Monthly Archives: December 2009

Our Real Guest Blogger and What a Fine Guest She Is: Cheri Earl

Cheri graduated with her M.A. in Creative Writing from Brigham Young University in 1995 and has taught writing and literature courses for the BYU Honors Program and Creative Writing Program for the past 16 years; she was awarded BYU Honors Professor of the Year in 2005 (which she brags about whenever she can). She recently published a non-fiction children’s book for American Girl co-authored with Rick Walton, but in real life she writes young adult novels; she won the Utah Original Writing Competition in 1994 for the YA novel, Flat Like Me, and took Honorable Mention in 1997 for the YA novel, The Swan. Cheri has been a co-organizer of the annual BYU Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop with Carol since 2004.

Before I launch into my seven short personal writing resolutions for 2010 and my reasons for setting these goals, I have to say something about some significant awards given out for children’s books in 2009, something that will seem cynical and off topic at first, but stay with me: I have a big splash ending all ready for you.

I’ll start with the NY Times eight Notable Children’s Books of 2009, and here’s what I have to say about this list: Really? Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith? GENIUS OF COMMON SENSE: Jane Jacobs and the Story of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”? Both are for middle-grade readers, and I’m sure they’re fine books but only eight books out of all the books published in 2009 made this NY Times list, and I’m wondering why these eight. FYI: The ALA Notables Committee defines “notable” as “worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding.” In other words, notable is subjective depending on the entity making the list, and it may have more to do with who’s choosing the books than with any other criteria.

Next, the National Book Award, Young People’s category. The winner for 2009 was Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice and the finalists were Deborah Heiligman for—you guessed it—Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (serves me right for singling this book out of the NY Times list); David Small for Stitches; Laini Taylor for Lips Touch: Three Times; and Rita Williams-Garcia for Jumped. The judges for the NBA categories are all children’s authors and/or illustrators and they come up with their own criteria for selecting the winner and finalists; however, the judges are “chosen for their literary sensibilities and their expertise in a particular genre.” Translation: We don’t need to establish criteria because everybody knows good writers make good literary critics. Don’t they?

And finally, the Newbery Medal winner for 2009. Part of the criteria for the Newbery Medal includes a book that makes a “distinguished contribution to American literature”? And this year’s winner is . . . The Graveyard Book? I mean, it’s an okay book, but the Newbery Medal? Come on. Somebody please explain to me the contribution this book makes to American literature. I guess I’m scratching my head because of the company this book now keeps: Sarah Plain and Tall, The Giver, A Year Down Under, Maniac Magee, Number the Stars, Missing May, Holes, The Midwife’s Apprentice, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Bridge to Terabithia and so on. I’m disillusioned about the Newbery Medal now, like I just found my baby teeth in my mom’s apron pocket—the ones I left under my pillow for Some One Else to pick up for a quarter each. Trauma.

Before I move on to writing goals and whatnot, I have to say something about an author who writes a sort of fusion romance-gothic series but not really, someone who was awarded the 2009 Author of the Year award by the Children’s Choice committee for one of her books, someone who makes oodles of money as a writer and who said when she appeared on Oprah in November (also of this year) something like “I’d never thought about being a writer because you can’t make money at that so why would I waste my time.” Hmmm. That’s what writing is all about, making money. I never knew.

To sum up . . .

  • awards are fickle, subjective, and random to a great extent and don’t need to appear on my 2010 Goals to Achieve list (though they seem to crawl up there anyway)
  • most authors won’t make a lot of money or even stay in print long, especially if they don’t win one of The Big Awards
  • to win awards and make a lot of money are okay reasons but not great reasons to keep on writing

What’s my point, you’re wondering. Why all this angst over successful writers and their awards and money and stuff? Well because the writing life can be brutal when you pin all your hopes on making it, especially when making it is defined in terms of money and awards and even getting published. So I’ve decided to make resolutions for next year that will lead me away from the rewards I can’t control and towards those I can.

And now at last, here are my writing resolutions for 2010:

  1. I will write because I have a story to tell, because writing keeps me calm and alive, because writing is what I do.
  2. The promise of billions or winning a random chance award or even the lure of publication will never influence what I choose to write or why I choose to write.
  3. When I write I will strive for beauty and authenticity and truth; I won’t settle for less than honesty.
  4. I will write, maybe not everyday, but I will write.
  5. I will read and emulate great writers in the way they use language and in how they tell stories.
  6. I will finish what I start IF I like it and IF it makes me happy to do so.
  7. I will live my life because (and I stole this next part) a writer never wastes time by living.

Happy New Year everyone!


Filed under Uncategorized

Our Guest Blogger: Katherine Paterson–not really. Nobody sue me.

She says some things that I think are important. Like not feeling like you can do it. Maybe she can help us with our goals. Or maybe not. Maybe we should all just go to Walmart.


Filed under Uncategorized

Ann Dee: You Guys, Seriously Post Your Goals. Carol is Ruthless

But in a good way. Like she really will be diligent and check on you and then you’ll feel all motivated (not guilty, never ever guilty) every day and you won’t be able to keep yourself from writing and writing and writing.

For example, today I had some writing time. Quiet, happy writing time. I sat down to the computer and immediately wrote 1500 words. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

I am now going to list the websites I check before I start writing. These websites are strictly for research purposes only. Then, usually never, but sometimes I check those same websites again after I’ve written a paragraph. Just to see if anything has changed. After that I might be hungry from all the research. Or at least thirsty.  Is my phone ringing? No, it’s a text. Back to writing. Always writing, never doing anything but writing during writing time.

Here’s the list:

1. There are a lot of important things you can learn about life from celebrities. They struggle with the same things we all do. Exactly. In order to write a novel that rings with true emotion, I have to read up on Angelina’s life.

2. I need to be up on the news. World news. National news. Local news. It’s all there. I especially like the crime and courts section and the life section. (I never read the entertainment section because I’m not shallow). This helps me with contextual information for my writing.

3. Dateline: I don’t have TV. I sometimes read transcripts of murder. Also very very important.

4. KSL Classifieds: This is my local classifieds site. One of the characters in my book just moved into a house and needs some new old items. I want it to feel authentic so I like to see what things are going for in my neighborhood.

5. My job. Just to make sure I still have a job sort of. One that pays me money.

6. Gmail: All Day Long.

7. Shade clothing: For character clothing ideas.

8. 384 blogs: Research. Research. Research. I especially like design sponge. Useful DIY ideas for my characters.

9. Hulu: NOYB

10: My own website: ha ha ha ha ha for the second time in one post.

Are these procrastination tactics? Are they fear tactics (see Ann’s post)? Are they haggard mom needs a rest tactics (see my last post)? Probably all of them.

So here are my goals:

1. To start writing IMMEDIATELY during designated writing time. This means NO CHECKING websites. NONE. NOT even PEOPLE.COM. Do you hear me? Do you? Continue to write the entire time internet free.

2. Stop using caps.

3. Finish that one novel that I don’t know how to write nor want to write. No starting new projects until this one has an ending. Try to make it have an ending by the end of January.

4. Start a new MG novel after bad novel is done (dessert).

5. Write daily (sorry to copy, Sarah).

6. Rewrite Dolly PB.

7. Get Angelina or someone equally as, you know, people.comish, to guest blog. I’m serious. This is very very important. We have to know what celebrities are reading/writing. Do you have any connections? Can you help?

I think that’s it. Number 1 is going to be the hardest and I’m not going to even attempt it until January 1st because all things magic happen then.

These are my goals and I’m sticking to them.

The end.


Filed under Uncategorized

Carol: GOAL!!!!!!!

Okay, lately I’ve been getting these ads in my spam folder: Want to Publish? Or So You Want to Sell a book. Or how about–Dreaming of Selling Your  Screen Play? Or We Can Get You Published. And then there’s Get Published, Now!

Do these spammers know something I don’t? Why do these ads keep coming with such frequency? Have my editors been in contact with the ad agencies that send this stuff out?

Editor: So, we’re not quite sure how to tell Carol that she needs writing lessons.

Agency: She’s fancies herself a writer, that’s for sure. Teaches writing classes herself, even.

Editor: That’s part of the problem. You know the old saying “Them what can’t, teach.”

Agency: So true, so true.

Editor: You know how she’s always going on about ‘ly’ words or having a tight plot (or butt) or using fewer adjectives . . .

Agency: Or having a strong sense of place, effective dialog, emotion . . .

Editor: She’s a know it all.

Agency: Well, the Wii Fit should help with the tight butt thing.

Editor: We’re wondering here if you help at all?

Agency: How about 43 + emails a day that make her question her writing ability?

As if I don’t question my writing ability on my own. If anyone knows my lack of ability, it’s me . . .and my editors. And my critique group. And my daughters. And the people I force to listen to stuff when I writing something new.

This is the time of year, however, when I start my own goal making. Setting goals can help me feel better about myself as a writer. I make about 200 or more goals every end-of December. These are divided in sets, sub-sets and sub-sub-sets. (Finally, math has found a place in my life.) I leave space to write myself notes during the year, to say whether I have reached a goal or not, and to make suggestions for improvement in the different areas. If something happens that I didn’t expect–maybe a different publisher buys a book–or a publisher says no to a book when my agent and I were sure they’d say yes, I note that in my goals. My goals become sort of a history or my progress.

While I don’t accomplish all my goals, I do make a valiant effort. And for me, that’s  what matters.

So you want to be a writer? Then you have to write. Like Ann Cannon (The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love, Charlotte’s Rose, Amazing Gracie–to name a few of her titles) said last week, you have to write through the fear, and goals can help you do that.

I won’t show you all my goals for this year (I still have a few days to continue to refine them), but I will share five of my writing goals with you*.

  1. Work up to writing 3000-5000 words per day
  2. Finish rough draft for St Martin’s Press
  3. Finish chicken picture book
  4. Update web page–and keep it updated
  5. Organize my home office

My challenge to everyone who is reading this blog, and those of you who aren’t, is to set your own goals. If you want, share a few of your writing goals here.** During the year, I’ll check in with you to see how you’re doing and you can check in on me. We can share out progress with each other.

Hmmmm. Maybe I’ll change goal number one to: Delete spam without opening it.”

Happy New Year Everyone! May 2010 bring you joy, happiness, love, peace and success (five good goals to work toward).

*One of the things I try to remember is that ‘stuff happens.’ This last year I had four major life changes as well helping to run a couple of conferences and workshops, meeting novel deadlines, and taking three trips I hadn’t expected when I made out my goals the year before. So I tend to be lenient with myself.

**Another thing to remember are that there are goals you can control (use Wii every day to tighten butt) and there are those you cannot control (hear back from Agent C). Keep those in mind. I had a dry spell of no publishing for nearly seven years. I kept writing during those years–kept meeting editors and agents and hoping they’d take me on. But hard as I tried–I couldn’t make anyone do anything for my writing career–except me.


Filed under Uncategorized