Tag Archives: The Chosen One

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 I’m not one of these [unpublished] people.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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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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Another Writing Exercise

One of the questions I am always asked by writing students goes something like this: “I get these ideas. And then I read books that are sort of like my ideas. And so I stop writing. What can I do about that?”

The truth is that lots of ideas are similar. When THE CHOSEN ONE came out, I learned of several other books that were out, coming out, or being written–all about polygamy. In fact, a famous author just mentioned to me that he is writing a book on polygamy.

And then there’s that one English teacher thing that says there are only seven original stories. Or five, if you talk to some people. Or three, if you talk to others. Anyway, you get my drift (Hmmm. What does that mean, you get my drift?). There is no new idea out there. There might be a twist, but the themes remain the same.

So what sets your book apart from all the others? What makes a book original? What makes your book YOURS?

I think it’s voice. Your voice can be the truth of the story. Your voice can win you awards. It sets you apart. It makes you different.

Today’s exercise is simple. Write a few pages of a story starting with the first line of a book I’m working on, and the first line of a book that Ann Dee is working on. We won’t tell you a thing about the stories because that doesn’t matter.  This is a study of voice. Let’s see what you can come up with and how you make it your own.

Here’s one line:

After it happened, no one in school would talk to me.

And here is the other opening line:

One time.

So have at it. Keep the lines as they are and work your magic. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.

By the way–when you participate, you run the risk of 1. maybe coming up with something cool that you can use in your own WIP and 2. winning something.

So there.

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