Daily Archives: March 4, 2013

Rice Pudding and Writing Exercises

Today this heaviness settled on me. It came from almost nowhere. Seeped in under the door and followed me around until it settled on my shoulders and head and neck and decided to take a nap. It’s not that things have been so hard lately. Other than my one year old pooping three times this morning and the boys sitting on each other and every drawer of the house feeling like a tornado, other than those things, it’s business as usual.

Writing Exercise: What makes your main character feel heavy? When does this heaviness happen? What do they do when it happens? Who knows about it? Does it affect their every day life?

I have class tomorrow, which I look forward to. I like hearing their stories, discussing ideas, talking about craft. Sometimes it’s a challenge but mostly I see hope. So much stretched in front of them. Possibilities of creating something and the joy of getting to read their creations. Writing and creating are places of renewal and discovery. I’m always surprised when I read a student or friend or family’s writing. So much is revealed by what words we choose, what characters we create, what worlds we build. And I’m not talking about fantasy. I’m talking about every kind of world that comes out of our fingertips when we decide to populate a page.

Writing Exercise: If your MC were to write a story, what would the story be about? Write a fast short piece composed by your main character. What would they write? Who would be their characters? Would it be happy? Sad? Heavy? Light? Funny? Weird? Boring? Disturbing?

I do believe there are lots of ways to approach things. There are lots of ways to go about doing what we want to be doing. Or rather, figuring out what we want first and then deciding how we can accomplish that thing and then being satisfied with the results.

Writing Exercise: What does your MC want? How does he/she know she wants it? Why is it more important than anything else? Why can’t he/she get it? What are their first steps to getting what they want?

Here are some questions I ask myself:  Why do I write? What do I want from it? What does it feel like? Why does it matter? How should I proceed? When should I stop? Why is rice pudding so delicious?

Writing Exercise: Ask yourself the same questions. Sit down and write the answers as fast as you can. Don’t think too hard about it. Just let yourself go.

I’ve been thinking about endings, like I said. What is the right ending? Happy? Open? Closed? True? Not true? Real? False? What about my own story? What about the story of my children, my family, my relationships, my home, my days, my weeks, my months? What does it look like? What does it feel like?

Writing Exercise: What is the right ending for you and your book? Write down a list of all the possibilities. What would each one do to the narrative? How do each change the nature of the book? The reading experience? What feeling do you want your reader to have when they close the back cover? What does the story of this character, of your person, look like? Feel like?

I am rambling.

I think that heaviness is okay because it makes me ramble. It makes me think. It makes me wonder. It makes me imagine.

I have not gathered the endings like I promised. I will. Soon.

There is one at the end of novel that haunted me, it says, “She smiled mysteriously.”

This sentence is loaded and weird and horrible and forgiving—a strange ending to a tragic in some ways hopeless book. She smiled mysteriously.

Any guesses which book?

Now I need to make sandwiches for my boys and clean my house and do my laundry and brush my hair and think about rice pudding. If you do any of these exercises and want to share or tell about your experience, please do.


Filed under Ann Dee, Character, Depression, Exercises, Family, Life, writing process

Some Things I Have Heard

Sometimes I wonder where the line between the truth and another’s feelings should be. Here are a few things that have been said to me about my work. My response or thought, follows.

1. I’ll never let my children read your book. The kids in there are too naughty.

Steve said, after I told him this, ‘She didn’t have a lot of faith in her parenting, did she?’

2. Oh. Contemporary.

Yup. Just dumb, old, sad sack, someone dies and is nekkid, contemporary.

3. That’s what I hate about people like you who say they don’t like fantasy. You just don’t know what you’re talking about.

I  considered standing up to this person as this was said in a public place, in front of lots of my friends. But I let it go.

4. I’m not one of these [unpublished] people. My book is the lead title.

For me, humility is pretty important. Being an ass won’t keep you from being popular and rich, but I won’t like you. And neither will some of your contemporaries (who write fantasy! Hahahaha!).

5. You write rated R books.

I do?

(I actually liked this, it came from Steve. Still, I was surprised at first because I don’t watch R-rated movies.)

6. Why did you curse in this book?

Uhhhhh. Sorry fifth-grade kid. Ummmmm. ‘It’s life?’

7. I’m just worried you are selling your soul to the devil for money and popularity.

Well, then, my soul is worth pennies on the dollar compared to other people’s souls.

8. Children’s and young adult writing aren’t taken seriously in academia.

Then how do you expect people, who don’t read as children, to read as adults? As far as I’m concerned, we have the most important job of all, no matter what our degrees are.

9. Do you think you’ll ever write for adults?

Only if adults want a story with a main character who sounds twelve.

10. I like so-and-so’s work better than yours.


11. I know she’s sitting right over there, but will you sign Louise Plummer’s book for me?


I will have you all know that I did sign Louise’s book. With my own name. 🙂 Just as the reader asked me to.

12. At ALA a reader came up to me and told me everything I had done wrong in my book, GLIMPSE. She then compared me to a more popular writer of verse-type novels, telling me this other person was a better writer and etc than me.

Laura and Kyra were with me and tracked the girl down. They wanted to beat her up. We argued about it in front of MT Anderson.

13. “I guess you can sign it.” From a young lady who won my book and didn’t want it.

I don’t have to sign it for you.

These are just a fraction of the comments I have gotten. I’m not sure why people feel the need to help us along in these odd ways. And yes, some are funny, but others are painful. And it’s not always from children. Mostly the comments come from unthinking, unkind, educated adults. Sometimes the comments come my fellow writers.

Do they think because we have published a book, we no longer have feelings?

The truth is, most writers are MORE in tune with their feelings than the average bear. Just rewriting these things causes a bit of sting.

There are all kinds of ways to tell someone something about who they are or what they have written. I may not like your book, but you will never know.

Here’s something funny to end on.

I was doing a signing for THE CHOSEN ONE (you have to have read the book to get this).

A long line of librarians waited for me to sign their copies. It was so great, talking to all these men and women.

One came up, clutched the book to her chest and said, “I drive the book mobile as my job. I can’t wait to read this novel.”

I just smiled at her.


Filed under Agents, CLW, Life, Publication