The Month Started on Sunday Again.

And I’m ready to try and write. Hard writing. Lots of words. Exercising, too.

Weird that this morning I woke up really sad.

Almost crying sad.

Why?

Why so much?

Why so long?

What are YOUR March plans?

 

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Three Things Thursday

Writing exercise: copy a page or two from a favorite writer or book you’ve loved. Get into the author’s rhythm and tone. Looking for ways to change up the WIP you’re stuck in.

I decided to give this a try myself.  I copied two pages of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.  It had me laughing and crying by the time I got through.  Have you read it?
A great book for older MG or younger YA, Spinelli nailed the speech and thoughts of upper junior high students — and I should know, having taught them for a number of years.  It was funny, with realistically young dialogue, as told through the eyes of a JHS boy.  The most captivating character is the “new kid” in town who is quirky, strange, an outsider.  And what JHS boy OR girl hasn’t felt that way before?  Called Stargirl, she wears a string of peculiar outfits: bib shorts, shoulder straps and all, a 20’s flapper dress, a kimono, an Indian buckskin or a denim miniskirt with an enamel ladybug and butterfly pins crawling up her long green stockings.  Her “normal” was long, floor-brushing pioneer dresses or skirts.
Stargirl lives with abandon, does outrageous things: brings a ukelele to school, plays it wandering table to table in the cafeteria and singing Happy Birthday to her victims by name on their actual birthdays.  How did she find out who and when? A girl named Hillari orders Stargirl NOT to sing to her on her birthday; so she sings for Hillari, but does so into the stunned face of the male narrator of the story.
What JHS girl wouldn’t dream of living with such abandon?  What JHS boy wouldn’t dream of finding her on his arm on graduation day?
THAT’S a voice I’d like to capture.  That’s the quirky person who’s missing in my story.  Try it.  Maybe it will help get you unstuck too!
Brenda
People at the extreme end of any spectrum always cause problems. 

Who is the angriest person you know? The loudest? The dumbest? The most gentle? The flakiest?
Try creating a character who is extreme in just one aspect of their personality. How does it change the scene? Or the storyline?
Just one character can make all the difference in a story. Look at Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. He should be a secondary character, nothing more than the roommate of the main character. But he is so eccentric that he becomes fascinating. He steals every scene and I’ll go so far as to say the show would fall apart without him.
Try playing around with the edges of the spectrum with your characters. You might be surprised at what you find.
Cheryl
While you’re reading this, think good thoughts about Thomas Edison, inventor of so many things and, without whom, you wouldn’t be centering so much of your world around electronics.  Yesterday would have been his birthday.
My favorite quote of his: “I haven’t failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
There are days I feel that way about my writing.  “Edit away,” I say!  “There’s one more way I’ve found that doesn’t work.  I’m bound to get it right eventually!”  So I keep at it.
Here’s another good one:  “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
A few more pithy words from this man who kept at it:
“If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”
“There is no substitute for hard work.”
” Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Thanks to good old Tom, I don’t need to feel I’ve failed.  I haven’t failed if I haven’t yet given up!  How about you?
Brenda

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My kids are obsessed with Mr. Dahl.

Things about Roald Dahl that were discussed this weekend with my kids:

1. He never let anyone in his writing hut so it never got cleaned and never got dusted. It was white with a yellow door and tiny. (Dreamy)

2. He had a chocolate bar every day (which is probably the secret to his success, I believe).

3. He probably was pretty rich. They wanted to know how rich. I said I didn’t know. They wanted to know if Roald Dahl had a battle with JK Rowling in riches, who would win. I said Ms. Rowling.

4. He wrote on American yellow legal pads which were sent from New York City and every week he’d have a bonfire and burn the papers that didn’t make it into the book.

5. No. I was not as rich as Roald Dahl.

6. He crashed his plane when he was in the Royal Air Force, hitting the sand at 75 mph.

7. He wrote for 3.5 hours a day. 10:30 to noon and 4-6. That’s it. But it was every day. Look at the beauty he created in a 3.5 hour workday.

8. He always had breakfast in bed (lucky guy).

9. No. I would not ever sell as many books and Roald Dahl.

10. The Gremlins was his first short story (my husband was excited when he heard that. Hey! I’ve seen that movie. I said, sadly no. Not that Gremlins, which is a creepy creepy show).

11. He has a cookbook, written/compiled by him and his wife the last year of his life which I want. I also want chocolate.

12. He made a magical world. “I really like his books,” one of my boys said. And I agreed.

We all agreed that we wanted to visit Roald Dahl’s house and his writing hut and his museum and we wanted to see Matilda the musical and we wanted to live in a world where we got to go to a chocolate factory and get revenge on mean adults and kids alike. We wanted to get magical worms that made peaches giant and we wanted to be entranced by Giants who were friendly and scary.

I have read most of Roald Dahl’s writing for kids but barely touched his stuff for adults. And in writing this post that should be whimsical and happy, but is really tired and slow, I have come to suddenly want to read everything he’s written. Maybe that will be my reading goal for 2015. Read all of Roald Dahl’s writing. And eat some lollies. And try to have more fun when I write.

As a family, we just finished Matilda and we’re starting on James and the Giant Peach. You can join us!

10.

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Dean Hughes Teaching at WIFYR

and here’s an interview with him! BTW, I think he’s written a million books. AND had them published. Woot woot Dean!

 

How did you begin writing?

I’ve always written. At four I started scribbling on paper and telling my mom to read my “story.” (Too bad that I didn’t know all my letters.) She would pretend to be read what I it back to me, and I would say, “That’s not what I wrote.” (In case you’re wondering about POV on that story, I must admit, I don’t remember the whole thing. Mom told me about it later.)

I wrote a play in fourth grade, became a devoted reader, and by junior high was telling people I was going to be a writer when I grew up. In high school I had an amazing creative writing teacher who taught me the basics of fiction writing, and I got serious about trying to publish. I wrote a novel the year I graduated from high school (rejected), another in college (rejected), another when I first began my career as a professor (rejected), and then a fourth, which was intended for young readers. That one sold. By then I was thirty-five.

 

The Earth’s under attack, you go to the bookstore for one book to take with you during escape. Go!

I’m afraid I would stand in that bookstore, catatonic. The attackers would find me and shoot me down. I could never choose one book. I guess I’d take my Kindle, with a small library of recent reads, but that would be very satisfying. I’ve been reading books all my life and I’d miss hundreds of them. For one thing, I love many genres—fiction, history, non-fiction on all sorts of subjects, etc.—and I don’t even know which category is my favorite.

So who started this “favorite” thing anyway? When I used to visit schools, kids would ask me what my favorite color was, and I would say, “Blue,” because I’d been saying that for a long time. But then I realized, I had only chosen blue under duress. I was supposed to like one color more than all others. Does that actually make sense? I want the whole rainbow and chartreuse, mauve and ordinary old tan besides. I like colors; that’s what I like. I can’t choose one color, and I can’t choose one book.

 

When you’re not laboring over the keyboard, what would we find you doing?

I read a lot, of course. I love movies and my wife and I go off to afternoon films, when the prices are lower and the theaters are empty. (There are some good things about getting old.) I keep trying to learn to fly fish. I’m getting a little better at it. I live ten minutes from the Provo River, so I keep telling myself that this year I’ll fish a lot more. I just had back surgery, so this year I can’t ski, but I still plan to return to hills next season (I live about fifteen minutes from Deer Valley ski resort). I play golf (have a course in my back yard); I watch BBC series on Netflix; I teach an adult class at my church. I also clean house. Kathy and I have always divided that sort of work, and sometimes scrubbing a toilet actually seems more appealing to me than looking at more words on my computer screen. For Kathy and me, our big thing is travel. Lately we’ve made trips to Italy, England, and we took a cruise to South America and the Antarctic. We have some other trips in mind. We also do lots of family stuff. We try to attend events our grandchildren get involved in, and we gather once a month if we can to celebrate the birthdays in the family.

 

What’s the last book that made you do a spit take? Or at least laugh out loud?

Does it tell you anything that I had to Google “spit-take” to find out what it is? (Actually, I’m impressed that I found my answer that way.) Now I’m trying to think what has made me laugh lately. I obviously read too much serious stuff. I don’t remember spitting all over the place, but I did reread Catch 22 lately. The book makes me laugh and cringe and worry. It seems more real than the first time I read it.

 

Can you give us a typical day in the life of?

I’m known for being “prolific.” That’s really a back-handed way of saying that I’m a drudge who really “cranks them out.” I hate that image, but I will say, I have worked hard all my life. I’ve published 102 books in about thirty-five years. For most of my career I tried to be at my computer by 8:00 a.m., and I stayed there most of the day. But I have a good process, and I think I write efficiently, so I do find time for other things. And lately, I’ve begun to change. I’m afraid my new image may be that of the self-indulging artiste. I get up later than I used to, exercise before I write, and usually get to my computer about nine-ish, or some days, not at all. I’ve been writing a history lately—not just historical fiction, but actual history—and that gives me the excuse to read all day, sometimes for weeks. And since my wife and I are traveling more these days, we escape work altogether and run off to see the world, or we drive to California to see grandchildren. The fact is, I have no real schedule anymore, and I rather like that.

 

You’re at Carol’s dance party. Are you dancing in the middle? Head bobbing? Fly on the wall? Or do you apologize later because you got a sudden case of food poisoning?

All of these questions call attention to my age. I went from the foxtrot and jitterbug to the twist, the pony, the mashed potatoes—all that stuff. And then it all got away from me. I tried to jump around for a few years, but I was always amazed at what people called fast dancing, which was a little too “free-style” to get my head around. Somewhere in time I gave up most dancing, but when Kathy and are at a party or dinner dance, we usually revert to our old high school foxtrot, and we throw in a jitterbug a couple of times. But no head bobbing—absolutely no head bobbing.

 

What’s the best advice you’ve been given concerning writing?

Spend 20 percent of your time composing and 80 percent revising. And when you publish, enjoy the moment, but don’t conclude that you’re now a big deal.

 

What’s the number one writing tip you can give aspiring authors?

Don’t ask too much of writing. Getting published rarely brings you fame and fortune, and you won’t walk around in a state of euphoric bliss from that day on. Write because you like to write. If benefits follow, enjoy them, but don’t focus on the benefits and forget the hard work of working until you “get it right.”

 

And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?

“You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound dog”?  Well, no, but my first kiss was in the Elvis era.

When I met Kathy, she had a cute little red dress that just knocked my eyes out.  When I would see her in it, I would sing “Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood (by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs).  That became “our song.”  But let’s see; for a romantic song I’ll take “The Nearness of You,” or maybe, “Moonlight Becomes You.”  I know.  I know.  Those are really old songs.  But hey, I keep telling you, I’m an old guy.

 
And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?
“You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound dog”? Well, no, but my first kiss was in the Elvis era. When I met Kathy, she had a cute little red dress that just knocked my eyes out. When I would see her in it, I would sing “Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood (by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs). That became “our song.” But let’s see; for a romantic song I’ll take “The Nearness of You,” or maybe, “Moonlight Becomes You.” I know. I know. Those are really old songs. But hey, I keep telling you, I’m an old guy.

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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee!

Today’s blog post is short.

One of my favorite actresses/authors/writers/TV people, Lena Dunham, wrote me on Instagram. I am insanely happy.

Also, writing has been hard for me this week, so I don’t have any tips or advice.

I think it’s been a tough week for everyone.

But let’s keep writing.

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Lisa Mangum

Today we welcome Lisa Mangum to our blog. She will be leading our first ever, “Writing the Middle Grade or Young Adult LDS Novel” workshop. Editor, author, teacher, is there anything Lisa can’t do?

 

How did you begin writing? 

I started reading at a young age, and my mom was a writer, so I grew up knowing that writing was a “job you could do.” I had always loved writing, but I didn’t turn to it seriously until about 2006, when I joined a writer’s group and it rekindled my passion. When I got the idea for THE HOURGLASS DOOR, it was all I could do to keep up with the story that wanted to be told. I’ve never looked back since.

The Earth’s under attack, you go to the bookstore for one book to take with you during escape. Go!

The practical part of me says I should get a book with survival/first-aid tips, but the passionate part of me grabs HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, for the following reasons: (1) it’s small and would fit in my pocket; (2) it’s a stand-alone,* so no cliffhanger ending; (3) it’s funny and would remind me not to panic during an invasion of Earth; (4) it’s at the beginning of the alphabet, so it would probably be the first one I saw when I ran into the bookstore.

*yes, I know there are more books in the series, but the first one is the best.

When you’re not laboring over the keyboard, what would we find you doing?

Though I am an editor by day and a writer by night, I am a reader–always. So you’d probably find me with a book in my hands. If not that, I always enjoy a good jigsaw puzzle, going to the movies, or playing a board game.

What’s the last book that made you do a spit take? Or at least laugh out loud?

The last book that gave me that jaw-dropping moment (though not of laughter; sorry, I haven’t been reading very many funny books lately) was DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor. The way she lead me along that plot to the unbelievable and heartbreaking conclusion was awe-inspiring.

Can you give us a typical day in the life of?

Up around 7:30 am, take Trax to work (I read on the train), at work I check my email/voice mail, finish up any projects that I left unfinished from the previous day, meetings, editing, lunch (where I read manuscripts), editing, meetings, more emails. I head home around 5:00 for dinner with my husband. We watch a show or two on TV, and then I work on my writing until bedtime (around 11:00). (Lather. Rinse. Repeat.) Weekends are for housework, errands, movies, and Doctor Who marathons.

You’re at Carol’s dance party. Are you dancing in the middle? Head bobbing? Fly on the wall? Or do you apologize later because you got a sudden case of food poisoning?

Wallflower, all the way.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given concerning writing?

“It’s okay to write your story out of order.” I used to believe that you had to start with page 1, chapter 1, word 1 and write straight through to the end. But that was frustrating because if I got stuck, I just stopped. Or if I felt like writing the kissing scene, but I was stuck in an action part of the story, I’d rush through important information just to get to the other part. Once I realized it was okay to write out of order, then, when I got stuck, I’d skip to another part of the story. When I wanted to write the kissing scene, I’d write the kissing scene–even if that was the last chapter of the book. It was a liberating revelation to me as a writer.

And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?

Considering my first kiss as a teenager was during rehearsals for ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, there is an echo of the song “I’m Shy” rattling around that memory, but when I think about my first real kiss with a boy I liked, I always think of “Bravado” by Rush.

 

For more information, or to register, please go to: http://www.wifyr.com

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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

I feel sad about Luann passing away, but I hope that there is a better place and that she’s there. Happy and reading amazing books.

I’m trying to look at the positives in my writing this week, and in life in general. Life is so short and so fragile, I can’t spend the rest of mine feeling sorry for myself.

So this week has been better.

I’ve been writing. I’m so close to the end of this book I can almost {almost!} see it. I’ll be happy to go on to rewrites, which usually are the hardest part for me. It’s weird that I’m actually looking forward to them.

This morning, I poached my first egg. It turned out okay, my second poached egg turned out perfect. Me and the boy I am sort of dating fought over the perfect egg. {I ended up giving it to him because I am trying to be happier and nicer. See? Look how good I’m doing}

I binged-watched one of my favorite shows last night, it’s called GIRLS and it’s about a writer who’s my age and is torn between life and writing and dating and blah blah blah. It’s such a good show. And parts of it feels so real. {And of course other parts don’t feel real at all. But that’s okay because it’s funny as hell.}

As much as my job pisses me off, I’m trying to look at the good in it. There are so many nice people that I work with {and maybe not so many nice customers. But that’s okay.} at least I’m making a little bit of income and that’s good. Hopefully enough so I can fix this not-so-great tattoo on my leg next month {iwishiwish} and actually buy groceries!

I’m just so happy to be surrounded by so many great people. Great authors. Great friends. Great books.

Every little bit of encouragement I get about my writing pushes me so much further. My agent wrote me a lovely email this week and made me smile and happy and gave me faith that I can DO this. Whether I sell a book this year, next year, or ten years from now, {i really freaking hope that isn’t the case…but still} I can DO this.

We can ALL do this!

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