Friday Five


Today’s thoughts on the subject:

  1. Balanced in family, work, and creativity.
  2. Still head over heals in love with all three above.
  3. Calm. (Or as calm as it is possible for me to be!)
  4. Striving to keep myself healthy and fit. I wouldn’t say no to a line-in-the-sand on the wrinkles.
  5. Resisting, at least a bit, the label Grown Up.

What about you?

1. I’m typing this as the most chocolatey-ever cake is baking in the oven. Seriously, I’m waiting for the crash that I’m sure is coming, after I convinced myself that all that batter wouldn’t fit in the pan and better just be eaten.

2. I just told son he should probably get up soon (almost 11:00), so he could eat and be functional before going to take the test for his…DRIVING PERMIT!!!!!

Me? Old enough to have a son who drives? When did this happen?!

3. Spring has hit. I’m loving the warmth and the sunshine, the wearing of shorts and sandles, the blue skies. I’m not so happy about the pollen, but I’m telling myself the snorkiness of the last few days was a small cold. Denial is a powerful thing.

Scotch broom is pretty much covering our mountains.

4. I’ve made serious progress this past week in thinking out my WIP, thanks to Donald Maass ‘ worksheets and my resurgence of stick-to-itivity. I’m accepting that all the time I spent on character, which felt like rambling nebulousity, is paying off, now that I’m in the plot section. Honestly, I still couldn’t explain how one leads to the other, but I can’t argue with the fact that it’s happening on the page.

5. Oh, and I ordered a new research book, ignoring the half-dozen still on my shelf that I haven’t yet cracked open. I’ve been trying to stay away from research while I work on story, but of course one of my characters decided his story brings in a piece of 1910’ish Chicago that I really haven’t delved into yet (unbelievable as that may seem). Plus, somehow, now that I’m finding the story, I’m feeling the urge to do more research. The whole writing-research thing really does seem to be symbiotic. Or parasitic. Take your choice.

Tallying up the nice things that happened this week:

1. We had one day of rain. February in Northern California is usually The Month of Rain. And wind. And power outages. And trees falling. This was slightly more than a light drizzle, and then it disappeared. I’m seriously torn between wishing we’d get a good storm–because we need it–and totally enjoying this weather that is so Not Winter.

Okay, not completely torn. I am wearing shorts today.

2. I made it to three yoga classes in a row. No, not all in one day, but on three consecutive days. Last night, I tell you, that didn’t seem like such a good thing. I definitely pushed myself into the Overdone-It category. (Who knew ALL THREE TEACHERS would have us do lunges!) This morning, though, after a great night’s sleep, I feel fantastic. And only partly because I have designated today a well-earned day of rest.

3. I got Son reading Chris Moriarty’s The Inquisitor’s Apprentice, which I knew he’d love, and which he IS loving. Now I just have to find somewhere around here that I can buy a knish for him to try.

4. For this week, anyway, I got the pile of to-do’s under what seems to be some kind of control and got time into work projects AND fiction. On schedule today to finish up my secondary characters. Then…How to Turn Your MC’s Mother into a Truly Awful, Yet Sympathetic, Bad Guy.

5. I signed a contract. A book contract.

It’s for one book in a new series from Capstone Press, and it’s my first step down a path I’ve been wanting to get on for a while–writing NF kids’ books for educational publishers. Almost better than signing the contract (okay, not really) has been getting started on the research and outlining–it’s a totally different kind of thinking and writing from the fiction. The best way I can describe it is that it’s  like pulling your own, personal jigsaw pieces out of a pile that someone randomly tossed onto the table. And making sure the pieces are both true and intriguing. And then, yes, creating the puzzle itself at the same time. This may be the place where right-brain and left-brain thinking come together, at least for me.

All in all, an excellent week. What’s been the star in your past seven-days?

Yesterday was a catch-up day. My to-do list had gotten pretty long while we were out of commission, so I plugged myself in at my desk and slogged through, checking things off and moving on.

Felt good.

I have dipped a toe back into my writing & reading, too. Just a bit. And today felt like clearing the decks on things that were getting in the way of doing more of that.

For this week’s Friday Five, a peek at the baby steps I’m taking back into my word world.

1. Ran through a very rough draft of a kind-of concept picture book. Made a couple of little tweaks, and then sent it out the door to my critique group, with a request that they give me feedback on the overall (if any) viability and any ideas for creating that viability if it doesn’t exist. Yet.

2. Completed PiBoIdMo with more than 30 ideas, took the PiBoIdMo Winner’s Pledge (which means I am officially entered for some awesome prizes!), and ordered my PiBoIdMo 2011 mug, with Bonnie Adamson’s fantastic art, from the CafePress PiBoIdMo shop. The big victory for me here was not just finishing the month with enough ideas, but not letting the last few days of the month slide away without any ideas, after I took a couple of days off for being sick. I wanted to actually, actively complete the challenge, and I did. Yay, me. Yay, anyone who also won or participated. Yay, everyone who spent any time writing speedily for NaNoWriMo, too. November is really about doing more than you would/could have, if you hadn’t tried to take the challenge. So kudos all around!

3. Opened the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook again. Got started on the next exercise. Picked a scene to view from the other way around. And today I’ll dig in and really start looking at the YA historical. Again.

4. Read something other than an Agatha Christie mystery or a Terry Pratchett novel. All of you know with what high esteem I seriously hold both these authors, but they are also restful for me in a way that goes well with being ill, or tending the ill. So I’ve been reading a LOT of both. Yesterday, I started and finished Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray. It felt great to pick up something new, something intense and powerful. Okay, probably not the smartest choice for a cold day when the sun set by 5:00, but definitely a read to recommend. And, again, a historical novel with tight, short chapters–something I want for my own YA and something I am really going to have to push myself to get right.

5. Critiqued pieces from two of my critique partners. Lovely to get back into reading good stuff and digging in for helpful feedback. Have I mentioned that my brain was starting to atrophy?

What little pieces of reading and writing did you keep going in your life the last week or so. Did you push through for NaNo, pass the great number THIRTY in PiBoIdMo, or even just get an hour in here or there to move words from your mind to your computer’s? Whatever you managed, you have my admiration and my congratulations!

A quick glance around the blogs to see what other people are saying:

  1. Jennifer R. Hubbard with a discussion on Little Women: Jo and Laurie or Jo and Professor Bhaer. Fact: I am now and always have been Team Bhaer.
  2. Because I loved the book but am feeling too lazy to write about it, this excellent review of Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor, from Thea at The Book Smugglers.
  3. Beth Revis on being afraid. She says it so well.
  4. I don’t know if you remember KidLit4Japan, the children’s and YA auction that raised over $10,000to help Japan after the earthquake and tsunami? Well, the author who organized and ran the WHOLE THING, Greg Fishbone, has a new book out, the first in his Galaxy Games series–Galaxy Games: The Challengers. Check out Debbi Michiko Florence’s interview with Greg.
  5. Go answer Nathan Bransford’s question: When Do You Let Other People See Your Work? Me, I use early critiques as motivation and thinking-fodder, but I know a lot of writers get nervous about sharing those first drafts. You?

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

As you read this, or shortly after, I’ll be on the road (or many roads) on my way to the SCBWI Spring Spirit conference in Rocklin, California. For us non-geography experts, that’s right up in/near Sacramento. To get there, I head out of my mountains, through the heart of Silicon Valley, up into some lovely green hills (really green, this week!), and over toward the tip of the Central Valley. Not a long drive, but long enough that I’m taking an extra day, rather than rushing up and back the same day.

Road Trip!

Here are a few things I expect to do this weekend:

1. Drink “my” drink: Nonfat, decaf, light caramel macchiato. Just so you know. Yes, I do get that all out at the order station, and, yes, it’s worth the embarrassment. I’m not a big coffee drinker in every day life, but there’s something about sipping hot coffee from behind the wheel of a car that seems to work. And don’t push me to get the “hard” stuff–you don’t want me driving around on a full-caffeine hit!

2. Stop at the California Automobile Museum to do research for my WIP. I’m (hopefully) going to see a 1908 Model T, a 1911 Pierce-Arrow (think back to the car the dad bought in Cheaper by the Dozen), and a lot more. I’m going to figure out how you accelerated a car back in those days, which (if not all) had cranks to get things going, and–most important–what you might possibly bang your head against…hard!

(Note: I’ll be there on April 1st. I’m SO tempted to walk in, say, “Which one do I get to drive?!”, watch their faces fall, and then shout “April Fools!” Honestly, though, no chance I’ll have the courage.)

3. Hang out with kidlit writers and illustrators.

4. Meet Bruce Coville. Wait, let me say that again. MEET BRUCE COVILLE!!!!  He’s the keynote speaker at the conference, and I pretty much think he is brilliant in his ability to understand what makes kids laugh and what gives them the perfect world of fantasy to escape into.

5. Get back a critique from some professional (not sure who yet) on my picture book. Stick the still-sealed envelope in my bag and don’t open it until I’m somewhere quiet and safe? Tear it open upon receipt and block everybody else in the registration line until I’ve read it? Sneak a peak at lunch? What would you do?

Can you tell I’m ready to go? Have a great weekend, everybody!

Five things I occasionally need to remind myself about:

1. Everything on your list is something you want to do, or–at the very least–a piece of something you want.

2. You’re the one saying, “Yes.” And you pretty much had a reason for each and every Yes.

3. President Obama has a much bigger to-do list than you do.

4. Too much to do is better, just about every time, than not enough.

5. And, finally, to paraphrase my husband, “You could have this much to do and a butt rash.”

And how’s the craziness in YOUR life going today?

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