Author Archives: CLW

Three Thing Thursday

#1 Boy, do I have a big surprise for my students!

I can’t say more than that. I’ll let you know what happens next TH.

Plus, the person we bought this home from failed to disclose a problem with mice.

We kept them very well-fed this past winter. I found that out when we pulled out our food storage in plastic, used-to-be air-tight bags.

I keep thinking about the old Beverly Cleary book The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

It’s not helping.

Carol

#2

I keep going back to read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  She was pointing out that you should read a good poem, like “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and you should do so aloud, reading it “the way he set it up and punctuated it, what you are doing is breathing his inspired breath at the moment he wrote that poem.”  Yes, even 150 years later (though now it’s even a little more than that).  Then she said, “This is why it is good to remember: if you want to get high, don’t drink whiskey, read Shakespeare, Tennyson, Keats, Neruda, Hopkins, Millay, Whitman aloud and let your body sing.”
It brought to mind how I never tire with reading Millay: I’ve read many of her poems to various classes and audiences. They always take my breath away, but loan me hers for just those few moments! Try reading GREAT authors’ materials out loud: see if they fit your breath, your mouth, your heart, your head.  Then discover how to do the same to your readers.
Brenda
#3     I love musicals. I know some people think they’re dumb, because who breaks out in song and dance in the middle of the street? But I can’t get enough.

For me, musicals are not literally about breaking out in song with a full orchestral backup. It’s a method of communicating emotion in a way higher than dialogue. When the emotion of the scene goes beyond what words can say, they allow music to reach us on a deeper level.
With novels, of course, we can’t have the page magically start singing to the reader. (Although that would be totally cool. Publishers, get to work!)
So what do we do instead?
We find rhythm in words. We work in cadences. We have short sentences. Then we follow them up with longer sentences. Then we go for broke and whip out the longest sentence we can think of, hoping that we don’t lose the reader halfway through.
We use the pronunciation in words to create a feeling of musicality. We naturally inflect higher and lower on certain syllables, and we can use that inflection to create a roller coaster of prose.
This is when training in poetry comes in handy. If you haven’t ever studied poetry or tried to write with a strict poetic structure (think of sonnets) then there’s no better time to try. A deep understanding of the music of language can really help with your ability to bring emotion to a scene.

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Three Things Thursday

Cheryl

I thought back about the times when I was the most productive with my writing, and it was always when I was in a group. I had a phenomenal group of some of the most talented writers you’ve ever seen. We each had a specialty and we complemented each other beautifully.
But marriage and kids and jobs moved us all away from each other.
However, I decided that I needed a group. So I reached out to everyone on Facebook to see if anyone else felt the same. It was amazing to reconnect and see what everyone’s been up to. And the best part? Some of them had been feeling the same way.
So now I’m writing, and writing consistently. It’s incredible. Every time I start to get all crazy, they tell me to “calm the junk down!”
This is why writers need writer friends. It’s such a lonely and harrowing thing to experience alone. We need friends to love and help and encourage us.
So if you don’t have a group, there’s never a better time to find one. You’ll be surprised at how many others feel the same way you do.
Brenda
You’d think ONE Life Time would be enough for most people. But, when I was a kid, I had so many different things I wanted to do. I ALWAYS knew I wanted to be a teacher. And so I was for 52 years. But I thought, back in the day, that I’d like to be an airline stewardess during summer vacation. And an actress. (I didn’t know things didn’t work that way, so I dreamed on.) As I got older, I wanted to do more of the same: travel, airplane or not, became an interest, though the only time I did the “during the summer thing” was the year I quit my first teaching job after 6 years at it, drove to California with my brother and a friend, sent my car home with them, and flew to Hawaii, where I’d grown up (until I was 10). A week later, I boarded a ship and took the long way to get to London, bought a mo-ped on a whim, and went up the west side of England, into Scotland at Glasgow, turned northeast to go as far as just past Perth, down again in the east and through Oxford back to London. I put the mo-ped in a train’s baggage car and rode to Paris. From there I traveled south through France, half-way down the coast of Spain,  back up and around the whole French Riviera, into Italy. I sold the mo-ped, flew to Copenhagen for a day-and-a-half, caught a flight to New York to stay with cousins for a few days, flew back to Utah and started grad school and teaching, again, at BYU.
See there?  Now I’ve re-lived my trip in very vivid details (most of which I didn’t take time to note here). But it’s like living my life over again, and every bit as thrilling the second time around. Use the details of your life when you write. Make the places and people “real”. They’ve been to places you’ve been, lived where you’ve lived. And you get to live it all over again by writing it down. All  our lives can be lived again: the good, the scary, the sad, the exciting . . . every wondrous thing that you’ve ever done can feed the writing. And be lived again. If you get the details down, and get them right, the reader will “live it” with you.
Kyra
Hello guys!
So I’ve been unemployed for almost two weeks now, and I have to say, I am LOVING it.
It just makes me wishohwish that I could be a full time writer for the rest of my life. {I suppose I have to get some words on the page to do that} Someday, I will make this happen!

While I’ve been taking this little break, I’ve been writing a lot more.
I’ve started making a list of small goals for each writing day.
A certain number of words.
An hour with no distractions.
Create a new character.
Revise a certain number of pages.
Etc.

It’s been pretty helpful to shut off my internet, hide my cell phone, and just focus, for a solid hour. I didn’t think I’d be able to work that way, but so far I am liking it.
This new book I’ve started feels like it could be something, at least it does while I’m writing on it. You never really know.

I’ve also been doing a lot of reading. Right now I am reading an unpublished novel by a friend of mine. I am hoping that she can sell it soon because it’s just fantastic.

ALSO! Tonight I am doing “Write/Art Night” with a couple writer and artist friends of mine. If anyone is interested in joining, feel free. The more the better! We just sit together, write a little, gossip a lot, paint, brainstorm, stuff like that. I have a remix of angsty music I like to play while working. It’s pretty fun. And mostly helps me feel inspired.

Today I hope to write another 2,000 words. I know it’s a bit of a “lofty” [is that the right word?] goal, but I think it’s possible!

Back to work!

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Moving Forward–It’s All About Trust

Last night, as I got ready for bed, I pulled out a pad of paper that I’ve been trying to use up (am I the only person out there who owns 836 pads of paper only partially used?). I’ve written goals for when school is out in less than a month.

“Hey,” I said to Carolina. “I gotta come up with something for my novel. I’m about a chapter into the middle of a mid-grade. Maybe two chapters in.”

She looked at me. Probably got scared I was gonna start whining the way I always do when I’m writing the middle of a book.

Ah, yes. The Icky Middles.

This is the place where people develop Writer’s Block.

That thing I don’t believe in.

This is the place where, for me (and lots others–hence so many beginning and fewer completed pieces) the writing gets really tough.

The middle of a book is the work of writing.

Sure, I have all the ideas for this novel.  Right here in my head. Now all I need are words.

Words for the middle.

Interesting words, thank you very much.

So. Last night, in a couple-of-minutes brain storm session, I came up with the middle of the novel.

How?

Here’s my Number One hint about Writing for the Middle of the Book: Trust Yourself.

As I sat with that pad of paper, I thought about my twin gal characters.

And their grandparents.

I knew this book couldn’t be a story about the actual 150 mile trip they would make.  I already have a novel about a trip. Everyone in the world should buy and read Signed, Skye Harper. This will make me rich plus you’ll get what I’m saying about trips in stolen vehicles and kissing and chickens and dogs. (Information added for intrigue.)

Anyway.

Back to my sitting and thinking.

As writers, we leave clues for our readers. Just like in a mystery. All these clues  play into the middle of the book.

For example, this novel is set in 1969.

So–

What significant thing happened in 1969?

What music was popular?

What did Florida look like?

One of these three things will play more heavily into the plot than the other two (those will add details that makes the book feel real.).

What about wrasseling in the late sixties? After all, this is a book about wrasseling.

How much fact can I twist for my own benefit? Throw over my shoulder? Squeeze into a choke hold?

What other clues were hidden in the opening of this mid grade?

Of course. The rest of players in the story.

What about Miss Emery, Etta’s teacher?

And Mr. Johnson, Kat’s teacher?

What about The Fabulous Moolah?

And Ray who can sing the Star Spangled Banner like an adult. Will he show up again?

Anyone else?

I’ve set up these sisters who are competitive with each other. Can I use that int he story?

Then the grandparents hate each other. Will that play into the middle?

What about the four of them running off without permission. How will that work?

What I’m saying is, the clues I leave for a reader, well, they’re in the book for me, too. I planted them as I wrote the opening. And I didn’t even know I was doing it.

Last night I wrote down several events that could happen.

This morning, while typing this blog post, I thought of one or two more incidents.

Now all I need to do is get to writing.

Uncover and use what’s waiting for me.

Just trust myself.

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Three Thing Thursday

I find I obsess a lot. About different things. Of late, I’ve obsessed about staying up too late watching TV. Which led to obsessing about sleeping in too late in the morning. Which further led to not getting enough done before noon — all my “plans” and my “schedule” were in disarray.
Do you do this? What do you obsess about? Can’t get it out of your head, even while you’re DOING whatever it was? For instance, today I was supposed to have put the rest of the Christmas boxes away in their closet, started cleaning up some other boxes out in the garage (I’ve lived here since June of 2010, and I still have boxes I’ve never opened since the move). I must get through the paper jungle I’ve created so we can get our taxes taken care of. I need to critique something for a friend. I’m not getting enough exercise. I’m so far behind on reading wonderful books written by friends, I don’t know how I’ll ever catch up. I’m writing blogs. Then I’m too tired, or out of ideas, or  have spent all “my time” before I got around to MY writing. The house is in as much disarray as my plans and schedule. What to do?
Write a list, prioritize each item:
     A: What must be done
     B. What should be done
     C. What could be done, if time opened up.
Who is the most obsessive character you write (or have written) about?  Did s/he get over it? How? If not, how did that hurt (or even help?) your character? Was he/she a list maker? Did that help? Or only add to the “not done” list?
Maybe we should all write about our obsessions. It’s evident: that’s what we care most about in the moment.
Brenda
I’ve visited the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii twice. I can do nothing there but stand and weep. My tenuous connection to the Memorial is this: the bombs on Dec. 7, 1941, were landing just a few miles from where I lived. I do not remember any of it. I turned two the next day, to a ruined birthday party and party favors for me, my cousin and her cousin from her father’s side of the family — never given us: fear was so rampant, my mother was afraid to let us have the three little Japanese dolls she’d purchased. I have no knowledge of any of the people named at that memorial. But I feel a huge connection to them all the same.
I have also visited the Viet Nam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., once. I knew young men who were called up during those years. I’m not aware of any who may have died. I would have no idea of whose names to look for. But I don’t need the specific names: I watched an obvious vet rub for an image of a friend or relative’s name, dashing away tears every time he could no longer see what he was doing. I was almost positive that someone I knew had his name displayed there; or, at the very least, names resided there of people who were friends and relatives of other people whom I did know.
What details surround painful or exhilarating memories for you? Kennedy’s assassination? John Lennon’s? The picture of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon’s surface?  The day the Towers came down in New York?
Write down whatever details you know, the details which have stuck with you since being a witness to specific events. Which of your characters may have been touched by some of these events or something similar? How has it changed or marked them? How could details be changed to show how such an event affects your characters in a romance, a steam-punk story, a YA fantasy?
Brenda
An old one from Cheryl:
I just watched The Great Gatsby again and I’m wondering about what makes it a classic. It’s not the writing, at least not for me. There are a few brilliant lines in it, but overall, it always felt too flowery. The characters aren’t likable either. Each are burdened with flaws that can’t be vindicated. 

I think the genius lies in the fantasy it provides. Everyone can relate to longing for The One Who Got Away. It’s such a romantic idea, to think that someone has been pining for you from afar. And on the other side, we have the quintessential American Dream. A young boy, dirt poor, who managed to rise up to be the greatest and the richest of them all.
And then there is the debate about soulmates. The definition of bravery. The concept of honor. Is it possible, after all, to rectify a mistake made in the past?
What do you think makes it a classic?

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Kyra Leigh…

Hello gang!

 

It has been a few weeks since I’ve posted, and a lot has changed.

 

I quit my job!
I wasn’t getting the writing done that I needed. Every single day I went to work, I felt more overwhelmed than before.
Usually I am a very happy worker bee, but this particular job really wore me down. {Not to mention there was a lot of sexism going on and it was a borderline hostile work environment}
Don’t worry, I found a new job.😉

Started a new novel!

I finished writing my third novel, and I am stuck in the middle of revisions. So you know what I did? I started something new. That I think I’m going to love. I feel very excited about this book! {“Book” is hardly the right word to use here..}

 

Moving…
I moved last month and that took a chunk of my life away from writing. But now that I am settled {in the amazing town of Sugarhouse!} I feel like I could write all the novels in the world!
ALSO! I have Write/Art night every few weeks at my house. It’s usually on Mondays, but this week we are doing Thursday. All are welcome to come!

 

There is a boy….
And I like him.

 

That is all for now.

Happy Writing!!

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Spring!

I love spring. I love the weather warming up, the flowers, the longer days.

I love the newness of life, baby birds, calves, baby babies. Spring is a good time to be alive.

This spring finds me working with Ann Dee, celebrating my divorce and my anniversary with my agent. And working on a book of my own.

A mid-grade.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a mid-grade on my own.

I have two characters I love and four adults I quite like.

Plus a teacher (based on my own 4th grade teacher, Miss Emery. She told the scariest stories.).

And a true life wrasseling star from the Olden Days.

Those are the players.

Then there has to be a plot. (Why? Why-oh-why must there be plot? Why can’t lovely words just make the story?)

So there’s the ‘borrowing’ of cars. Doing ‘naughty’ things. And a baby coming pretty darn quick.

And the wondering that I must do–what do these girls really want?

Will Miss Emery show up again wearing a wrasseling outfit?

Will Grampa Jo and Nanny find love?

Will Etta and Kat find themselves in the wrasseling ring?

Just what is going to happen?

We all know character moves the plot. What will my little girls and their grandparents do to make a story happen?

I’m ready to let them lead me.

There’s a murder in my next book and I gotta get words down for that.

But first.

First there’s the spring.

And a new baby in a book.

A new plot.

New characters.

Then the dark.

 

 

 

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Three Things Thursday

It’s been a while since I have posted, and not because my pals aren’t contributing.

So here we go. A few things from the amazing Cheryl and Brenda.

 

Cheryl:

Last week, we had a party for my daughter’s 3rd birthday. 

She talked about that party for weeks beforehand. Every morning, the first question she would ask is, “Is it my birthday? Is everyone coming to see my birthday?”
If I was writing this situation into a novel, there’s a couple of ways I could have written the ending of this situation. Maybe her birthday comes and everything, from the cake to the decorations to the presents, goes wrong but she’s happy just to spend time with family. Or maybe a freak snow storm prevents anyone from coming and she sits at the window, waiting and crying. Or maybe everything is perfect and it’s a memory she’ll cherish forever.
But what actually happened?
She walked in, saw all the family and friends and decorations, then ran and hid in her room for over an hour.
We finally convinced her to come out to open presents, but only if she could wear a blanket over her head. Which she did.
Do you see how contrived all of my endings were in comparison? None of them had that human touch. Real people are so complicated and confusing. The things we think we want and the things we think we can do are so different from reality.
Our characters need to surprise us. They need to jump out and be themselves. We can’t force them to do things or be someone they don’t want to be.
And another!
I have an app on my phone called Timehop. Every day it tells me what I’ve posted on social media on that day in past years. 

Today I got a notification. Six years ago today, I announced that I had finished the first draft of my novel.
SIX. YEARS.
And what do I have to show for it? A published book? A contract with an agent? A finished, ready product?
No. None of it. I have nothing to show for it except a few notes that add up to, “I basically need to change everything because it all sucks.”
Every time I look at that novel, I get overwhelmed. First drafts are easy. Polishing is hard.
Will I ever finish it? I don’t know. I hope so.
Do you have any eternal works in process? Do you have any that stumped you for awhile but eventually finished?
And Dear Brenda:
The humorist and poet Phyllis McGinley periodically crops up in my brain. A family of my second cousins, like my own parents, were from Ogden, Utah. McGinley was born in Ontario, Oregon, but moved from there to a ranch in Colorado when she was only three months old. At age 11, with the death of her father, her family moved to Utah and lived in Ogden with a widowed aunt. Among other adventures, she studied musical theater at the U of U. Somewhere between the U and Ogden, she and my second cousins’ mother became friends.
My own mother loved reading the Ladies Home Journal and The New Yorker, and always had subscriptions to both. Whenever she found a Phyllis McGinley poem, I would be sure to read it as well. They were generally light, fun, easy to read and entertaining. McGinley became the first writer to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for a collection of light verse: “Times Three.”
So here’s just a tidbit from McGinley, so you get the flavor which was inherent in her children’s books, light poetry, and — I suspect — her life:
Oh, shun, lad, the life of an author.
It’s nothing but worry and waste.
     Avoid that utensil,
The laboring pencil,
      And pick up the scissors and paste.
One More!
So you’re taking a walk.  Or a shower.  Or a nap.  And you have this GREAT idea for a new story.  Or for your WIP.   Or for a poem.  When you stop walking, or showering, or napping, can you still remember the great idea?  With clarity?  With the same jolt of electricity as when you first thought of it, only moments (or minutes) ago?  Did you write it down right away?  If so, did it have the impact you thought it would?  Or had it changed?
Well, guess what?  YOU have changed.  From what you were moments or minutes ago.  Don’t grip the idea with an iron fist and choke it to death.  Maybe that poem you thought of in the shower was really supposed to be a personal essay.  Or that paragraph you were struggling with in your WIP last night.  Sit down.  Clear your mind.  Think wonderful thoughts, and whatever they are, start writing THEM down.  They won’t be the same as during your walk.  They may be more alive than the thoughts from your nap.  Let them be what they’re MEANT to be NOW, not what you WISH you’d had a pen to jot them down as you walked.  Or, next time, take a notebook and pen on your walk.
Girls, I love you both, Thank you for sending pieces even when I have let life stop me from blogging.

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