Monday, July 5, 2010

Word Count Woes

Brevity is not my strong point.

Well, that was an ironic opening, huh? Seriously, though. I'm constantly battling unnecessary verbosity. Case in point, the first version of my opening chapter to
Kissing Glass was seventeen pages. I've gotten it down to eleven and a half, which is probably still too long. Where this really kills me, though, is in the short story genre.

It's not that I dislike writing short fiction. Half of the novels I've started began as short stories (see above re: bad at brevity.) Then they just take off and before I know it, I have 200 pages.

I'd really love to have a publishing credit because currently my resume includes...nothing. I've read that having prior publishing credits are helpful when querying agents and editors for longer works. Not 100% necessary, of course, but helpful. And since it's arguably "easier" to garner a publishing credit in the magazine market, I decided to revisit some of my short stories.

I have three completed. The problem is two of them are well over 1000 words. The third (which I actually DO really like, so it's not like I'd be subbing JUST for the credit) has been slashed to 569 words with a target audience of around first grade. Too long for
Highlights (500 word limit for that audience.) Ladybug accepts fiction up to 800 words, but I'm less familiar with that magazine. Plus, I just love Highlights. Between my childhood memories of devouring the stories and combing through the Hidden Pictures puzzles and the scholarship they gave me to attend Chautauqua in 2006, I feel a stronger pull toward Highlights than Ladybug.

So what to do? Try to slash 67 more words and sub to
Highlights? Or familiarize myself with Ladybug, add in some of what I cut, and sub to them? That's probably a silly quandary to debate, but...yeah. It's my (teensy) problem of the day.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Best laid plans...

After a week-long grad school class during which I had no time to write anything that wasn't class-related, I had hoped to focus on one (or let's face it, with my attention span as of late, SEVERAL) of my stories today. But then...

Here is a (very lame) poem to convey the problem:

Ow, ow, ow.
My head hurts
quite a lot.
Ow, ow, ow.
Need coffee.
Have coffee.
No help. Too late.
Need drugs (not the bad kind.)

Yeah, so a poet I am not. You were warned. Plus, I have a headache. I mean, it would've sucked anyway, but at least I can blame this particular suckage on the massive pounding in my head.

Hmmm. Bright side to everything.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


No, I mean really. Scout's honor.

This doesn't make me particularly rare among writers, of course. I've yet to meet one who, upon hearing the word "synopsis," breaks out the pom poms and starts doing high kicks or whatever. But really, I hate summarizing.

I just made a first attempt at summarizing Kissing Glass, which I'm posting below. It sucks; I know. If anyone would like to comment and offer advice on how to improve it, I would love to hear!

Kissing Glass Summary

Colette is not the typical princess. Much to her mother’s chagrin, she prefers playing baseball to attending royal balls and collects frogs rather than extravagant dresses. All of the princess lessons in the world won’t turn Colette into her older sister. Gorgeous and full of grace, Lucienne is the perfect princess—except for the horrible temper that regularly sends the line of arrogant suitors sprinting from the throne room under a barrage of anything within Lucienne’s reach.

When in a fit of temper, Lucienne smashes Colette’s favorite glass frog, accidentally breaking a curse and letting out an enchanted prince, Colette discovers that royalty isn’t all bad. Prince Frederick of Ganderland is everything all of her sister’s obnoxious royal suitors aren’t. He’s polite, willing to make his own toast, and quite possibly the only prince in the world who sees Lucienne for the fiend she is.

There’s just one little problem; according to the terms of the curse, Frederick is magically bound to marry Lucienne or he’ll turn back into a frog—this time forever. Lucienne, of course, wants nothing to do with such an un-princely prince, and Colette finds herself helping Frederick in a series of attempts to capture Lucienne’s attention, all while battling her own growing feelings for him. Nothing seems to work, and Frederick is on the brink of resigning himself to eternal frogdom when Colette discovers something about his curse that could change his life for the better. And leave hers in shards.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another Day, Another Book

Read, not written. If only I could write as quickly as I read. Correction. If only I could write WELL as quickly as I read.

But back to the reading thing. I finished re-reading The Goose Girl (because in case I haven't mentioned it before, I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally like Shannon Hale's writing.) I'm now more than halfway through When You Reach Me. It's a fun read so far. I haven't gotten to the "why it's a Newbery winner" part yet, but I'm sure it'll hit me at some point.

Other accomplishments of the day include trying a new pho place (fail; I'll stick with my regular place,) buying a new printer (wireless ready!) and starting to outline a fifth book in the Reflection series. I don't know if anything past the first one will ever come to fruition, even in draft form, but ideas keep popping into my head. It's not my fault I can't let my characters go! Sure, one might possibly make an argument that, since I created my characters, it is completely 100% my fault, but to that person, I say--LOOK, A CHICKEN!

You missed it? Awww, too bad. It was totally dancing the cha cha slide.

But back to my stories. Currently, here are the stats for the series that was never intended to be:

Book One: Reflection draft #I've-lost-count complete at 80,000 words; waiting to be revised yet again

Book Two: untitled draft #1 at 28,500 words

Book Three: untitled draft #1 can barely be called a draft. It's mostly ordered scenes connected by me typing "And then this happens..." Currently at 5,841 words

Book Four: The Heir outline/random scenes at 3,981 words

Book Five: untitled outline/random scenelets at 1,386 word

Hmmmm, I definitely see a pattern forming here. I think I'll go work on Kissing Glass instead. If you think I'm distracted to easily, you could be on to something, but...LOOK THE CHICKEN'S BACK!

Monday, June 21, 2010

NBF and Addendum to My Top 8 List

First of all, shame on me for living in the DC area my entire life and not knowing anything about the annual National Book Festival until last fall. I'm sure it will be an annual pilgrimage on the Metro from here on out.

This year, on Saturday, September 25th, the Library of Congress will hold the 10th annual National Book Festival on the Mall. The site looks like it's been up awhile, but they're going to be adding more details from here on out. My favorite author (don't tell the others on my list,) Shannon Hale, I very much doubt will be there.

If you're curious as to why, just check out her blog (Squeetus) over there -------------------------------------->

I was ecstatic, however, to discover that the newest addition to my "favorites" list will be attending! So on Saturday, September 25, 2010 you'll find me standing somewhere in the winding line waiting to have Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games series) sign my book. Come join me! But no cuts.

The New and Improved Top 9 List

Alison Croggon

Kate DiCamillo

Shannon Hale

Lois Lowry

Donna Jo Napoli

Katherine Paterson

JK Rowling

Megan Whalen Turner

and now...Suzanne Collins!

Sunday, June 20, 2010


So this post comes about four months after my last one and isn't at all what I promised (though I am still planning to do the top 8 rundown.)

However, with school out and my classroom packed up, I finally have a second to blog! I've also had a few seconds (okay, four days) in which to read read read!!!! (Normally I might get annoyed with myself for using extra exclamation points, but reading is deserving of them, in my opinion.)

Since school let out, I've been to the pool three times and been in the water exactly zero times. I was actually going to go in yesterday when I got to a good stopping point in my book, but there was an unfortunate accident in the baby pool, and since both pools are on one system, they closed the water. So I kept my nose in my book.

I'm in the middle of a few books, but I cast all those aside when I was invited to a book discussion for Scott Westerfield's Leviathan. I was very excited to be able to attend (since so many things occur when I am working) and it was the perfect excuse to read Leviathan, which had been sitting in a box since I bought it back in *mumbles.*

At any rate, I read it in four hours, spent another hour brushing up on the real history of pre-WWI Eastern Europe, and now I can't wait for Behemoth. Unfortunately, amazon says I must. Curses.

So then I tried to get back into The Book Thief. I still can't decide if I like it. The choice of narrator, in my opinion, is brilliant, as is all the play with colors and nuances of color, but I can't quite bring myself to love it. That's probably why it's taking me so long to read it. But I read a few pages of it.

Then I remembered a lonely little amazon box that held Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy. I unshrink-wrapped it (new verbs are fun, right?) but then saw another book in the box--one I'd placed in my cart because I'd heard of it and it got me free shipping. Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.

Could. Not. Put. It. Down. (Except when I drove home from the pool and when I paused partway through to order its sequel from amazon and to discover the third part doesn't come out until the fall. GRRRRR.) Within minutes of finishing, I downloaded Kindle for PC from amazon and ordered the Kindle version of Catching Fire, which pretty much means I can't complain about the government's fiscal irresponsibility for at least a month. Still. Totally worth it. Finished it this morning.

NOW I have to wait for Mockingjay. Curses again.

In the mean time, perhaps I'll try WRITING something. :P

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Top 8 Favorite (Contemporary) Children's Writers

Over the next couple of...however long it takes me to do this...I'll blog about one of my top 8 (top 10 lists are too conformist for me) favorite contemporary children's writers and what it is about them that I adore.

Some of them will come as no surprise, I'm sure. So here they are, in alphabetical order (because I can't decide my TOP top from my middle and bottom top; not because I'm conforming):

Alison Croggon

Kate DiCamillo

Shannon Hale

Lois Lowry

Donna Jo Napoli

Katherine Paterson

JK Rowling

Megan Whalen Turner

First up...Katherine Paterson. Coming next week.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What have I done today?

The short answer is not much. I'm going to take a leaf out of Joanna's blog and post some stats. I hope you don't mind, Joanna!

Words Written: 247

Words Deleted: 249 (This doesn't seem to be the right direction. Does novel-writing come with a GPS?)

Number of MSWord Files opened and closed with minimal alteration: 4

Hours spent on the BB: *mumbles*

Contests Entered: ONE (at the Guide to Literary Agents Editor's Blog),date,2010-02-07.aspx

Number of GIGANTIC icicles knocked off gutter by hanging out second story window and blindly swinging a titanium crutch:

Yeah, I don't really know, but aren't they cool?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Long ago

…in a galaxy far, far away…

(Just kidding. It was last September in Washington, D.C., but you *had* to know that was coming, right?)

I attended the National Book Festival on the mall with a few students and their grown ups. I was most excited to see Shannon Hale and Kate Di Camillo (fortunately, so were my students!) and thanks to the delays on Metro’s red line that morning, we arrived just in time to see a panel discussion at the Children’s Pavilion…that included both Shannon Hale and Kate Di Camillo…and six or seven other authors, most of whom I’d never heard of before. The whole time the moderator was introducing people, this guy John Something-or-other was holding up their books behind them, goofing off, and generally being hilarious. None of them seemed to mind, and the friendly, teasing interaction between all these authors was really fun to observe.

So we got to the end of the row of authors (on backless, wooden stools—I can only imagine how uncomfortable they must have been) and John Something-or-other got up at the podium and introduced… The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.

Sounds gory, huh? It’s not. An exquisite corpse, John told us, is an old art term. Seeing as how I enjoy art talk about as much as I’d enjoy a ten mile jog barefoot on a treadmill resembling a moving bed of nails, I’d never heard of it before. Fortunately, John explained. Basically, it’s when artists take their individual pieces and smush them together to form a whole project, sculpture, etc. (To read more, try

Well, what does that have to do with a whole slew of children’s writers most of whom are not also illustrators? In this particular case, a whole slew of children’s author’s are writing a round robin.

(Incidentally, I found out later, an exquisite corpse is also a writing game that I’ve played without knowing its name.)

The Exquisite Corpse is hosted on and will update every other Friday for a year. John Something-or-other, who wrote the first chapter, proceeded to read it aloud at the panel discussion, and may I just say? HILARIOUS. Bizarre and silly humor is right up my alley. The other authors there couldn’t say enough about it. Several of them joked(?) that Katherine Paterson bullied them into participating, but they were all so enthusiastic, you could really feel the excitement brewing among the audience—overwhelmingly kids. I couldn’t wait to share it with my fifth grade class.

As soon as I got home that evening, I fired up my old laptop (the one with a missing i key and a fussy space bar that’s now hibernating beneath my bed and functioning as an extra hard drive for my pretty new Dell) and went straight to to reread chapter one. I discovered that John Something-or-other was actually Jon Scieszka (*facepalm*) whom I have adored since I was in elementary school when he published “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.” I’d just never heard his last name pronounced before (and don’t ask me how it sounds, because I *still* can’t say it correctly!)

Anyhow, the following Monday, I shared the first chapter with my fifth graders. They were instantly hooked. Every two weeks since then, we’ve read the update. I relish the GROANS that fill the room when we reach the end of each chapter.

Music to an aspiring author’s ears.

P.S. You’d think I’d come up with a better metaphor, but hey, I’m still aspiring. ;)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pretty Much Just a Loooong Ramble...

I really should be grading.

Well, what else is new? I really have no excuse, except that with another snowstorm looming I will probably be trapped in my house the rest of this week. Should give me plenty of time to tackle that pile of unmarked papers.

So what to do in the mean time? I’ve finished (reading) one book—Hood—which is Stephen Lawhead’s retelling of the Robin Hood legends set in 11th century Wales instead of in Sherwood Forest. I’m about a quarter of the way through the second book in the trilogy. The narrative is set within something of a frame story and alternates between first person present tense and third person (limited) past tense. That’s interesting for Lawhead. (I’ve read his Pendragon Cycle as well as far as I remember, he generally sticks to third person. Though now that I come to think of it, perhaps Merlin was in first person. I haven’t read it in so long…) Anyhow, I find myself needing a break from that for a bit.

So…what to read now? All of my Shannon Hale books (except the autographed copy of The Goose Girl, which I don’t want to damage) are in my classroom library or loaned out. (What was I thinking?) I reread Alison Croggon’s Pellinor quartet pretty recently, so that’s a no.

What I really WANT to read is Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief and company. I count her among my top ten favorite children’s authors (hmmm that sounds like a decent, if probably overdone, blog entry.) I’ll save the reasons for loving her writing for another time (in case I end up doing that top ten thingamabob,) but suffice it to say she’s brilliant. And, hey, doesn’t she have another book coming out this spring?

Why, yes, she does! The fourth book in the Queen’s Thief series, A Conspiracy of Kings, is due to hit bookshelves in March or April of this year, depending on the source. Personally, my vote is for March, but I’m ridiculously impatient when it comes to books. Case in point, I asked my awesome Australian friend to buy and ship me a copy of The Singing because it came out a few months earlier there than here. Anyhow, I’m really looking forward to new adventures in Attolia and Eddis and to seeing what Eugenides has up his sleeve this time around.

But that’s not going to happen for at least another month, so back to the problem at hand. No Shannon Hale and no Megan Whalen Turner here at home. Those are who I really want to read right now. So where does that leave me?

In Revisionland.

I wish I’d come up with that term myself, but I can’t take credit. Someone at Verla Kay’s board coined it, or at least that’s where I first spotted it. It’s a painful place (Revisionland, not VK’s,) and I seem to revisit it more often than I visit NYC. Not by choice. I would LOVE to be able to put pen to paper, fingers to keys, or whatever and pen/type/chisel in granite a story that would need no revision. Who wouldn’t? (Oooo, that’s a great answer for the next time someone asks “If you could have one superpower, what would it be?” I’ll have to remember that.) But revision is a part of a writer’s growing pains, I guess.

Speaking of which, I’d better get back to it. If anyone has anything that would be more fun (blog updates, exciting news, bamboo shoots to shove under my fingernails) I love a good distraction!