Nurturing Talent

Last Saturday, I participated in the Metro Mobile Reading Council’s Young Authors’ Conference and Teen Writing Fair. Besides it giving me a chance to hang out in the library for seven hours, I had the pleasure of working alongside some fabulous book lovers as we inspired the next generation of creative talent. Teachers, librarians, as well as local authors and illustrators pulled their resources together to present an informative and motivational day.

Photo by Candice Conner

Photo by Candice Conner

The morning began with the Young Authors’ Conference for third through sixth grade students. After a keynote speech from guest illustrator R. Gregory Christie (all the way from Georgia), the students split into groups for one of thirteen mini-workshops.
I was blessed to be able to run a “Visual Inspiration” workshop with fellow author and friend, Joyce Scarbrough. After sharing my own collection of maps, locations, and characters for my soon-to-be published novel and work-in-progress, I showed examples of visuals that make it into middle grade novels—using a few books as examples. 100_7046
Then, our plucky group of students set to work scouring magazines and catalogs for their own story prompts. They clipped and glued gardens, building, pets, and people. 100_7053Some even started character worksheets complete with backstories. It was awesome to be a part of, and better still, to see their excitement when they shared their work with other nearby workshop groups. (Yes, one lucky group had a crime scene as a story prompt. So cool!) 100_7055

After a brief lunch break and room reset, we went back to work with the Teen Writing Fair. I acted as MC for the event, and started the meeting by announcing the winners of the Fourth Annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Contest, which was hosted by Mobile Writers’ Guild. As the Young Author Committee Chair for MWG, I worked alongside Joyce Scarbrough and Candice Marley Conner to read and score the middle and high school entries. The finalists received cash prizes, journals/pens, and a hand written critique of their short stories.

Joyce TWF 2015

Photo by Candice Conner

The seventh through twelve graders were then graced with fun and inspiring keynote addresses by Ms. Scarbrough and Mr. Christie. Following that, they students were free to meet and mingle among all ten guests at their tables, including authors, illustrators, poets, and biographers. The activity concluded with an open mic for the teens to share their stories and poems—a great way to close the event.

Whatever you do, be sure to take time to give of your talents to others. The experience has the ability to enrich all aspects of your life.

It Happened, Again

Writing is tough. I spend hours writing a page or two, which will have to be edited and reworded in the future.

Writing is exhilarating. The feeling of freedom when my hands are almost moving as quick as my brain is fleeting, but so worth working toward.

The “fast draft” that I completed last month was a compilation of many of both types of moments. (Reminder: fast for me is six months, from conception to finished first draft. I’ve tried NaNoWriMo many times, but it’s not for me.) Upon beginning my edits, I notice I’m still making a lot of the same mistakes that have plagued me for decades.

Prime example: My main character is flat, and suffering from perfection syndrome, while my secondary characters are multi-faceted and promote more emotional attachment from early readers. The initial analysis for doing this is that I think of myself as a secondary character in life and relate better to those not in the spotlight, so I naturally attach myself as a writer to those on the sidelines. From a craft standpoint, I’m wondering if I have the story wrong. Maybe I need to switch my point-of-view (POV) character.

This happened with CORRODED. My main character, Mary, didn’t evoke a connection to many beta readers (and was even annoying to some) while every reader loved her sidekick Ben. (Yes, there’s a group of “Team Ben” readers out there.) What resulted, during something like the twentieth draft, CORRODED became a dual POV story, with alternating Ben and Mary chapters. And I have a sneaking suspicion that if I look at the manuscript again, it might become all about Ben. (Go ahead and squeal, ladies!)

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Rather than freezing while I berate myself for fouling up yet another story, I remind myself of this quote by William Faulkner, “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” So, back to the drawing board with THE UNRAVELING THREADS OF KYNDRA FIELDS.

In the meantime, do you think character POV issues are more often emotional or craft related?

Junk Draft

I did it!

I finished the dreaded first draft of my new project from conception to completion in six months. In the past, the quickest I’ve written one was a year, and that was when I was in high school. Most recently, it took about eighteen months, but that doesn’t include the several years of research I did before the writing actually began.

What was the difference this time around?

Well, I gave permission to “let it go.” I allowed my writing to be less than perfect just to get it down. Yes, it’s something I’ve read about many times: everyone’s first draft is junk. I’d like to think my first drafts weren’t too bad, but then again, pouring over them for a year—or two or three—makes for lots of little edits before completion. (And, yes, they were all still edited dozens of times after that.)

This time, the story is there in all its ugly glory. 100_6421

I used to think the first draft was the hardest and revision/editing the easiest, but this time around, I believe my opinion will change. I’ve got my work cut out for me when I mend THE UNRAVELING THREADS OF KYNDRA FIELDS.

How do you write: quick and messy or slow and ponderous?

Vacation from Reality

Vacations are great. They’re so nice, sometimes I need a break from real life after a vacation—the old “I need a vacation to recuperate from my vacation” situation. That’s about what happened, but now I’m here, and this week marks my first full one back in the old routine.
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Boring, you might think, but it’s not so. Structure is a good thing in my house, as highly sought after as a trip to “The most magical place on earth.” When living with autism, there needs to be a sense of balance in day-to-day life. My oldest son loves his wall calendar. He needs to know when to expect certain activities and send reinforcements if the month doesn’t have a “Play Date” listed at least once. Our schedule might not be as hectic as yours, but both he and I need to know where we’re going in the days ahead, even if it’s just a “work” and “play” day at home.
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Where does all this talk lead me? To the realization that even though I didn’t finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress, THE UNRAVELING THREADS OF KYNDRA FIELDS, before leaving on vacation like I wanted to, I will finish by the end of this month. That might be a big leap for some, but hang in there. When (not if) I complete this draft, it will be my quickest completion to date. Granted it will also be my shortest manuscript, but taking a full story from idea to finished first draft in six months is amazing for this writer.

More on this forth coming miracle in the next two weeks, for now, let’s savor in the vacation memories.
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Where have you gone lately?

Story Growth

Fernando is spreading. He even has new fiddleheads coming from the earth—not the tree—this time. Go, Fernando!

Fernando, up close and personal.

Fernando, up close and personal.

Just like the fern, my own stories are growing. I’m on the downhill for the first draft of my current project, and it has a shiny new working title: THE UNRAVELING THREADS OF KYNDRA FIELDS.

Fernando in all his glory.

Fernando in all his glory.

Fernando—just like my writing goal—doesn’t always look this good. Sometimes, like today, it’s more like this:

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But there is time this afternoon for water to improve his health, like my story will strengthen if I nurture my writing time.

P.S. Here’s Fernando’s cousin, living on another water oak across the yard. Do you have a Fernando at your house? Have you nourished it today?

Hey, cousin!

Hey, cousin!

Rejuvenated

The hard work I mentioned last week is paying off—the baby steps are adding up. Plus, this weekend was great. Started it with the BOSTON concert Friday night (a rare date night with my husband) and ended with family time on Sunday.
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Of course, I have to mention the music. The show was fabulous. My face was sore from smiling—that’s how much I enjoyed it. We had balcony tickets this time and Hard Rock Biloxi is a great venue so the seats were actually comfortable. I’d rather be standing down front, though.
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I’m still wearing my feel-good post-concert mood and today has been extra productive, like the beginning of the week usually is for me.
• I organized this next year’s homeschool work, plus sorted out each kid’s first week of work (which is next week.)
• Cleaned two months of paper mess from the top of my file cabinets.
• And I passed five thousand words on my current project.
I love Mondays!
What’s your favorite day of the week?

Ain’t No Cure but Hard Work

If you know me or have been reading this blog for more than a season, you know that summer is my least favorite time of the year. Yes, I know that it isn’t technically summer, but it’s in full swing on the Gulf Coast. The thermostat has reached ninety degrees and the humidity is at sauna conditions.

Fortunately, I think I reached my yearly low last month (notice there were only two blog posts in the past thirty-one days.) But, never fear, I’ve slowly been on the upswing. The final shove came gently from my critique buddies at our meeting this weekend. Thanks, MeLeesa and Joyce! For me it’s now baby steps to the blog. Baby steps to the Scrivener file. But at least I’m moving.

May was rough, though. The month started with adding another year to my life chart, but ended with a great concert at the Hard Rock in Biloxi. Power metal, country, classical, world, folk, pop, oldies, classic rock, opera, R&B, rap… my music knows no genre boundaries, but I’m very selective about music groups/singers.

Last week, Diamond Rio played at the Hard Rock. They’re my favorite country group—I’ve been listening to them since I first heard “Meet in the Middle” during my freshman year in high school. (Of course, I was also listening to Firehouse, J.S. Bach, and Enya. Like I said, no musical borders in Wonderland.)

Besides the great show, all six band members did a meet and greet next to the merchandise table after the show. Naturally, I bought the band’s autobiography and gushed over the twenty-three years of music fandom while they all signed the book. (Here’s another bunch to add to the Fantabutius roster.) The experience of participating in the creating (composing music), sharing (concert), and spending time with fans (autographing) reminded me of my own goals as a writer. I need to work on my craft to have something for people to read, so I can hopefully inspire others to do the same. 100_5591

The Diamond Rio concert was a great way to end the moody month and start me thinking about creativity and positive vibes. This past week I finally started a mood music file for my current project and started thinking more about characters and less about the literary rejections. Here’s to a summer of magic and memories in the making. What do you have in mind?

Bonus, I’m going back to the venue for a BOSTON concert on Friday. Rock on!