a master storyteller to pull off, impossible for a novice.

The Fix:  POV should be a conscious decision.  Who is the best person to tell the story?  Who was the most affected by the events?  Finally, who has a decision to make?  It is much more vital when the audience experiences with a character rather than hearing about it from someone else.  A short story is also not the place to use multiple points of view.  There just isn’t time for the reader to connect with different narrators.  Instead, pick from classic choices like first-person, third-person limited, omniscient third, and stick with it.

2.       The Mistake: Neglecting the story for purple prose or over-description

The Reason:  The writer is infatuated with the writing and his or her own arabesque creation.

Worst Offenders:  “In a teary-eyed nostalgia, he wistfully recalled the halcyon days of his youth when, with an innocent eye rapturously fixed upon an idealistic mark, the ardent romantic had defiantly stood upon desks and dismissively ripped up texts, had passionately promoted Dead Sappo Societies and dramatically….” (the sentence goes on for a total of 61 words).

The Fix: The story is the first priority.  It may take several drafts before the writer knows what is trying to come out.  That’s fine.  But, once a writer knows, he or she must work to make the story as clear and clean as possible.  It doesn’t make you look smarter to use big words.  Nor should descriptive passages be in the story for their own sake; they must add to the story.

3.       The Mistake: Starting at the wrong place

The Reason: Author is telling the story in chronological order, the way it happened

Worst Offender: We met in first grade when we exchanged friendship bracelets, etc…

The Fix: If this is what you need in the first drafts, that’s fine.  But, then you need to find the actual start of the conflict/resulting choice, the meat of the story.  Love this description:  an egg is rolling across a table.  The story starts at the exact moment the egg reaches the edge and hovers before falling.  The friendship bracelet image from the example can go into the story, but as background once the *real* story is underway so that instead of ending with a short story trying to span fifteen years, you have action over a twenty-four time period with a clear conflict and resolution.

I remember my pastor once telling a story about a bank president who was unmatched at catching counterfeit bills.  When asked, the president said he didn’t try to learn all the different feels of counterfeit bills; instead, he always handled real money so that anything else felt wrong.

Reading about rookie errors is helpful, but don’t write trying to avoid mistakes.  Go for the real deal and get the entire first draft out before editing yourself. Read the winning stories of contests, like the anthology, The Fifteenth Dame Lisbet Throckmorton Anthology, 2010, read stories published online, or go to your library and read literary magazines or journals (except Playboy;  I’m not authorizing you to read it for the fiction!).

Do you have any examples of rookie mistakes from your first stories?

Seize the Dame!

Sherri Cook Woosley

www.coffeehousefiction.com

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Contest links

September 18, 2010

Got some links to share today to great contests:

The Bookmuse is celebrating 1,000 followers by offering five five-page critiques, two first-chapter critiques and a three-month mentorship with author Angela Ackerman.

Freelance editor Cassandra Marshall is offering a whopping contest for a free substantial edit of an entire manuscript of up to 100,000 words! One word: WOW!

Authors at The Longstockings blog are offering feedback for 25 pages of a teen, tween or middle-grade novel. Yay!

And children’s book app maker MeeGenius is running a contest to celebrate the launch of its new app platform. MeeGenius is looking for books for children ages 3 to 8 that include illustrations. One winner will get an Apple iPad and four runners-up will get an Apple iPod Touch, and all will get their manuscript published as an ebook and receive 30% of the sales.

Some great oppoortunities, so get entering!

Write On!

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Some great inspirational links

September 7, 2010

Between my DVD and Blu-ray website, DiscDish.com; my books; and moving, I feel like I’m just trying to keep my head above water. So, a couple articles I read today as I was doing research really caught my eye. They’re geared toward bloggers and those trying to make money online, but their message works equally well for writers trying to get their work published and pushing through the self-doubts.

The first is How To Remain Productive When You Feel Like Giving Up. Self-doubt is a normal thing that every writer has to battle, even if they’re published but especially when they’re just starting out. It’s hard to sit at that computer and type and type without knowing if your work will have any success at all. The majority of people who start writing a book never finish it, and those who do often don’t do the work necessary to get it in a good enough shape for publication. And then there’s the querying agents process… Rejection is part of a writer’s life, and it can be hard to keep going, but this article has some great tips.

The second article, from the same site, is titled: If You Want Success Today, Let Yesterday Go and Stop Seeking Tomorrow. The article is long — and I must admit, I skimmed it — but the title itself is what I thought was great advice. I tend to look back and look forward way too much for my own good, but it does nothing except build my anxiety. And the truth is, I can’t do anything about yesterday or tomorrow. All I can work on is right now. And in this moment, I can work on one thing. So I need to choose that thing, then work on it to the best of my ability, not worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow or what I missed yesterday. If I do my best right now, if I succeed today, then tomorrow will be sorted out by itself.

The third inspirational blog post I found today is for writers. Author Bobbi Miller has a great interview with fellow author Kathi Appelt. Kathi offers up a bunch of good stuff (her answer about the “American fantasy” genre is very interesting), but the most inspirational part is at the bottom when she talks about advice she received from M.T. Anderson, who told her “write what you think you can’t.” To Kathi, that meant she had permission to fail, and that opened her up to try new things. Good advice for all of us.

Write On!