Saturday, January 31, 2009

Resolution Review

Since today is the last of January, I thought I'd take a look at my New Year's resolution progress. Here goes:

1) I will write six days a week - no excuses.
*So far so good!

2) I will continually seek to improve my writing skills by writing, attending a monthly critique group, attending at least one writer's conference, reading lots of MG and YA literature, and reading books on the craft of writing.
*My monthly critique group was cancelled due to snow. I've read 5 MG and YA novels this month, but nothing about the craft of writing. I probably won't be able to attend a conference until fall, but I've been reading Alice Pope's blog about the New York SCBWI conference. Not quite like being there though.

3) I will actively seek agent representation
*I've been researching to find agents that are looking for what I write as well as authors they represent- checking agency websites,,, etc.

4) I will write a synopsis for a sequel to the book I just finished writing.
*Nope. Haven't even thought about it yet.

5) I will finish writing the MG novel I began during NaNoWriMo.
*I've worked on this a very little bit. Mostly, I've been revising my current WIP.

There you have it. Not a bad start to the year. Now, if I can just keep it up...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stir Crazy...

It's our 4th snow day, and I've had about all I can take of being housebound. My Christmas tree is finally down (but not in the crawl space yet), I've cooked a record number of meals in a row, and I've written, drawn, painted, cleaned and read my limit. The kids are bickering at the drop of a hat. I need to get out, out, OUT! bwahahahahahahah..... (insanity ensues). The sun is shining. Maybe the roads will melt a bit and I can take the kids to our favorite pizza place for lunch. We could go walk the mall. That would be good. When we get back, maybe my head will be ready to tackle my WIP's query and synopsis. Time to send out that story!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Query Quandary and Snow Day - Part 3

I'm home again today - icebound. The county is still trying to clean up the mess. So... it's another writing day! (big grin)

I started work on my query last night. It's MUCH harder than it should be. I've got a 1st draft. It's not what I want to send, but it's a starting point. Writing the log line was easy, it's writing the pitch that is difficult. My head is full of story details. All of which, of course, I think are important. How do you put down what's critical and make it stand out from the crowd? I began my quest to find the answer last night, and I came up with these helpful resources:

Nathan Bransford has terrific information on his blog. Listed on the sidebar below the "About Me," you'll find information regarding basic formatting and examples of good query letters.

Cheryl Klein has "The Annotated Query Letter from Hell" posted on her website. This made me laugh! has a page called "How to Write a Query."

Chuck Sambuchino's blog has a page about queries. If you scroll down to October 16, 2008, there is an entry called "Breaking Down the Query Letter."

VerlaKay's Children's Writers & Illustrators Message Board has a thread called "Query Letters that Sold." There are some very good examples posted.

Both VerlaKay and SCBWI boards will allow you to submit your query for critique (eek!). I'm not sure I want my drafts to be critiqued in such a public manner.

If you know of other online query resources and examples, please share. I would appreciate it. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SNOW DAY - Part 2

This is my favorite tree in my backyard. I understand that birches are flexible, but I find it hard to believe this doesn't cause damage. We'll see.

Today's snow day is different than yesterday's. Yesterday's snow day was lighthearted from the start. Even the snow was light and powdery - not much good for sledding, though. Today, a 1/2 inch coating of ice threatens to fell trees and down power lines, and another 3-6 inches of snow is expected to fall. The trees and rooftops outside my window are beautiful - and dangerous. The branches sag with the weight of the ice. If the kids decide to sled, I'll have to remind them to stay out from under the trees. I bet the sleds will fly today!

We didn't finish taking down the Christmas tree yesterday. I'm determined it'll be in the crawl space before the evening is done. I'm getting ready to fill the crock pot again, this time with white chicken chile, and I'll make some corn bread muffins as well. BTW: Brenda, yesterday's recipe was quite good!

Today's a writing day. It's peaceful outside. My to-do list is short. My head is full of ideas. Carpe diem!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It's a snow day here in Cincinnati. Schools, businesses, state colleges and universities - everyone is closed for business. We got 4 inches overnight. For all of you northerners who are snorting your coffee with laughter right now - Yes, LESS than 4 inches can shut down the city. As of 9 a.m. there were 434 closings. My husband hails from Michigan and my dad from Maine. They have a grand time in the snow. They shake their heads at the southern Ohio drivers who struggle to navigate the mess and expertly zip around them. Me? I'm thankful for an excuse to stay out of it all.

I love snow days (says the teacher). I don't want too many, just a couple of well-placed days off here and there. There is something special about a day where nature has wiped my agenda clean. I get so much DONE. My daughter and I are going to shovel the first round of snow off the driveway, and then we're going to take down the Christmas tree. That's right. My Christmas tree is still up. It's been known to stay up as late as Easter if I don't get it down before the end of Christmas break. I'll get in some writing time. So far I've been able to keep my New Year's resolution of writing 6 days a week - no excuses. What's my favorite part of a snow day? Time to curl up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of hot tea.

I'm getting ready to fill the crockpot with Hazel's Ranch Chicken recipe. Thank you, Brenda, for Hazel's Crockpot Thursdays! Have a great snow day, everyone!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm Plotting Again...

Revisions are done!! (whew), least for now. I'm going to set it aside for a few weeks then read it again with a fresh head. In the meantime, I'm working on a query letter, researching agents, and listening to a new character chatter away in my head. She's great fun and very different from my 1st protagonist. We're spending time together -getting to know each other over pizza and soda. She talks about her trouble a bit, but she's quite interesting. Might be a relationship worth pursuing.

Brenda has nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger award. Thanks, Brenda! I am supposed to list 7 things I love and nominate 7 new people. My list is a bit of a hodgepodge. Here goes:

1. I love my family. My husband is the best, and my children make me proud!

2. I love my students. The kids I work with are terrific. I am fortunate, indeed!

3. Solitude. Don't get me wrong - I love people, but they drain my battery dry. There's nothing quite like a few quiet, uninterrupted hours to recharge.

4. If I have time, I love to cook. I enjoy putting together a nice dinner for my family or making a dessert for friends.

5. I love to write. There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting at my computer and creating an entirely new reality.

6. I love walking in the park when the weather cooperates. I'm looking forward to spring!

7. I love a good book. One that makes me forget who I am and what my to-do list is for the day (or even the week).

I now nominate: chocolateer. As for the other six, I'm a bit late jumping into the game. My blogging friends have beat me to the punch!! But I'll name them anyway:

Brenda's Page
Rena Jones
Kim Kasch- A Writer's Blog
Chocolate for Inspiration
Christy's Creative Space

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why I Can't Give Up Caffeine: A Day in the Life of My TAG Class

Here's a condensed version of a conversation in my math class today. The topic was area and perimeter.

(4th grader with hand wildly waving in the air)
"Mrs. Mac! Mrs. Mac! If Spongebob Squarepants is already squared, when you multiply him by himself is he cubed?"

(6th grader rolling his eyes) "No. If you multiply Spongebob Squarepants by himself, you add the exponents. Therefore, Spongebob Squarepants squared is Spongebob to the 4th power."

I ran this past one of my writer friends. Her thoughts:
"Spongebob Squarepants already gives the appearance of being Spongebob Cubepants, but since he is from a 2-dimensional medium, perhaps the question is moot."

Please know this: I NEVER enter the classroom unless I am FULLY caffeinated!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Surfacing for Air... Again

I apologize for not posting regularly. I am working hard to meet a self-imposed deadline for revision. I plan to have revisions and synopsis complete before February so I can start sending out my manuscript. I'm ready to start another project!

Stephen King said, "The road to Hell is paved with adverbs."

Lord help me. If that's the case I'm well on my way...

Keep writing!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Surfacing for Air...

Wow. It's Thursday. What happened to the week?

I've had my eyes glued to the computer screen for days as I revise, revise, revise. A task, I might add, I'm finding I enjoy. It's very different from the creative process. Delete an adverb, fix a transition, strengthen a plot point, delete another adverb... all spit-n-polish.

My family has been great. They've left me to work in peace, mostly. The question asked most often? "We ARE having dinner - right, Mom?" I'm on a revision roll so dinner tonight is pizza - delivered, of course. At least I remembered...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Newbie's Thoughts on Revision

I'm almost through with the first round of revisions of my MG novel. It's amazing how the manuscript can provoke such extreme emotions from me as I read.

This is so cool! I wrote that?!! (grin, giggle, pat self on back)


What a load of garbage, bunk, drivel... and other words I may think but not write because I know my mother reads my blog.

And so I edit. I edit out the hundreds of "as she" that connect the dialog tags to a subsequent action. I delete unnecessary words that seem to creep into the manuscript uninvited. Words like "just" and "really." I send a long raspberry to the multitude of adverbs and redundant adjectives now missing from my chapters. I look at the new word count, and I'm amazed to see I've cut nearly 3000 words.

My husband says, "Be careful, you'll edit the life right out of it."

A whole new set of worries begin to form in my head. What if he's right? What if it was better before I tampered with it? What if I'm delusional to believe I could possibly write anything worthy of publication? "What if" land is rarely a good place to go.

I realize that I'm too close to my project to see it objectively, so along the way I've enlisted the help of two, trusted critique partners. One who critiqued each chapter as it was finished (thanks KW!), and one who is looking at the whole novel before I send it out (thanks DR!). The goal is to begin submitting this month (ooh, were those butterflies?).

I have to admit, I'm excited - but not stupid. I know the odds are tremendous against publication. I surf the forums and read the hopeful and sometimes frustrated posts of those in the trenches. I'm joining them soon, but my hope is I won't be there long. I delight in the "Good News" posts at Verla Kay. Maybe someday I can post there too!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Booklist 2008

There's never enough time in the day to read as much as I would like. Work, children, home and church keep me quite busy. I tend to marathon read in scheduled spurts - spring break, summer, Christmas holidays, but I always have a book in my bag. These are the books I managed to squeeze in this past year:

Babbit, Natalie, Tuck Everlasting
Bell, James Scott, Plot and Structure
Bray, Libba, A Great and Terrible Beauty
Bray, Libba, Rebel Angels
Bray, Libba, A Sweet Far Thing
Bunce, Elizabeth C., A Curse Dark as Gold
Collins, Suzanne, The Hunger Games
Collins, Suzanne, Gregor the Overlander
Collins, Suzanne, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane
Collins, Suzanne, Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
Collins, Suzanne, Gregor and the Marks of Secret
Donnelly, Jennifer, A Northern Light
Gaiman, Neil, Coraline
Gordon, Roderick; Williams, Brian, Tunnels
Haddix, Margaret Peterson, FOUND
Juster, Norton, The Phantom Tollbooth
Le Guin, Ursula K., A Wizard of Earthsea
Lord, Cynthia, RULES
Maar, Melissa, Wicked Lovely
Maar, Melissa, Ink Exchange
Maas, Donald, Writing the Breakout Novel
McMann, Lisa, WAKE
Meyer, Stephanie, Breaking Dawn
Meyer, Stephanie, The Host
Mull, Brandon, Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague
Prineas, Sarah, The Magic Thief
Riordan, Rick, The Battle of the Labyrinth
Shan, Darren, Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare...
Schmidt, Gary, Wednesday Wars
Weisner, Karen, First Draft in 30 Days
Williams Chima, Cinda, The Dragon Heir

I usually find an author I like and devour everything they've written. If I really like them I reread them immediately. Many of the books on this list have already been read twice - A Curse Dark as Gold, The Phantom Tollbooth, Melissa Marr's books, Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull's books. Cinda Williams Chima's Warrior Heir series is fabulous. I read all but one of the Suzanne Collins' Underland series in the last two weeks. I'm anxiously waiting for the last book to come. I've got it on order. It should be here today or tomorrow!

Any recommendations? I'm always looking for a good book!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

It's Resolution Time

As I begin writing this entry, 2009 is one hour old. I really should to go to bed, but I decided I need to make my writer's resolutions official. Here goes:

1) I will write six days a week - no excuses.
2) I will continually seek to improve my writing skills by writing, attending a monthly critique group, attending at least one writer's conference, reading lots of MG and YA literature, and reading books on the craft of writing.
3) I will actively seek agent representation
4) I will write a synopsis for a sequel to the book I just finished writing.
5) I will finish writing the MG novel I began during NaNoWriMo.

That should keep me busy...

Happy New Year to All! Keep Writing!