Thursday, November 16, 2006

True Confessions

I moved the office from bedroom to upstairs about (let me see) four months ago? I'm still in boxes and have to pick my way across the room to the computer. I was going to put everything away once I had all those deadlines under my belt and BEFORE I started writing another book.

Meanwhile more clutter is piling up.

I need more boxes -- or a bulldozer.

Until the next blog. Be Well


Thursday, November 02, 2006

I've sent off the latest revision of Book Two of the Noor Chronicles and turned in copyedit queries for DRAGON'S KEEP (Harcourt) and TALON (Faber & Faber UK). Now I've come up for air. No looming deadlines this week. Ah.

The Seed:
It's time to begin a new tale. Back to the seed stage. Looking at a tiny little idea that might have great potential. I think of the biblical quote "A grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls into the ground and dies; but if it dies it bears a rich harvest." John 12:24. There is a kind of death at every stage of the writing process. This first stage requires a letting go of the original idea that's been sheltered in the mind for months or years. Burying it in the real soil of existing things and encouraging it to grow.

I was given a tiny opening this morning. This came out of the Diviners Critique Group meeting from friend and fellow writer Judy Bodmer who stressed the importance of dialogue. I'd envisioned the main character alone in the opening of the book. Now I asked myself, "Can I begin with dialogue? How?" And the scene came whistling around the corner.

This was only a glimpse into the new novel but I can lean into it and see where it goes. I know I can't force anything this early on. Time is needed to allow the roots to grow deep not just in the character's emotions and personhood, but also deep into the new fantasy world where the story is set.

In Out of Africa Isak Dinesen talks about shading the young coffee plants ". . . with branches broken from the bush, since obscurity is the privilege of young things." pg. 7.
What I'm telling myself after racing through so many deadlines is that I need to shade this new seedling of a story and nourish the creative process.

Wherever you are in your writing from early seed stage to final polish, I hope you find a way to nourish your own creative process.

Until the next blog -- Be well.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I just got back from the 26th Annual Children's Lit Fest at Drury University Campus
In Springfield Missouri where I gave presentations to hundreds of kids and signed hundreds (yes hundreds) of books. Met fellow children's authors and illustrators:
C. S. Adler
Sandy Asher
Marsha Diane Arnold
J.B. Cheaney
Vicki Grove
David Harrison
Alexandria LaFaye
Anna Myers
Barbara Robinson
Brad Sneed
June Rae Wood
Judy Young

It's always great to meet the readers and kids know me in Missouri from the Mark Twain Award for WENNY HAS WINGS. This year I got to sign and sell the new book THE BEAST OF NOOR.

I'm still in the dark ages with my presentations (dirty little secret -- I haven't learned power point yet) so I was on my own to present 4 workshops in a row (about 400 kids in all) and nearly lost my voice by the end. I found my voice again (it was in my back pocket) by 8pm that evening when a few writers and illustrators did an Author Slam. That's 4 minutes to present something about your books. I told the strange and magical story about finding the buried glass doorknob while I was writing THE DOUBLE LIFE OF ZOE FLYNN. If you don't know that weird story and you want to hear it -- write me here on the blog and I'll spill the beans (or doorknobs).

One last thing. I was working on the galleys for DRAGON'S KEEP while flying to fro from Seattle/Denver/Springfield and nearly left the manuscript in the airport shop when I went to buy chapstick. Oi!

Until the next blog, be well.


Saturday, September 09, 2006


I just sent the revision of my medieval fantasy, TALON, back to my Faber & Faber editor in the UK (one month turnaround. Not bad!). Now it's back to THE ANCIENTS --

sequel to THE BEAST OF NOOR. My Atheneum editor, Susan Burke cried "Shorten!" saying THE BEAST OF NOOR was Long. Could I make THE ANCIENTS about 100 pages shorter than BEAST?

Hum . . . I knew this would be a lot of cutting since THE ANCIENTS was turned in at about 100 pages LONGER than the BEAST manuscript. Still Susan gave me some suggestions about where to begin lightening the load.

I began, as always, with some trepidation and started to remove a paragraph here, a page there, working tenderly with tweezers. As I grew more daring out came the the scissors, clip clip here, clip clip there, scenes dropped to the floor. Finally I pulled out the hacksaw, cutting out whole chapters that "slowed the pace" or "could be turned into a telling little paragraph after all."

To make sure I don't cut anything vital, I'm scanning the manuscript using a Plot Chart I devised to keep track of the the Through Line.

Three weeks to go before I have to turn the revision in.
The race is on.

Until the next blog,
Be well.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Author Insights

Today I'll take the plunge and share some of the meandering thoughts from my personal journal -- thoughts on the author, the character and the self. Turn ye back if ye do not like to delve a little deeper. Okay fair warning.

Life has been presenting me with some very difficult challenges of late.
What I want:
To understand my life from above and not just from below.
Relief from sorrow.
To have faith in God.
To believe I'm on the right path.
To make the right decisions and move on them.
To live with compassion.

Much of what I want is out of my hands. I'm human, flawed and not "all seeing". I suppose I want the guarantee of a "happy ending" Who doesn't?

MY CHARACTERS are in much the same situation. They want:
To understand the story from above and not just from below.
Relief from sorrow and difficulties.
To have faith.
To believe they are on the right path to solve to story problem.
To make the right decisions and move on them.
They don't always think in terms of "living with compassion" so that's a bit different.

AS THE AUTHOR I can see my characters' struggling.
I DO see the story from above.
I cannot relieve them from their sorrow or difficulties or the story would be over.
I know the characters are on the right path to solve the story problem even when they fail.
I know they don't always make the right decisions but as long as they move and continue moving, they will make progress toward the story's end.
They don't always live with compassion, but though the story seems to be harsh, I as the author have compassion for them.

My characters don't walk away with a PRIZE at the end of the story. They don't always get with they want. They DO walk away with a better understanding of themselves, of their gifts and of their place in the world. This "invisible prize" is something they will always have. It is imperishable/untouchable. No one can ever take it away from them.

I expect no more and no less from my characters than I expect from myself. Insight into the Author's Role/God's Role does not relieve the pain of my daily life. I blunder along as best I can with what faith I have. I'm flawed just as my characters are flawed. But I'm out for the invisible prize.

Fellow traveler,
Walk Well,


Sunday, August 27, 2006

What's your personality? Take the quiz:

The Protector

You live your life with integrity, originality, vision, and creativity.
Independent and stubborn, you rarely stray from your vision - no matter what it is.
You are an excellent listener, with almost infinite patience.
You have complex, deep feelings, and you take great care to express them.

You would make a great photographer, alternative medicine guru, or teacher.

take the quiz:

BEAST OF NOOR Party Picture

The book launch party for THE BEAST OF NOOR was a blast! A few came as characters from the book. The Sylth Queen arrived with her entourage of Sylth servants all fanning her and doing her bidding. I gave her a silver goblet (Sylth Queens don't drink from paper cups!) The Sylth Queen was kind enough to toss fairy petals on some lucky partygoers.

Here's a picture of the Sylty Queen, a sylth, the intrepid author, and Brother Adolpho opening the Falconer's chest.

Many left with some Noor treasure, but I have a lot left. Hum. Were folks a bit shy about loading their plunder pouches??

The food from Noor was delicious -- I heard it was anyway. I was only able to gobble two strawberries the entire evening. I ordered a glass of white wine during the book signing but the white was gone and red wine gives me a headache. Ah well.

I chose to read a tale within tale -- the story of how the Shriker came to be, and I'm told the reading went well. After the reading, people lined up to get books signed or went over to watch the cool Search Dog video.

My thanks to all who came to revel. And to all those who bought books. The bookstore was sold out!

Until the next blog, be well

Saturday, August 12, 2006


The SCBWI Summer Conference was Golden this year. Here are some more nuggets from my LA visit.

Saturday 8/05
Hunkered down in my room to work on The Ancients (deadline for the revision draws near).

Attended Krista Marino's workshop "Publishing Etiquette: What Not to Do"Krista gathered gripes from her fellow editors. Here are a few things to avoid:
* Don’t send sloppy cover letters. They should be immaculate.
* Avoid adding the minutia of your novel to your synopsis. Instead clearly communicate the storyline, characters, genre and age range. Keep it short,clear and compelling.
* Don’t address editors by first name in your cover letter unless you know them.
* Don’t send to 5 editors at the same imprint. Editors know each other and "do lunch" together.
* Try not to be impatient while you wait for a response. Instead use your waiting time to wirte. Editors work long office hours and have to do ALL their manuscript reading at home. So learn the fine line between persistence and pestering.
Krista then listed all the jobs an editor does in a typical day. My hand cramped just writing them all down! Kudos to all our hardworking editors.

Sunday 8/06
Went to Lisa Yee’s witty “Why Bother to Blog” workshop. Great fun! Lisa shared lots of cool blogging info. (So much to learn!) And she gave us tons of helpful notes. Thanks Lisa! (See more SCBWI conference stuff on Lisa Yee’s blog.)

Monday 8/07

Went to “The Joys and Frustrations of Revision” workshop with Justina Chen Headley and her editor at Little Brown, Alvina Ling.
Took pages of notes on their revision process. Justina showed her cool pre-story collages. Alvina read sections of her early editorial letters for Nothing But the Truth and a Few White Lies. Justina shared tips on how to handle your editors queries and comments. Lots of good-humored jokes between the two, and more than one poignant moment as Tina read from her stunning novel. I give the workshop 5 stars. *****

Monday afternoon -- Jane Yolen's Keynote:
I'd been waiting all weekend for Jane Yolen's address. And my jaw dropped when she was wheeled on stage. We’d danced at the Jade Jubilee Saturday night. Did she sprain her ankle jiving into the wee hours after I left the shindig? Jane soon told her ghastly tale of horrors (full details can be read on her website Journal “Telling the True” see She'd suffered a bad case of food poisoning. After being sicker than a dog for hours, our fearless conference director, Lin Oliver, rushed her to the hospital where Jane spent the night hooked up to the IV. Still she managed to return to the hotel for her keynote address covering the 10 Rules of Writing gleaned from 40 years of experience and 287 (count um!) books. Here are but a few rules:
· Write the damn novel. Don't just want to write it. Sit down (BIC -- butt in chair) and write it.
· Learn to love revision.
· Listen to your readers.
· The last rule (true to Yolen humor) was -- Don't believe anyone's rules.
Jane ended with a poem. I took down a startling line . . .
"a prayer that sounds like a curse until it's said a second time"

Jane got a standing ovation.
She thinks it was wheelchair inspired "pity applause" but it had nothing to do with food poisoning. Note to Jane -- we would have stood after that keynote if you’d been well enough to do jumping jacks on stage. Bravo! It was a great way to end the conference.

Monday night party:
Last, I attended the party at Lin Oliver’s. Good talk and good eats – apologies to Jane Y.

Tuesday 8/08:
Got up at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday to fly home. Then it was time to dig in on my revision of Talon for my UK publisher at Faber & Faber.

Well, Talon beckons. Back to work.

Until the next blog . . .
Be well.

Friday, August 11, 2006

LA STORY: Book Signing, talk about Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster and more.

The SCBWI Conference this year was Golden. Here are some nuggets from my LA visit.

Friday Day #1
Media Escort Book Signing:
Media Escort Lisa Becker drove Tina (Justina Chen Headley ) and I all over LA to hit as many bookstores as is humanly possible given LA traffic and the local speed limit. Lisa Becker was well prepared and she had the bookstore reps. hopping. If a bookstore didn't have our books in stock, Lisa looked them right in the eye and said. "You need to get these books," in a very polite 'make them an offer they can't refuse' sort of a way. She also told us great Hollywood tales gleaned from working in the movie business. Some of the scoop: Meryl Streep is not only the consummate actress we all know she is, she's also a great human being. Ah, good to know. Lisa also talked up Jodie Foster (smart, with it, great mom), Keanu Reeves (the only actor who ever asked her if he could be switched to a SMALLER hotel room)and George Clooney who asked if he could pitch in some cash and pay for the film crew's accommodations (that's about 600 people!) when Lisa was getting flack from everyone about the sucky hotel. We loved her behind-the- scenes stories and we talked non-stop in stop-and-go traffic, so travel between signings was a breeze. I found a new respect for all the unsung heroes in the crew who work in the movie industry. Try 12-14 hour days day in and day out. Bravo to the unsung, hardworking crew!
We singed lots of books -- Tina's NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH AND A FEW WHITE LIES, and my THE BEAST OF NOOR. Last stop was Storyopolis where we viewed stunning framed picture book artwork covering the walls and, I almost forgot, signed books. A great day.

Friday night:
Dinner with friends and editor Krista Marino -- lots of laughs and good eats. In a fit of "healthy living fanaticism" we all decided to walk back to the hotel and had to clamber down a dirt hill covered in netting to cross LA night traffic -- totally nuts but no one was harmed.

See more SCBWI LA conference Nuggets in the next blog.

Until then,
Be well,

Until the next blog,
Be well,

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Monday Night at the P&G Speakeasy Cafe in Duvall, Poet Katherine Grace Bond read from her new book CONSIDERING FLIGHT (Brass Weight Press 2006)

The room was packed and we were entranced by the journey taken from first poem to last. It was sweltering in the cafe but we didn't want to move outside where breezes beckoned until Katherine finished the book.

Katherine's poems centered on the father/daughter relationship. They were riveting --honest, clear, complex, sweet, bitter, raw -- beautiful.

Here's a selection from CONSIDERING FLIGHT

Gentle Into Twilight

In the soft dead of that good night
Are shouts that were not shouted
To shame me
And his retreating back in a rummage sale jacket,
Carrying a plastic bag of Atlantic Monthlies.

His voice I'd like to bottle and keep,
Words the timbre of well-tuned glass,
Too effete for his ears.

His feet, he'd cut off
And walk on stumps
If it kept him a man.

He drowses near his ashtray
Studying the Trojan Wars alone
And Plutarch speaks to him in dreams.

I am his daughter.
I know the aria of the Queen of the Night
And can sing it in the woods
If the need arises.

I can pluck apples from the air,
But his basket will never be full.

I could reach my white bones out
To pull him from that dusk
And find his body heavy,
Spinning empty in my hands.

* * *

To read more amazing poems order CONSIDERING FLIGHT.
Send email to

May poetry find you this week.
May the words surprise you and may your pen flow
in cool dark evening rivers.

Until the next blog. Be well.

Friday, June 30, 2006


Okay there are eight days left before the big book launch party for THE BEAST OF NOOR at Parkplace Books in Kirkland, Sat 8th 7pm and what am I doing? Revising the sequel of course! Writers write right? But I know I have to get cracking (as my editor in the UK says). Of course I've already collected cool magical objects to fill the Falconer's trunk (glisten powder, magical tinctures, the Shriker's fang), and I have fun gifts for everyone (all readers are welcome to come so I won't tell what gifts are) .

We've done the Costco trip to check out food and drinks and I went nuts gathering fairyland party decorations.

What's next? Time to panic! Is my reading ready? How many plastic forks again? What about punch? Wine? Music? Are the books here?

The job for today is WORRY. Write. Take a swim. Write some more. Oh, and blog.

Until the next blog. Be well

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

LAST NIGHT AT P&G SPEAKEASY CAFE IN DUVALL Poet Margaret D. Smith read from her new book BARN SWALLOW (Brass Weight Press 2006) and sang us songs from her upcoming CD.

We were all hot and downing much lemonade or rubbing ice across our necks and foreheads but Margaret's surprising images, bright/dark words, and songs took us into gardens, beaches, on winter walks, down under ponds, into childhood, old age, and back again. Oh, and did I mention Ireland? Yes we went there too.

More poets read at the open mic. War and peace where words that ran deep. Poet Katherine Grace Bond was emcee -- she will be reading from her book CONSIDERING FLIGHT next month July 24 at the P&G Speakeasy. Who wants to go? I do! I do!

Here's a poem from BARN SWALLOW


This would sound more beautiful in Greek.
In Grandma's garden, a lemon tree
so heavy with fruit she would lead us
long times around the tree with buckets,
wrapping our hands around them, telling
us, Pull, letting them sleep in deep piles
in our laps. To our noses they grew so
holy, too bad we had to pull them down
for tea and lemon pie.

Our fingers dug through ivy and surprised
a nest of mice babies, climbing blind,
squeaking for mice milk with no mother,
no father anywhere. We shouted to Grandpa,
Come look! We never saw any babies
more pink we wanted to hug before.
And do you know what he did? He scooped
them up and dumped them all
in the incinerator behind the garage.

I know what we wanted to do, shut our ears,
run downhill screaming at Grandpa, but
it was too sad. We didn't move by
the new grave, just sat. Mignon
and Celeste came up to us wagging
their tails with puff balls, puff hairdos,
puff shoulders and eyes with sad water,
sat down in our laps, letting us rub
their ears as long as we wanted.

Margaret D. Smith is author of six books.
Barn Swallow(Brass Weight Press, 2006) A Holy Struggle (Shaw, 1992) and The Rose and
the Pearl (Inchbird, 1998). Margaret also speaks internationally on the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

May poetry find you this week.
May the words surprise you and may your pen flow
in cool dark evening rivers.

Until the next blog. Be well.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Paul Klee said ~ Art does not reproduce the visible. Rather it makes visible ~

In order to make things visible we must turn away from the busy, visible world and move into the inner world. It's a paradox that we must close our eyes for a time in order to make something visible: that we must be silent for a time in order to let the story speak.

But there's power in paradox.

The inner storyteller is a strange illusive being that refuses to be captured or defined. In times of silence, the imagination, which links the conscious and unconscious mind, is given a voice. There is so much the unconscious mind has to say, if we practice the art of waiting, listening, allowing the words to rise up.

Art is less doing
More being

Until the next blog. Be well.

Friday, June 16, 2006

What did you do with the Fang?

I'm busily gathering odd things for THE BEAST OF NOOR book launch party. Wednesday I spent hours at Michael's picking out cool beach glass and lots of fun surprising things (I won't tell all here). I have Noor party favors to make and a Falconer's trunk to fill. I'll be describing some of the behind the scenes magic below, so stop reading if you think it might spoil the fun.

The Falconer's Quill:
During the writing session today, I paused to make a quill. Here's the trick I've come up with. You know those clear bic pens? Well pull the innards out so it's just the tip and tube. Next grab a good sized feather and jam that baby up inside the hollow rachis of the feather. Voila! Instant quill (sort of). Well it looks like a quill and it writes, so Hey :)

Next I tackled another object for the Falconer's trunk.
Down in the kitchen I took an old box filled with perfect little vials and poured out the ginseng (hey it was way past usable date! And I had a plan!) Next I stripped off the labels and boiled the little glass bottles to get the residue out. After a good washing and cleaning out with a pipe cleaner (pretty sticky stuff in there) I filled each vial with pure water and added droplets of food coloring. Ah -- blue, purple, orange, yellow, green. I now have the Falconer's tincture bottles. He gives Miles Orasian (orange healing tincture)when he's in need. So much fun to have these bottles to show. They are tucked into the Falconer's trunk now. My fingertips are purple-green. But there's more room in the trunk, and more fun to be had.

The Fang:
On the way to the movies the other night with friends Heidi and Katherine,
I was jammed into the teeny-tiny back seat of Katherine's truck. I leaned forward and said, "Hey Heidi have you found the giant fang?"
"Oh man! Where did you look?"
"I looked all through my stuff. I think we left it at your house. You were so nervous that it would get lost."
"What will I do if I can't find it?" I moaned. "I mean where can you get a giant fang?"
"What about a longhorn cow skull," suggested Heidi.
"Yea. I went into the Western Apparel shop and asked if I could buy the cow skull in the window a few months back. They said it was a window display. When I asked the guy where I could get a cow skull, he got a little nervous."
At this point Katherine said, "Fang??? Can you please enlighten me as to what in the heck you're talking about?"

So, okay I'm looking for a Shriker's fang for the Falconer's trunk -- it's about the size of a cow horn. Has anybody seen it? Or do you know where I can find one?

Until the next blog. Be well.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Do you want to visit a beautiful reading and writing blog? It's like taking a mini retreat. Check out:


Until the next blog. Be well


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Why Join a Critique Group?

Some writers feel that joining a critique group is too time consuming. Going to a critique group once a week or twice a month IS time consuming. It's also rewarding. I can't imagine facing the writing life alone with no one to commiserate with when I get rejections and (more importantly) no one to party with when I sell a book!

My critique group, The Diviners, really parties when one of us sells a story. Yeah!!! Peggy King Anderson usually writes a cheer (complete with pom poms)and we eat cake and drink bubbly and throw confetti!!!

Each week before we begin critiquing, we share writing news. A few weeks ago Justina Chen Headley shared about her amazing Hi-YAH! Book Tour with
Janet Wong and Grace Lin. They toured across the U.S. with countless print, radio and TV interviews, school visit (how about Harvard and Stanford!) She came home tired and happy.
For more on Tina's tour

The rest of us shared about classes we're teaching, editing jobs, revisions for editors, etc. Judy Bodmer, Peggy King Anderson, and Katherine Bond usually have stories and articles in magazines to show us -- Hooray! Then it's down to business.

With seven members and most of us including Dawn Knight and Holly Cupala reading from novels, we have to divide up the time. The session is about good, hard, critique -- with a touch of kindness. Even when I'm on a strict deadline, I try to go and read (I know it saves my editors hours of grief).

So if you're writing alone, find a critique group that nourishes your creative spirit, feeds your writing, and forces you to grow.

Until the next blog. Be well.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Held in the clutch of a Dragon!

I just sent my second revision of DRAGON'S KEEP back to my editor at Harcourt. This was an amazing process as I only had 10 days to work on it. I was in the Dragon's clutches from 5 to 9 hours per day.

I'm reeling. I'm also elated that I made it through. The cuts and changes were challenging but Kathy Dawson's editorial eye has made the story leaner and more elegant. It's now a svelte 277 pages. The first drafts (a long while before Kathy Dawson ever saw it) had the story close to 500 pages. Oh my!

Time for me to go celebrate!

Until the next blog. Stay well.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

It's Time to Party!!

Busy days just now revising THE ANCIENTS Book Two of the Noor Chronicles for Atheneum Books and DRAGON'S KEEP for Harcourt, but it's also getting close to the book launch party for my first fantasy novel THE BEAST OF NOOR! I'm planning a great party July 8th, 7pm at Parkplace Books in Kirkland WA. All you faithful blog readers within the Seattle area are welcome to attend. If you'd like a formal evite, just send your email address to I'll send the evite your way.

Open as you have before
Let the traveler through the door
From this opening begin
The only way out
Is in

(opening spell from the Falconer's book. THE BEAST OF NOOR)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Writing Challenge = Sweet Dreams.

More running around yesterday and I had to leave right in the middle of a good writing session. Oi! Hard to keep my mind in the world of NOOR when I'm negotiating traffic, dropping sons off at appointments, filling granola bags at the PCC, pumping gas yadda, yadda, yadda.

At some point once I'm out in the world my "writing mind" vanishes. I find it hard to get back into the creative flow, but I have a few secret ways back.

Once home, if I putter, wipe counters with windex (I'm a windex freak), pick up a little and let my mind wander, sometimes the story comes back to me. Many writers know this trick. Forcing yourself to get right back to the computer and shouting OKAY GET BACK TO WORK usually = brain freeze.

Another secret way in is taken from Shakespeare's Hamlet, "To sleep perchance to dream." I lie down. Breathe deep. Sometimes I just fall asleep for a while and that's okay. I know I can't force it. But other times my mind begins to float. I follow the lazy stream and drift back into the storyworld.

That's what happened yesterday. I shut my eyes and soon enough I saw a scene. Not the one I'd worked on that morning, but a new one. The next step in THE ANCIENTS tale. I relaxed and waited. Ah, the characters in the mountain cottage were talking.

I crept up a little closer to the cottage and listened in. The dialogue was quick, exact, tense, and funny. Everything I needed to move the story forward was there. I threw off the covers, raced up to my office and typed the scene. A new chapter was born at 4:30 yesterday. A bit of a scrawny baby chapter now but she'll fatten up soon I know.

There is a Quaker saying, "Proceed as the way opens." And yes, if I've done a little writing early in the day, the way might open later if I let myself rest and drift back into the stream.

So all you hard working writers out there. Here's your assignment. If your writing time gets interrupted and it's a while before you can get back to your book.
Get cozy
If the story begins to speak again, dreamwalk to your writing desk, have a seat and write.

Until the next blog. Be well.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dreamtime on the run!
Danger! Don't take your journal out in public! Well, it's hard not to the way I run around, but I left my journal in the waiting room at the Group Health pharmacy yesterday. Oi!!

A few days ago, Tess said in her comment:
Writers have to live in dreamtime in order to create. Why don't people understand when that dreamtime extends to "practical" life? Readers want books? They'll just have to deal. :-)

And yes, dreamtime is needed. We writers are not spaced-out. We're just creating. We only LOOK spaced-out (except, of course, when we do things like abandon our journals).

My journal had personal stuff in it and I was worried someone might peek inside. It also had thoughts on where my revision for THE ANCIENTS is going = some new plot ideas that are still in their early dreamstage -- so I was desperate to get the journal back. I was also an hour late to critique group after taking my son to the Dr. Appt. What to do?

I didn't bust the speed limit to race back to Group Health but acted like a responsible, sane person and drove to critique group where I received some fine pointers on how to improve my new chapter three. After critique I returned to GH. My journal was there (though my coffee cup had been pilfered!). I wanted to dust the pages off for suspicious fingerprints but I didn't have the technology. If someone did read it they'd have a good look into my psyche.

Will I ever take my journal into public again? Yep! I can't help it. Will I leave it somewhere? I hope not.

Keep your pens moving and your hearts open until the next blog :)

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Mark Twain Award:
Since fellow author Kirby Larson said in her comment, "I didn't see your Mark Twain fiasco story -- do tell!" I guess I'd better fess up. By the way you can see more about Kirby and her books on her website
Okay time to confess: I flew to Missouri this month to attend MASL, a wonderful school librarian conference at the Tan-Tar-A resort. The conference was packed and I met hundreds of dedicated school librarians. After teaching two workshops, I attended the Awards Banquet where I gave a short speech (I was told to make it short) and accepted the 2005 Mark Twain Award for WENNY HAS WINGS. I began the speech with a dedication to my father who passed away last year. He was a Mark Twain fanatic and actually greeted me at the door one time wearing a white wig and white suit. "Come in and sit down," he said. "Here's my Mark Twain performance piece!"

After the speech, I went off to sign books and was thrilled to see a long line of people actually waiting to get their books signed -- a heavenly sight to any writer.

True Confession:
After signing about 150 books, my head was swimming. I left the room and mistakenly left the award (bust of Mark Twain) behind. I think he was hiding behind the flowers on the table?

It was about midnight before I realized my mistake. I was already in my jammies so
I threw on my clothes and raced down to the lounge. The security guard let
me in the room to search but Mark was gone. Maybe one of the librarians helping me at the signing saw that I'd left the bust behind and was holding it for me? I hoped so! I was way worried that night. A person doesn't show gratitude for winning an award by abandoning it a few hours later! Oi!

I tried to keep the fact that I'd lost the award fairly mum the next morning.
I confessed it to the conference staff and they got on their walkie-talkies "Janet
Carey has lost the Mark Twain Award."
So much for keeping it mum!

Mark arrived safely and was back in my hands 10 minutes before I left for the airport. A librarian had picked it up and given it to a librarian who gave it to another librarian . . . to give it to me.

I suppose I was a bit of comic relief for the conference. Mark T. is safely on
my piano now and he has a pretty mischievous look on his face. Thought he'd escape the way Huck Finn did? No way!

So that's my writing life story until next time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dreamwalks: Learning how to Dream
Writing Blues

I wish I had more time to write! It's always a challenge to keep a novel bubbling away in my head while running around doing shopping, bill paying, doctor appointments, polishing workshops for conferences, flying across the country to accept an award -- yadda yadda yadda (more on the award later). While awaiting the launch of my YA fantasy, THE BEAST OF NOOR, I've been working on the second book in the NOOR series. My editor at Atheneum Books recently sent me a LONG editorial letter for THE ANCIENTS and I've been trying to get back to the book.

Part of the waiting time isn't just the hurry and scurry of everyday life, but my own needed process time. I've been writing scores of journal pages trying to figure out how to best attack this revision. Now I have a binder full of notes and I've called my editor, but wait! I still need to think some more!

I know I have to let go of many well-polished chapters to get to the core of the story and shorten the 488 page adventure down to a slimmer, trimmer tale. That's never easy. So I need to redream the dream.

Yesterday I took the plunge and rewrote an entirely new chapter one to THE ANCIENTS. The opening now begins with the dragons. My editor asked for this, and now that it's written, I love it. I took it to my critique group who loved it and tore it apart (thanks ladies) so I'm revising yet again. All will be well.

Every book makes me feel like a beginner again. I've learned to enjoy being a beginner. Beginners get to play. They get to make mistakes. They get to learn.

To all you struggling writers out there. Keep well and keep writing.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

It's actually sunny here today. We celebrated Mother's Day by gathering together for a delicious brunch with fruit salad and waffles!
At brunch I was talking about how I need a certain size trunk for the next book store presentation and my daughter-in-law said "Hey, we have one here like that."

Cool! I scurried outside and there it was! A small handmade trunk once used as a theatre prop.

It's a perfect Falconer's trunk for THE BEAST OF NOOR book party. What will I put inside? The Shriker's fang, magical glisten powder, strange herbs, giant skullen snake skin, shells from the shores of Noor, and more . . .

Great unexpected Mother's Day surprise. After brunch it was time to rescue the poor old truck from the car hospital. She has a new battery now so she actually starts! Amazing.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Learning how to Dream

Open as you have before
Let the traveler through the door
From this opening begin
The only way out is in.

Welcome readers, writers and fellow travelers;
I've come to chat about writing, about stories, and think out loud about the mysterious creative energy we all share.

"Where do you get your ideas?"
That question comes up at every workshop and book signing. And, hey, it's a good one.
You'll likely get a different answer every day.One answer = most writers are unabashedly expert daydreamers. We "wander off" at various times and go into "another world."

Ask anyone who lives with a writer how often the rice is burned and how many people in the family are secretly wearing pink-tinted underwear because their stay-at-home writer was plotting a great novel while doing the wash.

Writing stories is a form of dreaming on paper -- so Dreamwalks seemed like a good blog name.

Dream Come True: After publishing 3 realistic fiction books with Atheneum Books for Young Readers, my first fantasy novel THE BEAST OF NOOR is coming out in July! (See a bit more about all my books on Two more fantasy books will come out after this one. That's a lot of writing and revising work "nose to the grindstone" time, or as I like to think of it, "eyes to the sky" time.

Off to work. Looking forward to reading your comments.