Monthly Archives: August 2011

Three Things Wednesday

1. The Delacorte YA first novel contest deadline is right around the corner (postmarked between October 1 and December 31). Will your manuscript be ready by then? What do you need to do to reach that goal?

2. School started this week for lots of kids. We sat on the front porch and watched them all in their new clothes and huge backpacks walk down the sidewalk. Such an exciting day. I remember not being able to sleep the night before school started. I remember making sure my socks matched my shirt and  I also remember riding my bike to school early so I could play kickball before the bell rang. I always had to have baby bouncies not too fast.

What are your childhood memories? Can you see yourself as a third grader? What were you wearing? Who were your friends? What made you nervous? Excited? Scared? Take some time to freewrite about the first day of school.

Then, if you want, think about your MC. What were they like in elementary school (are they still in elementary school? If so, what will they be like in high school?) How have they changed? Why have they changed? Who were their friends in elementary? Do they still have those friends? Why or why not?

3. Today is national peach pie day.  In honor of Debbie’s awesome comment on yesterday’s post, make a peach pie and see if you can wait to eat it.

That’s all for today.


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I wanted to post a picture of a regular boring cake. I went to and got sucked in. Those cakes are not regular or boring. I wasted maybe fifteen minutes? Maybe more? This is why the internet it bad.

Why was I looking for a boring cake? Like the kind of cakes I make? From a box? In a pan? With bad frosting on top?

I will tell you. One time someone chucked a cake at me.

Not really. I wish.

I’m tired. I need to finish a book this week. I’ve been working on this book for forty thousand years. And while it’s no secret this process has been painful, I have realized that all the sweat and tears and long nights are not wasted.

When you first start a book, the character is a stick figure. You may think you know him or her, you may know what they look like, where they live, what they worry about, etc. You may do tons of get-to-know them exercises, etc. And you may have a pretty firm grasp on who you think they should be.


As you write, as you push them into different situations, things happen. They start to change and change and change and through the change, they become more real. You rewrite. They get thicker and fuller and realer (love). You rewrite again. They grow even more. You start asking yourselves questions. Why isnt’ this working? Who is she really? Why would that boy react to her in that way? Why would she even talk to that boy? I thought in my character sketch she was shy? Is she shy?

Is he shy?

is the mom shy?

Who is shy?

You may be in shower and you realize, oh  man, I think she murdered someone. And you go back and rewrite.

Then you take another shower and no, she just thinks she murdered someone because she has delusions.

Then you rewrite. And the whole thing starts to jump to life.

Books need time. People need time. Situations need time.

Go on walks. take showers. Watch the sunset. And think about your book. Think about your MC. Think about all those other people that walk around the MC. Let it marinate and then rewrite. Then let that marinate. Don’t stress if it’s taking you awhile to get a hold of that person. You are creating a PERSON. A real live (sort of) person. That’s not an easy thing to do.

Now the cake. We can bake a cake in a few minutes. Like forty. It will taste okay. It comes from a box that someone put together and sold to us. We can decorate it, put on sparkles, candles, candies, etc. and it will taste fine. Fast and fine.

Or. We can plan. We can get the ingredients. We can envision. And then we can work. We can work hard and it will take us a lot of time. So much time and we’ll be sweating (not into the cake please) and we may mess up and have to start over a few times, we may even have to get a new recipe. We may want to give up in the middle and go buy a cake, or pull out a box and make one of those boring ones.

But then we don’t.

We don’t because we know how wonderful it can be. We can see it in our head and we can almost taste it in our mouths and we think about the delight and surprise it will bring to those who get to eat it. We work hard because we love those people and we want them to have something special. Something unordinary. Something they will remember and talk about and maybe even push them to come up with an awesome cake of their own.

So we don’t quit. We work at it and work at it and work at it and add layer upon layer upon layer.

And when we’re done, and the kitchen is a mess, and our back is aching, and we think we never ever ever want to make a cake again, we’ll sit down, take a drink of water and look over at that beautiful creation sitting on that plate. Right then we’ll know, this is not just a cake. This is love, baby.

That’s what our books should be. Love. Love and sweat and hard work. But mainly love. A cake with many many layers.

image from


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Bappy Hirthday!

Today is my boyfriends birthday. He is 24-years-old.
That makes me ill.
I’m dating an old man. When did I get so old so fast? I believe I was 19 when this blog started. Yes. . . 19.

Today I am throwing my boyfriend an Indian themed birthday party. He and I have been going to a lot of themed parties lately. {Last week it was 80’s, the other week a classy one}

So I’m throwing him this party. . .but I’m really unhappy about some certain things.
Like, his friends have to come.
It’s his birthday. . .but still! Why do HIS friends have to come? We both have a lot of random pals that we chill with every so often. {As in BOTH our friends.}
Such as: Stinky Ben. {he wrote Mom a love letter once. . .} The Twins with the Accents, The Black metalhead, such and so forth.
Our friends are the best.
His are the WORST.

Okay, here’s why.
They’ve been trying {and I’m serious about trying. . .they’ve actually put effort into this} to get him to dump me.
We’re supposed to get hitched in five years and they are trying to get him to dump me.

The last party we had, some of his friends showed up.
Our friends and his friends ended up yelling and threatening each other.
But I will tell you. . .it was all of his friends fault.

WOW. I am going off when I should be writing about writing.
Except. . .I could use this somehow in my writing. At least in my NEW book that I shouldn’t even be looking at when neither of my idea’s are actual ‘books’ and may never be, either.
But still. . .I just like to ponder. Maybe write a few pages down.

Do any of you like working on your novel that you’re not supposed to be? Of course you do. But how much have you written? Mom wrote a WHOLE novel while avoiding a re-write of the DD.
And she sold it, too!
What a talented meanie.

I better end this. Sorry it didn’t give you any writing advice but mostly my rant.
Yesterday I watched the most awful movie ever. It was called Wrong Turn 2 {Unrated} It made me wish I had a brain scrubber.
Also, I’ve had insomnia for the past two weeks. I don’t think I’ve gotten more than 3 hours every night. {3 hours is a lot. . .last night I got about 1}
Whatever. I need a cure that isn’t a pill. I feel like Tyler Durden.

Have a great weekend! Dress Indian for me 😉


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Foil-Wrapped Chocolates and Writing by Becca Birkin

Below, please find another wonderful WIFYR report. While I (Carol) am learning a bit about pictures and putting them in the blog, I couldn’t get Becca’s to work. So please imagine a gorgeous blond woman, with a sweet smile, staring out at you. Just looking at Becca warms your heart. And she’s a terrific writer, to boot.

I am a chocolate addict. A recovering one now, but I’ve had serious candy-seeking behaviors, including a month-long obsession over not one particular brand, but any chocolate—so long as it was covered in sleek, shiny foil. There was just something soothing about the quiet crackle, the smooth feel, of unwrapping each piece.

What does chocolate have to do with writing? Not much. One is sweet, easy, and something I may later regret. The other is rarely easy. The similarity is that I crave both.

My writing craving consistently takes me to WIFYR, a week I never regret. This year I sat in on parts of both Claudia Mills’ and Martine Leavitt’s workshops, and learned much in each. Yet in harsh contrast to Claudia’s kind and helpful critique of my work, my inner voice kept asking: “Why am I even writing?”

During this mid-week crisis, I attended Sharlee Glenn’s afternoon class. Sharlee encouraged us to write for the joy of it, quoting Madeline L’Engle: “I had to write. I had no choice in the matter. It was not up to me to say I would stop, because I could not.” I can relate.

Agent Mary Kole said the best stories have an element of longing. Like L’Engle, I long to write, to create characters whose concrete needs resonate with real people. Similar to the satisfaction found in unwrapping bright foil-covered chocolates, I suspect writing is more meaningful because it isn’t easy.

Martine Leavitt taught us to own our writing as a divine gift, saying that since God gave her the writing talent and drive, she was going to do something with that. Her words, along with Sharlee’s, make me want to follow my college creative writing teacher’s advice to “keep at this business.”

But how? I have a chronically messy home, a child with a developmental disability, and lots of other excuses. I dream of a beach cottage, Gifts from the Sea style, and blocks of uninterrupted time. Martine’s answer? “It’s hard to write, and that never changes.” She suggested, “Do it every day, even for 10 minutes. Get up earlier. Do it first thing. Put aside your other hobbies for now. Writing wants your whole life. Take your work with you everywhere.”

Claudia Mills balances her successful children’s writing with her full-time career as a philosophy professor. She related that while some readers might not love a particular philosophy paper, others would. That wise, optimistic attitude makes me consider how often I give more time to worry and defeat than to writing. Adding to Claudia’s suggestion to write an hour each day, I’m going to take Martine’s advice and give myself more permission to write, even if I type in spurts at the dentist and violin lessons.

Many others at WIFYR inspired me, including editors Alyson Heller and Lisa Yoskowitz, Holly Black, Kathleen Duey, Rick Walton and Ally Condie. WIFYR has renewed my dedication. If writing wants my life, this is one addiction I plan to encourage.

Rebecca Rice Birkin craves not only chocolate and beach time, but books. She’s discovered housework is almost bearable if done while listening to a book on CD. She’s written for The New Era, Segullah and Meridian Magazines, and has won several writing awards.

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