Tag Archives: The Chosen One

Writing a Book Together: Before the Beginning

This year I thought it might be interesting to write a book from scratch with you. From start to finish. Together.

Can we do that? I think we should try.

At this point, I don’t have anything to work on. There are only thoughts. No real facts or characters or ideas. No first lines. No plot points. No anything. I’m starting off fresh with you.

But in this moment I have learned something. Just now. Here it is:

  1. Sometimes, in order to come up with an idea, I have to write. Sit down and write.

Maybe it’s practice or muscle memory or training, but I can feel I am already headed in the right direction. I’m thinking.

Here’s what I’m thinking–I have an editor who’s interested in a romance from me. Could that be the novel I work on?

I’ve wondered for a long time if I might write a sequel to The Chosen One. That wouldn’t be fun, but it would be possible.

I could try my hand at fantasy. Hahahahahah! Okay. We all know that isn’t possible!

Here’s how I will decide: At the beginning of a novel, when I know absolutely nothing about it, I sit at my computer and stare off into the distance. This is when I’m hoping a character will introduce herself to me with a first line. So that’s what I plan on doing today. I’ll open a blank page on the computer and sit there.

Staring off into space is work! Daydreaming is something you can put on your novel writing resume!

Later today, I’ll sit around awhile and see who asks to be let in. See what she has to say. Maybe this book, whatever it’s going to be called, will come to me a little differently. If so, I’ll let you know.

How do you find that seed that grows into a novel? Are you inspired by history? People? Emotions? A first line? Something that happened to you? Something someone said? A creature? A bad dream? A kiss?

Let’s meet again tomorrow and see what we’ve come up with. I know for sure we’ll all do this writing experiment differently. Whatever I do is right for me and that’s mostly what I’ll talk about. But I’ll also see what published people are saying about their books and their writing. I’ll try to learn more about this crazy part of writing I’m calling Before the Beginning.

 

 

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Filed under Character, First Line, Plot

Be Very Afraid

So a week plus ago, Ann Dee and I sent in the book we wrote together to our agents. The rewrite. It’s ready for submission. Woot woot!

Before we started our project, way back when, we decided we would write something we had never done before.

We would take some risks.

We had three pages (maybe) of a dark dystopian with elements from history. (That we still need to write. And we will. I think.)

Then Ann Dee sent me a new beginning and we wrote a middle grade novel exactly like the things we would both write on our own.

I love it.

It’s hilarious. And sad. And delicious. There’s lots of talk of food.

(Ann Dee is one of the best writers in America. Yes, I believe that. How did I luck out getting to write with her?)

GingerBelle Co. That’s the title. For now.

For me, it seems perfect for a sequel.

And a sequel to this kind of book is exactly the kind of thing Ann Dee and I write.

We’ve spent plenty of time giggling about how we were going to write something different and how we did exactly what’s comfortable to both us.

 

As we got closer to the end of the novel, I started bugging the lady with the five babies under the age of four, about our next book.

We sent each other ideas.

Brainstormed.

Wondered out loud.

Went for a treat and talked.

“It has to be different than what we’d normally write,” Ann Dee kept saying.

And I kept saying, to every idea, “No. We write that already. We write that already.”

 

Why should it be different?

My dear friend, a writer I love and admire, Matthew J. Kirby, told me that I should write the book I’m afraid of. Matt knows I’m terrified to even think a thought that may include a fantasy element.

He’s right.

Fantasy? I can’t even think a fantastical thought. (And when I shared my one fantasy idea with Ann Dee she said, “My heart’s just not in that.” She wanted to laugh. I could tell.)

Fantasy is different for me.

It’s scary.

 

I’ve done it a few times. Written what I was afraid of: THE CHOSEN ONE.  GLIMPSE. THE HAVEN. Those topics all terrified me.

What happened when I let myself explore these scary ideas?

I ended up writing books in new ways. At least new ways for me.

That meant anguish. Fear. Tears. And some joy. Joy because I succeeded.

 

After going back and forth for about a month, throwing ideas at each other and keeping Matt’s suggestion to be afraid of the next thing we write, Ann Dee and I may have found it.

Our new project.

It’s absolutely terrifying.

Historical. A terrible time in history.

A different culture.

I’ve been thinking of this idea less than 24 hours and I am afraid of it. Really afraid of it.

But if we add a dose of what we love, things Ann Dee and I are comfortable with, we may be able to pull this off. Things like family. Love. Sisters. Humor. Sorrow.

 

So what absolutely frightens you?

I really want to know.

 

 

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Filed under Ann Dee, Character, CLW, Family, Life, Plot

LuAnn Brobst Staheli

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Many years ago I spoke at NCTE. After my presentation, a woman came up to me. She was full of life, had a loud voice,  and a terrific smile. “I’m LuAnn Staheli,” she said, “and I teach in Utah.” She went on to tell me that she read my novels and loved them. She was especially fond of If I Forget, You Remember as it reminded her of a family member.

I was so grateful to see a friendly face in Colorado. To have LuAnn approach me several times that weekend. To have her show me around. Let me know what I was supposed to do. She pointed out the famous people. We talked books. Writing. Teaching.

It goes without saying that LuAnn and I became fast friends.

What a pleasure to know her.

To know she loved me.

Over the years I have gone to LuAnn when I’m sad, happy and when I needed advice. LuAnn knew everything. About books. About writers. About writing. She had me visit her classes. We did a presentation together. She showed me how to save money. She tried to get me to talk more about myself and my books. And when The Chosen One was nominated for a Whitney Award, I asked if I could sit with her at the ceremony. “I would love to sit with you, Carol.”

By the way, The Whitney Awards are a fancy affair. I bought a dress. Wore a pushup bra.  Heels. Was completely out of my element.

Not LuAnn. She took me in, introduced me to everyone and before the announcement of who won in the YA category, she leaned close. “The girls look like they’re fighting to get free,” she said of my bosoms. I laughed and rearranged  ‘the girls’ right before I was called on to the stage as the YA winner.

LuAnn was ballsy. She spoke her mind about writing. She loved fiercely.

And I loved her right back.

I’ve known for a while my friend was sick and had a chance to go see her a couple weeks back.

We’d been keeping in touch on Facebook, but I needed to tell her, with my mouth, that I loved her.

That afternoon, I let her know  she was the 2015 mentor of the year for Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. We talked that maybe she could accept the award from home. That we could film her acceptance speech. That maybe she would be at the conference in June.

As she worsened, several friends and I prepared to go to her house this morning.

To award her and speak our love to her in front of her family.

Here’s what I would have read from Chris Crowe: LuAnn, thank you for being, not just a champion of good books for kids, but also for being a friend and supporter of education. Many of our graduates are now successful teachers because of you. We always knew we could count on you to provide our students with great experience.

From Ann Edwards Cannon–a blurb from her book The Shadow Brothers: “Everything in life changes. Everything. Seasons, styles, the two you grew up in, the people you know, even the way you feel about all the people you know. All those things change. In fact, change is about the only thing you can really count on. Still, it’s like Diana said the night I first heard her sing. You can still decide to care. You can decide to love someone even though they’ve changed. Maybe you can even learn to love them because of it.”

From illustrator Julie Olson: LuAnn, a fellow Spanish Fork writer, was one of the most kind-hearted and generous people with her talents and knowledge. I sincerely enjoyed working with her occasionally on the youth writer workshops at the jr high in town and greatly appreciated her support and friendship through the years. LuAnn truly made a difference.”

That didn’t happen.

LuAnn passed away last night, peacefully, at 2:18. All night I tossed and turned, waking at one point because I couldn’t breathe, worrying about my friend.

It’s been a hard few months.

And now here’s this writer without words.

Except–

This is what writing has done for me–given me friends that I will love forever. Sure. There are books and having them published is fun. But the best part of writing are the people I have met. My best friends. The people I am at home with.  The people who have changed me.

LuAnn. Thank you for your friendship. I was at home with you. You changed me. You are a part of me.

I will miss you terribly.

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by | February 9, 2015 · 2:51 pm

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.

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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.

Okaaaay.

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

‘Yup!’

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.

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Filed under Agents, CLW, Life, Publication

Controlling What I Can–That Same Old Topic

Last week I went with my girls to the new library in the town right next door. I used to volunteer in the old library, running a weekly writing workshop for teens who wanted to write novels. Some pretty talented kids attended that critique group. Plus, lots of the librarians there were friends of mine. I was so excited to visit!

So there I was, standing in the “W” (yes, I go to the shelves where my books should be in every library I go in) and there was nothing there.
That’s when one of my fave library people came up. John is in my last book MILES FROM ORDINARY. He plays a librarian. And no I didn’t change his name and I never change names unless I get scared.

I told him I was looking for my books and he said, “Oh, we had to get rid of some of them. People weren’t checking them out.”
When I hugged John hello I was 5’10”.
When he walked away, I was 3’8″.

I wrote almost all my books in the city I live in now (years ago) or this library’s city. I started the DD while living in this city. THE CHOSEN ONE. The list goes on and on. I don’t know why I was so crushed. I guess I expected someone to say, when my books landed on the ‘throw away pile, “Not Carol’s! She’s one of our very own authors.”
I left the building feeling pretty sad.
What made it even worse was there was miles of empty bookshelves. Miles.

Sigh.

Last night Kyra said, “You have to read my new beginning, Mom. I think you’re going to really like it.”
This is her second book and I’m excited for her.
Then we started our book talk and after a while Kyra’s Hot Indian Lover (as she calls him and as he better not be) said, “Okay, that’s it. No more talk of books. This is getting too sad and depressing around here.”
We’d spoken about advances people shouldn’t have gotten and should have, about the NBA flub and how so many award-winning novels seem to lack something, how our books might never sell (hers) and don’t sell well (mine). The library incident.

What?! We always talk about writing this way. Complaining, exclaiming, oohing and aahing, laughing, wondering, hoping. We both LOVE to write (mostly) and certainly LOVE to have written.

So, this is what a pubbed writer friend of mine said to me, in part, a few days ago. He was talking about things he can’t stand in the business anymore and the list went like this: “children’s literature, publishers, editors, agents, ALA, IRA, NCTE, reviewers, review journals, SCBWI, young YA book authors, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, DreamWorks–leave anything out?” This friend is a fantastic writer, well-known in the writing community, who also knows, even with the awards, how we writers struggle.

Rick Walton (who’s just had foot surgery–everyone please pray for him so he doesn’t hurt too much and so he gets well fast) has always told me to whine about what I can control. He’s right, of course,
Even when something isn’t fair (we all know what Shirley Jackson said about something being fair), I need to put my whining into proper perspective.
And believe it or not, I’m trying and trying NOT to let things bother me (though the library deal really did).

Long ago, I started separating myself from almost everything that touts awards of this person or starred reviews of that person or how much money he’s making or who’s going where. I write my blog, run the conference, teach my amazing students, and write my books.

And I do NaNoWriMo.

I took Friday and Sunday off and I got my allotted words for the first four writing days: just over 9,000. And I was even rewriting as I went.

This I can control. The number of words I write.
Who I talk to and about.
The books I read and love or hate.
Even the libraries I visit.

And who I love.
That matters most.
Who I love.

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A Short Letter to My Daughters

It’s that time of year again. You know what I mean, Girls. Big Award Writing Announcements! Last year when THE CHOSEN ONE was really The Unchosen One it was awfully hard for each of you–and yes, I will admit, for me, too. So many people talked good things that I thought I might have a chance. This year I am going to apologize in advance for not winning anything. And I want to repeat what I’ve said in the past–“It’s okay.”

I don’t write for the awards or for the money or for the fame. There will always be a book better than mine. I write, Sweet Girls, because I love to let stories play out on the page. I write because there is nothing like looking back at something I’ve written and realizing I don’t remember putting that amazing line down–but darn it! I must have ‘cause there it is! I write because I love how I feel to have written.

I write because there is always someone–and maybe it’s just one someone–who says my story changed them. (Also, it’s pretty darn cool when people let you know they loved a book you’ve written. [Is that fame? I don’t think so. It might just be f . . . ]–And to hold a foreign book in my hands–or to become friends with a translator–or to see your cover in so many different lights.)

When KELLY AND ME was first accepted for publication a million years ago, I had no idea that I was even going to get reviews of the novel. I finished that book because I had worked on it since I was 16 (off and on–mostly off) and because I loved telling stories and because I really hoped that I might get published one day. It was one of my Big Goals. So when it was accepted for publication, Wow! What a day in my life! Do you older Girls remember? Then Mary Cash, my wonderful editor, started sending me reviews. I remember thinking, “You mean I have to please more people than just my editor?” It was a startling realization. A bit frightening.

The deal is, with my writing, the Big Buzz News? It’s not going to happen. I just don’t want you all to feel let down. I’m never going to get the Big Buzz News. That’s okay. What’s important to me is that I tell the best story I can. And with the five of you helping me, my fingers (or gingers, when you are a bad typist like I am) are crossed I’m doing that.

What I hope is that YOU all love my books (and it’s okay if MT Anderson or Randy Powell are your favorite authors when I’m not standing there!). I hope you know that I write with each of you in mind. That I want to please you and I want you to feel like the stories are real.

The best creations, the best things I have ever done or ever will do, are the five of you– Elise, Laura, Kyra, Caitlynne and Carolina. Nothing I ever write, nothing I could ever win, no amount of money or honor or anything else will mean more to me than the time I’ve had being your mom. I adore you all, even when you’re driving me crazy.

I had another goal when I was younger–to have ten little girls. While I didn’t quite get the number, the best moments I can remember was finding out you were daughters, holding you–brand new–in my arms, home schooling you, hugging you, reading to you, laughing and dancing and having Junk Food dinners with you. In this wonderful world of writing what matters most to me (this side of God) is you five. And you know what else? I hope, in the end of it all, when God opens that book that shows my life, He’ll read me the places where I was a good person, where I treated others well, where I was compassionate, where I chose to do the Good Things, where I was a successful MOM.

So stop worrying. When I finish writing this depressing book I’m working on now (where people wind up dead or nekkid or both), maybe we’ll drive down to St. George so Kyra can see Jonny. We’ll take Chris and Dan, if they want to go. We’ll see a movie–shop at the used-to-be Albertsons for dinners and, under the cover of darkness, I promise to wear that hideous green DI swimsuit.

Just remember this–I love you.

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