Tag Archives: Louise Plummer

What Matters Most

Have you noticed time streaming, screaming past? Like water through your fingers? Like sand through the hourglass?

Yes, these are the days of our lives.

And once again, I have been reminded how sacred and fragile life is.

A late Sunday night when a child announces a friend is dead.

An email with someone telling me the cancer is back.

A call from a dear friend saying the chemo isn’t working.

Mass shootings.

Mass murders.


You know (oh, you know) I could go on.

But this morning, for just a moment, I want to share what my writing life has done for me.

When I mailed that first novel off so many years ago, I had no idea how my world would open up. At the time I had three babies and was so very shy I couldn’t talk to people. (Really.) I’d worked on the novel called Me and Kelly for several years until I’d realized how it needed to end. When it was very nearly ready to be published, I was on bed rest with my 4th pregnancy and I got a phone call from a guy named Rick Walton. He’d heard about me from a writer named Louise Plummer. Did I want to talk about books and writing?

Yes! I did.

Every day, Rick called me. We spoke for a couple of hours. By the time I went to the critique group run  at his home, Rick was my friend. And at that group I got to know several other people who changed my life. Made my life amazing. I wrote books with some of them. Ran the first really successful writing conference in the Provo, UT area with two of them. Became fast friends with nearly all of them.

The other day, after the telephone call from my dear friend, I realized just how far-reaching my writing life has been. I’ve met teachers in other states who’ve become my friends. Other writers from all over the country who have changed who I am. I’ve gone to school in a place hot as hell, watched my writing career completely stop for seven years, lost loved ones, a marriage, hope. I’ve made more and more and more friends, had my heart broken more times than I can count, agonized over family situations, known editors who I’ve known–without a doubt–wanted me to succeed. Who helped me make my books better and better. I’ve gotten letters from adults about my books. From children. Spoken to translators who have lost children. Learned to love people I thought I would never have anything in common with. I’ve run conferences, been to conferences, accepted awards, been passed over for awards, and all along what has mattered most are the people behind it all.

The people.


I am not who I was when I started that lonely process of writing a middle grade novel. I am better because of the people I know and love.

The best part of my life is my religion and my family. But a very close second is my writing world because it has afforded me so much–the friends I would have never met. Those people who have made my life richer. The people who have been my example. Shared experiences. Shared their love. Who have cared for me, no matter what.

How grateful I am for the people I know.

You all have made me better. I am touched to know you. So grateful I do.




Filed under CLW, Editors, Family, Life

Three Things Thursday–

From Brenda Bensch:
1. Yesterday I had lunch at the Olive Garden in Valley Fair Mall with 6 of my former debate students from Cyprus HS. They are now in, or quickly approaching, their 30’s. We’d done this two or three times before, but not in the last five years. It was good to see them, hear about their triumphs (there were many), their challenges (also, quite a few), and how they’re all doing now.
If you could invite 6 old friends to join you for lunch, who would they be? How far back do you go? How had you impacted their lives? How had they impacted yours? (On Facebook today I commented on how “loud” we all were. One of them answered that I’d taught them “to project”! Guilty.)
Write about an imaginary lunch with your former friends.
Write about your MC’s invitation to lunch. Who would s/he invite? What were the concomitant impacts of all on each other?
From Me
2. I looked up Top Romance Novels of all times and got titles like Pride and Prejudice, Outlander and Jane Eyre. But what are some terrific young adult romances? Perfect Chemistry, Anna and the French Kiss, and Beautiful Disaster were top books when I looked in that category. As I searched through the titles, I felt a little disheartened. Many seemed one dimensional.  I did see Fault in Our Stars. And lots of books by Utah authors (always a good thing). But many of the books weren’t what I would want to spend my time with. And I love a good romance.
And saw these words:  The romance novel or romantic novel is a literary genre.
After twisting things around in my head, I thought–‘We can write well-written love stories. Stories that aren’t only romance but life and good things and hard things and fun things, too. Where people change and the outcome is for better or worse.’
You know. Like Louise Plummer in some of her amazing young adult novels–which have romance in them for sure. But real life told well.
From Me and Ann Dee
3. So Ann Dee sent me a whole bunch of stuff that we should include in our romance stories.
For today– Write an opening scene with your main character.  Start the story on the day something new happens. Not something huge–necessarily. But something is different. In This is What I Did: Logan  is kicked in the balls at scouts. In The Chosen One, Kyra knows their is a family meeting that evening. Neither are huge events.
The new thing doesn’t have to be a life changer.
In this scene, let us learn a little of place, a lot about the character, and a little about who she is on the inside. Let us see her dealing with the new thing that has happened today. Take as much time as you need. Don’t go back and change anything.
Put this with your other three exercises.
Tonight when you go to bed, think about your new character, this new situation, what she wants and see if anything pops into your head. Make sure you have paper and pencil next to the table.


Filed under Character, CLW, Exercises, three thing thursday, 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

Rewriting and NaNoWriMo

First–thanks Ann Dee for taking yesterday for me.
Carolina turned 14. (She’s so great.)
We had no Internet for several days. But it’s back now.
I cannot blame the dogs just because I don’t like them. I must blame Comcast. They shut the power off. Who knows why?

After reading the past few posts (Chris’ Wednesday post last week that Ann Dee got credit for and then Ann Dee’s post this week that I may have gotten credit for, I hope), I’ve been thinking about this business we’re in.
I’m always thinking about this business we’re in, actually. And in fact, I whine a great deal here to YOU ALL.
(You’re welcome.)

I’m still wondering about the amazing Marilynne Robinson and wishing I hadn’t been sick so I could have gone to her reading.
I’m thinking of her comment that she doesn’t revise.
I’m thinking of this statement pulled from yesterday’s blog: She said, I never leave a sentence until I feel like it’s done.

And I know I shouldn’t argue with a Pulitzer prize winner, but isn’t that rewriting?
That working on a sentence until it’s completed–until it’s ‘done,’ perfect, exactly as it should be?
Isn’t that revising?
Perhaps I misunderstand. Maybe not one word goes on the page until it’s completely thought through.
Maybe there are years of thinking about the plot, the lay of the land where the book will take place, the characters and who they are before they step onto the page.

There are all kinds of rewriting.
Louise Plummer does her writing kind of like Marilynne. Each word must pay off and she goes sentence by sentence. Read A DANCE FOR THREE to see what I mean.
And I usually, before the DD, spend more time IN the novel, chopping and writing and weighing each word as I go. It certainly makes for less edits at the end of a completed draft. I’m no writing genius like Marilynne Robinson (or Louise) and after a work is completed I MUST continue to hone and rewrite and listen to comments from others and talk with my agent and editor and change this and that.
Every year, I want the best book possible for me.
Every year.

As writers for children and young adults, we can’t afford to allow twenty four years between books.
We lose our audience quickly.
They grow up.

This next month as we venture into the NaNoWriMo competition that ends with us at Olive Garden partaking of Olive Garden-y schtuff, we will not be able to weigh each word so carefully as there won’t be tons of time. But we can still write strong (ummm, keep reading) prose–even if the work isn’t as clean as we’d like–and yes, this creation will need lots of work at the end and may even need to be thrown away when we’re done


If you remember a few things as you go along, you can write better during this NaNoWriMo adventure. Think fewer adjectives, little to no adverbs, slow down a bit when the cliche starts to leak out your fingertips and think of a new way to say what you want to say, remember that each page or so needs sense of place to ground your reader and you can add that as you go. We’ve talked about tags being he said, she said so don’t put other kinds in your work the first time through. Plan a little before hand. Talk to your characters–all of them–now. What is your main character’s goal? What does she want? Who will you keep her from getting it? Do you have a general idea of what the climax of the novel will be? Plan a little here and that will make the ideas a little easier to put to paper in November–just a few days from now–like less than a week!

The DD knocked me around. I’ve never had a novel kick at me that way THAT one did. In fact, even though it’s finished, and even though it has gone on to my amazing editor, I realize that guess what? I wasn’t done and there are changes still to be made and I will have to rewrite the ending and what if my editor has forgotten about me? I very nearly took twenty four years to finish THAT book after signing the contract.

“We don’t want Hope to forget you,” Steve said a few months ago.
I went out and yelled at the dogs.

During this writing experience–and I will admit this was an awful time working that book over–I began to think that I’d forgotten how to write.
“Just get it on the page,” I told myself. “Who cares how many ‘ly’ words there are? Who cares if this word is stoopid or that thought is cliche. You signed a contract! Finish!”
And so, as I worried over and thought about and wrote on the DD, I rewrote another novel (that needs one more revision) and wrote another book that comes out in the Spring (WAITING, Paula Wiseman Imprint, 2012).
And still I kept feeling like a failure.
Until I realized I what I had done. Written a book from scratch and sold it and rewritten another book that another editor is really interested in.

I’m not bragging. I was surviving. And anyway, look what Ann Dee did. SHE had a baby.

The end to this VERY long blog piece is that we all write in different ways. And we all revise in different ways.
And as long as it gets done–no matter the time–no matter the number of pubbed books–if we are pleased with what we’ve done–we’re successful.


Filed under CLW