One Writer’s Journey

March 17, 2009

Event Expectations

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:05 am
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surpriseWhen I go to a writing event, I try not to decide ahead of time just what it is that I’ll learn.  The reason? I don’t always switch gears easily and simply being open seems to help. 

Imagine my surprise at the retreat this weekend when I went in for my one-on-one time with Editor Cheryl Klein and she immediately started asking me questions about my submission.  Huh?  What?  Which way did they go?  I didn’t expect questions. 

I thought she would tell me what she thought.  I’m sure that for a moment I looked gob smacked, but I recovered and answered her questions.   After getting my thoughts on the matter, she gave me feedback on plot and character and the set up of my fantasy world.  By asking me questions, she helped me see the things I had considered (character motivation) and those I had neglected (subplot, anyone?).  I’ve got several things to work on but will devote some more time to digesting her comments before rewriting.

I knew her comments would help me on the fantasy I submitted for evaluation, but didn’t expect the help she gave me on the picture book I also brought.  The picture book was for small group critique sessions with my fellow writers.  Cheryl didn’t read it, but the points she made about plot in other sessions highlighted the problems with this manuscript.  I knew something was wrong, but not what.  Now I know, and I have the tools to add the depth I need (more on that Wednesday). 

My advice to you?  When you sign up for an event, show up with pen and paper and an open mind.  You will come away with the tools you need to improve your writing.



March 16, 2009

Missouri SCBWI Writers Retreat

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:40 am
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flowerThank you to the great people who pulled together the Missouri SCBWI Writers Retreat in Hermann, Missouri.   Lynnea and Stephanie did a fantastic job!

As did our editor.  Cheryl Klein is a true inspiration.  Several of the seeds she planted have already sprouted.  Based on her talks, I now know how to improve several manuscripts.  If you get a chance to hear Cheryl speak, go for it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Thank you to the writers who gave me feedback on my work. 

Thanks also go out to my husband for keepin things going at home.  I even came home to fresh paint on my bathroom ceiling!

Tuesday, I’ll post some specifics.   About the retreat.  The ceiling is basic white.


March 13, 2009

Attending Events

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:10 am

purse1As much as I love going to writing conferences and the like, keeping track of my stuff makes me nuts. 




√Folder or other handouts and give-aways

√Water bottle

√Granola bar


√Cough drops/hard candy

Add to this the lunch I have to carry to wherever I’m going to sit and eat and I just want to plop down on the floor. 

Instead, I’ve knitted myself an event purse.  Larger than anything I would carry normally, it eliminates having to carry a purse and a back pack or briefcase.   You can see how huge it is  — holding notebooks, chocolate and someone’s stuffed animals.

And I got the lining in just in time.  Today I’m off to the Missouri SCBWI Writer’s Retreat with Cheryl Klein.  Hurray!!  

See you Monday with news from the retreat.


March 12, 2009

What did your town look like?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:36 am
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pennyIf you’re writing historic fiction, sometimes it is hard to get a feeling for your setting without visuals. 

Now you can find images taken all over the country that were used on a variety of  Penny Postcards.  Go to the site, select your state then your county. 

I did this for my area and found a something over 40 images of St. Louis City and St. Louis County including Eads Bridge, City Hall, and more.  I even found some places called names other than those I know — a great set of details to check out for historic fiction.

Have fun seeing what you can see!


March 11, 2009

How did they do it way back when?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:29 am

anvilResearch by doing.  We know it helps but we can’t always pull it off.  Sure, you can try baking bread.  You can even dye yarn.  But what happens when a character needs to work iron?  Or build the oven to use in baking the bread?

Turn to a site I learned about from Treehugger.   Belgium’s Museum of Old Techniques includes information on ironworks, building a Maroccan oven, and more.  “What is this?” is a section on tool identification.

At this point, the site is a bit patchy for English and French speakers while the Dutch site is completely up and running.  Still, a fun place to poke around.


March 10, 2009

Writing Excellent Nonfiction

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:18 am
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Since it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel, instead of trying to write my own essay on writing nonfiction for kids, I’ll direct you to Fiona Bayrock’s piece, “Cool Science, Where Are You?” on the Charlesbridge blog. 

Fiona shares tips on how to make your science writing engaging and kid friendly, which generally also makes it just plain interesting.

Great job, Fiona!


March 9, 2009

Naming Characters: Kiki vs Victoria

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:13 am
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Someone on a list I belong to just mentioned how much she likes the name Kiki for a character.  That got me to thinking — what would a Kiki be like?

Fiesty, fast and furious.  This is a girl who can hold her own.

Victoria, on the other hand, is ruffles and lace.  Sweet and sugary she is the girly girl my mother should have had.

But reality can confound you.  The Victoria I know may wear jeans with rhinestones, glitter and embroidery but look out, boys!   I’ve seen her bury head in her brother’s stomach and lay into him when he makes fun of her.  Sure, she has to put herself back together when she’s done, but she doesn’t let that stop her. 

This makes me wonder — Should we play around a bit more when we give character’s names?  What would happen if we gave a tomboy a girly name?  What about giving the ruffle and lace gal a harsh sounding name?  What could this mean for your story?


March 6, 2009

Naming Your Characters

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:43 am

thoughtfulI hate naming characters.  One time, I heard a girl’s name and thought, “Wow.  That’s perfect for a villain.”   Once. 

Normally, I use baby name books, but knowing the root doesn’t always help if you are trying to name someone born at a certain time — and aren’t we all?  Born at a certain time, I mean.  

When a character is born is vital. 

When I was a kid, every other girl was named Ann(e), Sue/Susie/Susan/Suzanne, Beth, or Judy.  I knew tons of boys named Bobby, Billy, Will, John, Jim, Dan, and Tony.  Now I’m hip deep in kids named Emily, Jared, Danny, Brandon/Brendan, Jade/Jada, Alex, Will/William, and Aaron. 

If you’re writing something contemporary, look at a year book or a school buzz book.  But what about historic names? 

Hurray for the Social Security Administration!  Click this link to get lists of the most popular names by state, by decade or by specific birth year all the way back to 1880.

Just for fun, I typed in 1880 and found both my first name and my grandmother’s first name in the top 20 women’s names.  

Now if someone says “A girl in 1900 wouldn’t be named Anna.  It sounds too modern,” you’ll have the data you need to back up your decision.


March 5, 2009

Handling Problems in the Writing World

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:20 am

error1Last week I read a series of posts on a public board.  I wrote my response four times but, each time, deleted it without posting.  Why? 

I knew what this person would say.  “Your angry.” “Your unsympathetic.”  She’d already said that to other people, and I’m not particularly sympathetic, maybe because I used to organize the Missouri SCBWI conference.

This person had a problem with a conference organizer.  She should have called the organizer, left a message, and then walk the dog.  Or called someone from her critique group if she really needed to whine. Instead, she posted a detailed gripe fest on a public board that the event organizer probably frequents. 

When she got a return call, the organizer in question was allegedly terse.  Of course, this interaction was also posted in detailed on the same set of boards.  People responded with shock.  With horror.  And, the “angry” ones, with sympathy for the organizer.  But there was one thing no one said. 

Do not air something like this in public before you speak to the person you are annoyed with.

Why?  By the time they get back to you, they may have already read your posts.  Granted, you may have a very valid point. but if you gripe about someone publicly and in print, you have cost them face.  I’m not saying they will retaliate, but they are much less likely to go out of their way, especially if it means more work for them, when you’ve told the whole wide electronic world how unreasonable, incompetent and nasty they are.

This holds true for conference organizers, editors, and agents. 

Rant to your critique group.  Rant to your spouse.  Rant to the cat who frankly won’t care but might pretend to listen if tuna is involved.  

Do not rant online.   It is not becoming.  And, yes, I’m a bit angry.  She made me sound just like my mother. 


March 4, 2009

Stretching Your Creative Muscle

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:04 am

scheduleThe last two weeks in February were not particularly productive in terms of actual writing.  I landed two new long term freelance jobs, but actual writing?  Not too much.

Part of it is that I’m freaked out about one of the jobs.  I can do it.  I know I can do it, but it is a new area for me (I’ll tell everyone more about it as I get things nailed down).  As my husband points out, “We fear change.”  We means me and he’s right.  I do not handle real change very well.

But I’ve also found that if I don’t try something new every now and again I get bored.  I get sloppy.  My work suffers.  Last year I started writing essays.  The year before that I studied poetry.  Neither brought me to a near hault but neither of them freaked me out either.   I guess they weren’t very big changes after all. 

But I have to get writing again.  For two weeks I’ve put post-it notes for each job on the calendar.  Flexible.  I can move them around which means I can move them to next week.   Probably a bit too flexible.

Back to my ol’ dry erase board.  I’m going to try a two-week schedule.  Get something done.  Scratch it off.

I’ve got deadlines coming up.  I need to move.


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