Imagine. . .

Recently, I was watching footage of creativity expert, Ken Robinson.

He pointed out that we never think of what the masters were like as children.  What would it have been like to have young William Shaksespeare in English class?

That started me to wondering . . .

James Joyce in English class.

Dear Mr. Joyce,
James certainly enjoys free writing although he seems to take the word “free” too literally.   In addition to a refusal to use punctuation, getting him to move on to other tasks is all but impossible.  Does he have trouble transitioning at home?


 Dr. Seuss in English class


 Dear Mr. Geisel,

 While I enjoy teaching Theodore very much, his tendency to make up words to suit his fancy reduces the quality of his work significantly.  My I suggest that you invest in a good reference set?  He will never go anywhere with his writing until he breaks this habit.


Next time you can’t get the creative juices flowing, why not write a story or scene imagining one of your favorite writers in grade school?



Have you ever intentionally practiced self-censorship? 

This is what happens when you avoid writing the story you want to write, you planned to write, because something about it might bother someone.  This someone might be in your critique group.  Or in your family.  Or a friend who always reads your work.  This someone could be less concrete — the faceless parent who might object to a character’s behavior, who might demand that your book be pulled from the shelves. 

If you avoid writing the story as it should be written because you just don’t want to hear about it, that’s self-censorship of the intentional variety. 

Sometimes, self-censorship is sneakier.  I found this out when I was working on a novel, and one scene right at the climax of my story just wouldn’t come together.  The sisters cannot stand each other.  In fact, they’ve been pitted against each other to the point that a dangerous rivalry has developed and in a sword and sorcery fantasy based on iron age technology, that can be pretty ugly.  Ahem.

I wrote one flat scene after another before I realized what was wrong.  Nice girls, good girls do not pull swords on their sisters.  They do not fight things out.  They might sulk.  They might huff.  But they do not under any circumstances draw a line in the dirt and dare someone to cross it.  I was holding my main character back.  After what had happened in the story, she needed to come a bit unhinged.    Unhinged with a sword is not going to be nice.  What she needs to do will make people talk.  Will disappoint her mother and my mother too.  Nice girls may not pull swords on their sisters but for the story to ring true that is what had to happen.  No other action would suffice.   I had been censoring my story by keeping it nice.

Do you have a scene that is refusing to gel?  Do you need to break one of your mother’s unwritten rules to bring it together?  Try it and see.


Powerful Choices for the Home Office

powerfulAlthough we’ve always been fairly green, my husband has been looking for ways to green up our home and especially our home office. 

He’s decided that the best way to save energy, and thus money, is for all consumers of electricity to shut down when you leave the room.  He’s looking into motion detectors for the lights.  He’s even found a fancy power strip that not only has a surge protector but also shuts down everything put the CPU when there is no motion in the room. 

Unfortunately, the fancy schmancy power strip comes with a fancy schmancy price tag.  You can probably find a cheaper one but he works at Graybar Electric and has certain standards.  “So I’m looking into building you one,” he said. 

“That sounds pretty eleborate.  Way fancier than a treadmill desk like I wrote about in my blog,” I said.  “And you didn’t have time to figure that out.  How come?”   (Remember:  Never ask a question if you might not like the answer.)

Because,” he said, “you’ve never hurt yourself with a power strip.  Not even once. ”

::insert eye-roll here::  


Editing a translation

Have you ever wondered what an editor does when they acquire an international title that must be translated?  If so, Carp Tales, the newsletter of the SCBWI Tokyo region, has an interview with editor Cheryl Klein.   Klein will be leading the Missouri SCBWI retreat in March. 

The interview includes information on Klein’s background, how she acquired Moriboto by Nahoko Uehashi, the challenges of working in translation and more.


Not all parents are writers

notWhen you’re reading published fiction, do you have a pet peeve?   A friend of mine claims that every other best friend in YA fiction is a red head.  Since half my relatives are red heads, this doesn’t bother me.  But it drives me bats when one of a character’s parents is a writer.  

I know, I know.  Write what you know.   But are all of the adults you know writers?  If you’re in a critique group, and you should be (nag, nag), you do know a number of writers.  But are all of your adult relatives writers?  Your spouse?  Your neighbors? 

The next time you need to give an adult a profession, make a list of what your friends and family do for a living.  Include jobs you’ve had.  My list would look something like this:

Air Craft Mechanic


Avon Lady

Book store clerk



Map maker

Mining Engineer

Mucker (what do you call the poor kid who mucks out the round pens ?)


Organ and Piano Delivery







Make a list, and then give the grown up a job.  Maybe just maybe they can be something other than a writer.



Taking Classes

deskThe other day I got a catalog in the mail — The Great Courses by the Teaching Company. I drooled over the listings in music and history.  Then I found the course Science and Religion. It might help with my WIP and it is on sale.  Think of the money I could save, assuming, of course, I had the money to spend. 

What if I could it get even cheaper?

I went on the site for the St. Louis Country Public library.  A quick search with “Teaching Company” as the author turned up no less than 142 hits.  Here are just a few of the titles I found:

Science and Religion
The Theory of Evolution a history of controversy
A series on Great World Religions
History of the English Language and more.

I’m waiting for Science and Religion to come in and have plans to request several other titles. 

Why not check out your own library?  You may be surprised at some of the learning opportunities you can find for free.


Congratulations to Kristin Wolden Nitz

Special congratulations to one of my writing buddies — Kristin Wolden Nitz.  Kris’s novel, Saving the Griffin (Peachtree), has been nominated for the 2009 – 2010 Georgia Children’s Book Award.  This means that during the next school year children throughout Georgia will be reading and voting on books for this award, including Griffin.  For a complete list of the awards, visit the web site and click on the listings (picture books and novels are on separate lists) in the right hand column. 

If you don’t know Kris’s work, I’d strongly encourage you to check out her novels at Peachtree.  Kris is an excellent middle grade author.  Fast-paced and funny, her novels hook newly independent readers. 

Find out more about Kris and her work at her web site.

But in the meanwhile, I have to say it again.  Congratulations, Kris!!   You can read a brief review of Saving the Griffin on my review blog.


The 2008-9 Cybils Winners

On 2/14, the latest Cybils were announced.  For those of you unfamiliar with the awards, the purpose is twofold:

1.  To recognize excellent litature that has strong kid-appeal.

2.  To bolster the community of children’s lit bloggers.  

And the winners are:

Easy Readers: I Love My New Toy written by Mo Willems (Hyperion)

Fantasy & Science Fiction Middle Grade: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins)

Young Adult: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)

Fiction Picture Books: How to Heal a Broken Wing written and illustrated by Bob Graham (Candlewick Press)

Graphic Novels Elementary/Middle Grade: Rapunzel’s Revenge written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale illustrated by Nathan Hale (Bloomsbury USA)

Young Adult: Emiko Superstar written by Mariko Tamaki illustrated by Steve Rolston (Minx)

Middle-Grade Fiction: The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd (David Fickling Books)

Non-Fiction MG/YA: The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby (Bloomsbury USA)

Non-Fiction Picture Books: Nic Bishop Frogs written and illustrated by Nic Bishop (Scholastic Nonfiction)

Poetry: Honeybee by Naomi Shihab Nye (HarperCollins)

Young Adult Fiction: Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart (Hyperion)

I’ve read several of these but many are new to me.  Fortunately, my library has an online catalog.  Happy reading, everyone!


How to Invoice a Client

invoiceUsually, when I do a freelance job, I sign a contract.  When the job is done, they pay me.  End of story.  But that’s when I work for an editor or publisher.

When I do research for an individual, I write them a letter at the end of the project, detailing the time spent and hourly cost.   Then they write me a check. 

The person I just did a map for requested an actual invoice.  It only took me a few minutes to type up, but I thought the format might be helpful for those of you who have never had to use an actual Invoice.

Remember — you are putting this on your letterhead so all of your information is already included.

  • Client’s Name
    Client’s Business
    Client’s Department
    Client’s Address
    Describe job
  • Invoice No. XX
  • Date of Invoice: XX

That’s it.   


In Honor of President’s Day, Take Charge of Your Writing

whitehouseAll of my favorite Presidents share a common trait — a “what can you do” kind of attitude. In honor of that attitude and our current President, who seems to expect great things of the American people, we are going to discuss how that applies to our writing careers.

Often when writers get together, you hear talk of the latest conference or workshop that someone just attended. “You simply have to go next year! I met so many editors.”

Meeting editors is good. They have a lot of important things to say. They’re nice people. There is usually good food when they’re around.

How many of my editors have I met? Three. How many did I meet before they bought my work? One. How many editors have I worked with? I can think of sixteen . . . no, make that seventeen.

I’m not saying that meeting editors is unimportant, but there is something much more important to your writing career. What is the single most important thing to improve your work? To help you finish that manuscript?

You need to write.

No magic handshake. No secret password. Just write.

So in honor of all those great leaders who have believed in your ability to improve what is important to you, why not turn out a page or two of prose?