Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Writing Day

I am sitting at my PC, writing and revising several chapters in the middle-grade historical fiction that I’ve been working on for a while. I get distracted now and then. For instance, through the window in my office, I just saw a squirrel scampering across my neighbor’s rooftop next door. Hope it doesn’t get into their attic. They had quite a problem a while back with squirrels who became squatters. No respect, I tell you. Then there was the woodpecker who poked holes in my other neighbor’s wooden chimney. And the raccoon who chewed up my chimney. I kid you not. Left a big hole. Don’t get me started…

Back to writing. I’m trying to allow my imagination to soar with my characters. Talk to me, I keep repeating. What would you do in this case? How would you react? A scene is like a mini-story, I remind myself. Beginning, middle, end. Those three words just triggered my memory. I have a book by that title.

I'm hoping my words will flow and I will have an “aha” moment. Sometimes it happens; sometimes not. Regardless, I will stay glued to my chair. Self-discipline. Perseverance. Writers learn that quickly. Inspiration doesn’t come just because you’re sitting in front of your PC. You have to work at it. And I am trying. Now if that squirrel would only go away … so easy to get distracted.

But just in case, I am going to refresh my memory a bit by referring to one of my books on writing, the one I mentioned above, Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress. I recommend this book highly. I’ve highlighted some excellent writing tips and will go over them to get unstuck and continue with my novel. Keeping a small library of these types of books comes in handy.

"The feeling for words, the driving need to tell a story, the love of characters who constantly inhabit your mind waiting to be born, these are the inherent things that make us writers." -- Eve Bunting

Friday, October 22, 2010

Unexpected surprise!

I was taking a picture of the Texas Capitol building while at the Texas Book Festival last Saturday when something caught my eye. It was right on the bench behind me. I went over and took a look. No one else was around. Where was its owner? Should I take it? What if someone saw me? Was this like candid camera or something? Maybe it was a joke. I started to walk away.

Texas Capitol Building
 But I couldn’t leave it there. What if it rained later and it got all wet? What if someone threw it away? I would never forgive myself. I turned right around. I sat next to it. Slowly and with a little hesitation, I reached over and touched it. Then I picked it up. I opened it! I laughed out loud and shook my head in amazement. A “traveling book.” At first, I had no idea what a traveling book was until I read what was written on the label inside the cover:

I’m a very special book. You see, I’m traveling around the world making new friends. I hope I’ve made another one in you. If so, please go to www.bookcrossing.com, where you can make a brief journey entry with my BCID number (below). You will see where I’ve been, and my old friends will be happy to know I’m safe here in your hands. Then help keep my dream alive – READ & RELEASE me!”

I’m convinced the “traveling book” found me. You see, being the book lover that I am, it knew it would be safe in my hands. The title of the book? Middlesex written by Jeffrey Eugenides. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Ambassador Book Award. It has been featured in Oprah’s Book Club.

That was my unexpected surprise! How often do you find a book right out in the open? I am anxious to find out the journey of this book. According to the label, it was last picked up in Colorado. I will soon release it and send it on its way placing it somewhere where hopefully another book lover will find it as well. What a novel idea!

"To this day, I don't sit down and say, I'm writing a novel. That would terrify me! Novels are long and complicated and I don't know how anyone ever writes one! No, I sit down and say I'm writing a story, and today I'm going to write either two pages, or one scene, whichever comes first!" -- Linda Sue Park

Monday, October 18, 2010

A day at the Texas Book Festival

What a day! The weather was perfect as hundreds of people milled around buying books, listening to authors’ readings, getting their books autographed, and just enjoying a day of books, books, books. I’m referring to this past weekend and the Texas Book Festival. The beautiful grounds surrounding the Capitol Building in Austin had children running up and down some of the hilly mounds, slurping snow cones, and coming in for storytime from some of the children’s book authors, including myself.

How awesome that as I was reading my latest book, The Battle of the Snow Cones, there was a snow cone stand right next to the tent. So appropriate. So who did I sit next to this time at the booksigning tent? I was sandwiched in between three-time Caldecott winner writer/illustrator David Wiesner and children’s book author Monica Brown. Mr. Wiesner was just leaving as I got there and Ms. Brown had just arrived as I was leaving. So I didn’t really get to meet with them although I did introduce myself to Ms. Brown who was most gracious. See what I mean when you get to do the Texas Book Festival? You meet all sorts of famous people. I did catch Wiesner’s book reading. Fantastic, of course.

For book lovers everywhere, this was an afternoon made just for them.  


Snow Cone Stand

Texas Book Festival
 "Surprise is what keeps readers turning the pages and writers filling them up." -- James Howe

Friday, October 15, 2010

Texas Book Festival

I am excited and looking forward to participating at the Texas Book Festival in Austin this weekend. This will be my second time around. When my first book, Lupita’s Papalote, came out, I was invited to do a reading and signing. It was thrilling for me. After my reading, I was escorted to another tent for booksigning. Guess who I sat next to? None other than Louis Sachar of Holes, the book which won the 1999 Newbery Award and was later made into a movie. His line of admiring fans snaked around the block while mine was pitifully short. But I got beyond that and just enjoyed watching the hundreds of book lovers browsing and talking to famous writers. I too went around and bought books and got them autographed. I was in awe of the whole event. Going there for the second time is just as thrilling as the first. Hmm… I wonder who I’ll be sitting next to this time.

"If a writer isn't a reader, he's in the wrong profession." -- Marion Dane Bauer

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Social media

Nowadays almost everyone has a Website, a Blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc., account. According to what I heard at the SCBWI-LA conference last summer, editors, agents, and publishers google writers and illustrators to find out more about them. How savvy are you on this type of social media? I’m just starting to learn the ropes. For starters, start with a Website or a blog or both.

An interesting article, Got Fans?, by social media consultant and children's book writer, Jenn Bailey of the Institute of Children’s Literature, mentions that “with social media people like to connect, communicate, and belong … Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, are like a virtual front porch.” For an interesting read on this topic, click on her link above where she gives reasons for getting on the social media platform.

Aguas Frescas at El Mercado
"Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the centre of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write."-- Natalie Goldberg

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book review

I got a really pleasant surprise today - a book review of my book, The Battle of the Snow Cones, by Latina Lista Book Reviews. This brings me to the topic of book reviews. I posted a blog on this subject a while back. Some of you probably already read it, but I am posting it again in case some of you have not. Book reviewing is another interesting, important part of the writing/publishing process.

When I worked as a staff writer for a local paper, I occasionally did book reviews. Although I think I did an honest evaluation of the books I read for review, I wish I had read this article in Book Reviews  back then. In reviewing a book, you’re being asked for your opinion and criticism. How do you do that? There’s critical thinking involved.

Book reviews: What is the premise of the book? Does the author deliver on that premise? What’s your analysis and take on the book? I’m not an expert on this subject, but I tried to be as thorough and honest as I could with the books I was given to review. I often thought about the authors of the books and how they reacted to the reviews.

“Try to present a balanced argument about the value of the book for its audience.” That is what the online article mentioned in Book Reviews states. If you’ve ever thought about doing book reviews, visit that site.

Pinatas on the roadside.
“A good picture book begins with delight, ends with wisdom, humor, warmth, or love, and means more than it says.” – Barbara Williams

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Keep Writing

A few blogs ago, I mentioned “rejections.” We all get them at one time or another and get over them eventually. But when we first see that rejection via email or snail mail, we wince, feel disappointed, rejected, hurt, and ready to give up. So when I read Ingrid’s Notes’ blog on Rejection Rocks, it made me feel a lot better knowing I am not alone. Famous writers have been rejected many times as well. I think you’ll enjoy reading about it in her blog, not being rejected, but persevering and forging ahead. 

One of those writers originally rejected many times (nine years of manuscript rejections) was Gail Carson Levine of Ella Enchanted (a 1998 Newbery Honor book) – her first, can you imagine? I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Levine at last summer’s SCBWI-LA conference. Not only was she an inspirational speaker, but she had her audience in stitches with her humorous anecdotes.

By the way, a non-fiction piece that I sent out to a magazine nine months ago was originally rejected. A few days ago, I received word that it has been accepted for publication. So there you go. Never give up! Keep writing!

"I don't necessarily start with the beginning of the book. I just start with the part of the story that's most vivid in my imagination and work forward and backward from there." – Beverly Cleary