Blog Hop Time

There’s a blog hop going around, and Kelly Ramsdell Fineman tagged me. So today you get a few Q & As about…me! 🙂

About Kelly

Kelly Ramsdell Fineman is a poet and author of stories for children. Her first picture book, At the Boardwalk, came out in 2012 from tiger tales press, and was illustrated with amazing diversity and skill by Mònica Armiño, who lives in Madrid, Spain. Kelly does not live anywhere quite as exciting as Madrid, Spain; she lives in Williamstown, New Jersey, with her sweetheart and a calico cat named Kismet, who was found by chance along a roadside. She keeps a blog called Writing & Ruminating which just celebrated its ninth anniversary/blogiversary and includes features like Jane Austen read-alongs, lots of Shakespeare and poetry posts, and a rather recent series of posts on downsizing.

Kelly’s work has won awards from Writer’s Digest, and has appeared in anthologies for children including National Geographic’s Book of Animal Poetry and Dare to Dream . . . Change the World, in anthologies for grownups including Breaking Waves: An Anthology for Gulf Coast Relief, The Omnibus of Doctor Bill Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetrameter: A Steampunk’s Shakespeare Anthology, and Mountain Magic: Spellbinding Tales of Appalachia, and in a number of poetry journals including Chantarelle’s Notebook, The Raintown Review, and U.S. 1 Reports. Kelly enjoys cooking, tai chi, and, of course, reading.

Kelly Fineman

And now, hopping along to me.

1. What are you working on?

I just finished polishing up three picture books, readying them for submission. For the rest of the summer, I’ll be fast-first-drafting a middle-grade novel. This WIP will be my first attempt to weave a layer of magic into a novel. (When I thought about it, I realized there’s some fantasy in every one of the picture books.) I think it falls into the magical realism genre. I’m very excited and, oh, you know, just the littlest bit nervous, about making sure I get the rules of my magic right at the same time as I don’t bog my readers down in those rules.

2. How does my work differ from others in this genre?

Well…okay, so, it’s written by me. I’m not sure there are any other differences. At some later stage in my writing path, I may find myself aspiring to break through genre walls and into new territory. Today, I’m still working very hard to write the most tightly constructed story I can, with characters who are real and layered and who will keep readers turning page after page. I am, in my own role as a reader, absolutely blown away by the new-territory writers whose books I discover, but I there is a beauty to a story that, within whatever genre it fits, is done right and done well. For now, that’s what I’m aiming for.

3. Why do I write what I do?

The first reason is that I write for children, because approximately 98% of my reading for pleasure is children’s books. I know I am a grown up, and I definitely participate in a grown-up world, but–for whatever root psychological reasons–when I go into a book I want it to be for children. That does also include YA, although I lean more toward the younger YA than the older.

The second reason is that I find the transformative power inherent in every childhood choice to be amazing. Of course, I know that adults change as they age–it’s very possible that I’ve changed more in the last twenty years of my own life than I ever did in the first twenty. But so much of childhood is trying to figure out one’s self, and trying to do it within the restraints of the adult-created world around you–trying to do it despite those restraints. I think it’s easy to think that the choices young kids make are easy, or that most of them are made by adults, but I don’t think that’s true, and I don’t think most children believe it. Anyway, it’s these early choices and changes that I’m pulled to explore.

4. What is your writing process?

Today? Or yesterday? Two weeks ago? I truly wish I had a process that worked consistently for me and my stories. I think it may work best for me to dump out a first pass as quickly as I can and then revise, revise, and revise. I say this, because the best writing experience I’ve ever had was the MG novel that I first-drafted in a week and then took apart and rewove over and over again. And, really, that’s what I do when I write a picture book. I toss anything, even just a long, non-dramatic description of an idea, onto a few pages and then start over with it. The one time I tried to write more slowly and think things through as I went, I got so tangled and confused that the novel is sitting in a binder on a shelf, waiting for another day when I’m a different writer and can try to make repairs. For the magical realism MG, I’ve done about the most basic plotting possible, and my goal is to have the first draft written by the end of the summer. (I’m working at a job-job these days, so a one-week first draft probably isn’t going to happen.) I’m shooting for that feeling when you push away all the questions and problems and just write, absolute garbage that will, hopefully, have a gleam of a story in it to work on.

Tag!

I’m tagging two bloggers whose writing I love.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter is the author of some of my favorite historical novels, especially Healing Water. She lives in the South, so we haven’t ever met in person, but I have high hopes that we will some day. Joyce always has a supportive word, especially for those of us who have ventured into historical research and writing and who know the feeling of getting a little lost, sometimes happily and sometimes not so much. On her website, Joyce says, “The stories of the past belong to us if we make them ours.  As a writer, I love scrounging through history’s images and finding hidden stories that have been lost in the bottom of the pile. My books are a way of bringing history into my experience.  And hopefully, into yours also.” Take it from me–they do. Joyce blogs at The Three R’s–Reading, ‘Riting and Research.

Alex Villasante is another writer who, as far as I’m concerned, lives too far away. I met her at the fantastic Pennwriters conference, and we’ve continued to chat back and forth and share our writing across the country. Alex lives in the semi-wilds of Pennsylvania. She holds an MFA in Fine Art which (according to her, not me!) was fun to acquire but fairly useless for gainful employment. She writes Young Adult and Middle Grade books about misfits, magic, and identity. The book on which she is currently working takes place at the beach in Avalon, New Jersey, and may or may not contain fairies. Alex is represented by Barbara Poelle at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. Alex blogs at Magpie Writes.

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Steamrolling Toward 2014

A couple of months ago, I said to myself, “You really have to clean out your office.” Yes, a couple of months ago. And until yesterday, that “have to” hadn’t added up to doing anything. Even with all the motivation of reading Kelly Fineman’s posts about cleaning out her entire house.

Yesterday, it hit. After a week of prepping for Xmas and doing the whole holiday tidy, cook, and putter thing, I had apparently had enough of moving slowly and leisurely through life. I guess it dawned on me that we are less than seven days away from 2014, and I don’t want to enter that new year with…clutter. I get this way every now and then. It’s not the hidden mess that gets to me–the files behind closed doors that I know need to be purged, the extra office supplies tucked away where I can’t see them. It’s the piles. The shelves that don’t have room for a new book (or a new Xmas-present plush Tardis that lights up and makes that awesome parking-brake-is-still-on noise). The corners where you shove tuck all the things you don’t have a place for, and you tell yourself they’re out of the way, not taking up floor space, not getting in your way of doing anything.

Except they do. When you walk into your office/writing space, and there’s the slight sensation that even one of our smaller California earthquakes might send things tumbling around you, when things just look two crowded, too sloppy, too full, then it does–I believe–affect how well you get things done. And in 2014, I have things to get done. I’ve got a son to support in the last steps of the first steps of his college journey. I’ve got several writing projects that need to reach Done and get out the door and on their way to Actual Possibility. And I’ve got a new job to find. When January lands, I want to step into it with shiny, sleek rollerblades (you know, the ones that don’t go TOO fast, that have a really good braking system, and that won’t send me crashing into some cement wall somewhere), and..GO.

So, yesterday, I took two hours. I pulled down all the CDs, sorted into “want” and “don’t want,” and started ripping. I will have two bags of them to sell at the used book/music store. I re-organized and purged and created the magic of three empty file drawers.

Well, almost empty!

alicedrawer

I took the pile of old totes and bags that are too shredded and disgusting to go out in public anymore, got rid of them, and replaced them all with the lovely totebag of literary quotes that my sister got me for Xmas. With the library books in it that need to go back next week. I started a Goodwill pile. I started a bag of books to go along with the CDs, which I will continue to add to today. And I am still ripping CDs.

I know it’s not Spring, but it’s the end of the year. For me, it’s not always about resolutions for the future, but sometimes about a clearing out of the past. 2013 has been a good year in so many ways, an interesting year in others. But it’s almost done, and there’s a new one on the way. I want to be ready for it.

Happy Almost New Year, Everybody! What’s on your get-done agenda for the next few days?

Revisiting the Blog…Again

I feel like I do this every year, either in December or January–come around and take another look at what I’m doing with my blog. I just spent an hour or so updating my website (about time!), and–boy–looking around, it was clear that I’m not blogging the way I want to. I’ve heard other people talking about this, from Kelly Fineman to Jen Robinson, both of who’s blogs I read and enjoy. So, once again, I’m trying for a reboot. I’ve got a few questions for you at the end of the post, so read through to the end. Or skip to the end, if you want.

I want to:

  • Blog regularly. At a minimum, once a week.
  • I’m going to blog shorter. Oh, sure, yes, you’ll get a thoughtful, perceptive, in-depth, long-winded post every now and then, but I’m going with the premise that shorter can be better and is definitely faster.
  • I want to do more reviews. If you look at my Reviews page, you’ll see that this isn’t a request for books. But when I fall in love with a book, I’m going to share that love.
  • I’m going to rebuild my blogroll and try to comment more. I have a great reader on my phone (WordPress), so I’ve got no excuse for saying “hi” when I stop by.
  • I’ll share more links to good posts at other blogs. It’s about a community, right? Right.

So those are my goals. And now a few questions for you.

  • Approximately how many blogs do you check in at each week (blogs, not posts)?
  • Do you prefer shorter or longer blog posts?
  • Got any favorite blogs? Please share away!

And in the spirit of my actually making the above list of goals happen, here’s a little Louis for your day…