Knowonder! is coming back

I was really bummed when the print magazine knowonder! stopped publishing.  They are, after all, where my writing buddy Sharon Mayhew first published.

But they are coming back!   Although they haven’t been able to secure the funding necessary for a print publication, they will continue as an e-zine with the launch set for September 1, 2011 (this Thursday!).

Here is a bit of information from their writer’s guidelines (you can find the full listing here):

Audience:  parents roughly ages 25 to 40, with children between the ages of 3 and 10.

Stories:  They want fiction although they may occasionally publish nonfiction. Word count,  750 to 2000 words.

Articles:  For parents and should relate to their main goal — promoting reading with children and the benefits thereof, early language (sign or any language) instruction, teaching drawing, getting children involved in story telling, other activities that promote brain development.  Word count: 750 to 2000 words.

knowonder!  is not a paying market but they do sponsor two monthly contests, one in which readers choose the best story of the month, the second in which a guest editor chooses the story.   Each winner will receive a cash award.

Start polishing your work and check out knowonder! on Thursday!


Improving My Writing with Help from the Big Dogs

Microsoft Office Clip art
Your story needs to go where the character takes it.

About two weeks ago, I blogged about having to begin the rewrite of my middle grade, again.  I planned to scrap what I had written and start from scratch because the character just didn’t feel right in my new draft.

I thought the problem was where I had started the story, so I planned to write a new first chapter, one that took place a bit earlier than the current chapter.

But when the time came to write this new chapter, I had to force myself to try.  Forced.  Slogged.  Moaned.  Griped.  If you get the feeling that it probably didn’t go really well, you’d be right.  Sure, I drafted a new first chapter but by the time I had finished, I knew that I had produced Stinker #2.

While avoiding this particular project later in the week, I came across an online Writer’s Digest article, “25 Ways to Improve Your Writing in 15 Minutes a Day.”  I didn’t really believe it would help, but reading it beat the heck out of actually trying to rewrite chapter 1.

The first exercise discusses flow and how every piece of writing needs to have it.  If it doesn’t, if it feels awkward, you are probably trying to force something.  To figure out where you went wrong and how to solve it, David Morrell says that you should ask your piece of writing “What do you want to do?”

Now, me being me, I can’t actually bring myself to ask my work-in-progress anything, thank you very much.   But I can ask my character what story he wants to tell.  I don’t get it either — it seems like a very fine distinction.  But the latter approach worked.  In only a few moments, I realized what my character wanted (go to the pool!  swim!).   Yes, yes, he does have homework to do.  And, yes, if he doesn’t finish the assignment, he won’t go on to middle school.   But he has time to finish it.  He’s been in school sitting at his desk all day.  He needs to move, to push himself, to feel his muscles work.  This is, after all, his story.  Isn’t it?

Unfortunately, up until then, it wasn’t as much his story as it should have been.  You see, I’m rewriting this for an agent.  I had taken her advice quite literally.  She didn’t understand how he could justify putting off his work when it is soooo important.  Ok, I don’t get it either, but then I’m an adult.  A mom.  My son and all but one of his friends would all go to the pool.

The beginning didn’t work when I tried to literally follow the agent’s advice.  What I need to take away from her comments is that, as it stood, the beginning didn’t work.  If he is going to go to the pool first, I need to justify it.  Strongly justify it.  I need to make the adult buyer see things through Josiah’s eyes.

But I also have to remember whose story I’m telling.  When I did that, the story started to flow.  I went from slogging through 500 words in a morning to laying down 2606 words in one afternoon.

Listen to what your characters are trying to tell you.  Remember to tell their story.  When you do, the rewrite will go much, much better.


Goals as We Move into September

If you had asked me last Friday morning whether or not I was going to make my word count, I’d have said, NO.  I had about 3400 words written and the middle grade rewrite was not cooperating.  Things turned around when I found a series of writing exercises that kicked this project into gear.  I’ll write more about that later in the week.  For now, I’ll tell you that I managed to write 6139 words in one week.  Yep.  2606 words in one day.  Apparently quite a bit was lurking behind that particular log jam.

You’d think I’d be settling into the new schedule by now, but you’d be wrong.  Wronger.  Wrongest.  My husband would point out that I simply do not deal well with change.  He’s right, but he really doesn’t have to be so smug about it.

Maybe what I’m learning is that I don’t need a schedule?  Hmm.  Me being me, I don’t really accept that, which means it could very well be the lesson I’m supposed to be learning.

While I keep trying to either build a new schedule or get something done without one, here are my goals for the week:

  1. 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey.   Done!
  2. Post a review on the Bookshelf.  Done!
  3. 1 post for PrayPower.   Done!
  4. Write my post for the Church blog.  Done!
  5. Brainstorm some new writing ideas.  Done!
  6. Add 1000 words to my middle grade.  In progress.
  7. Work on a new pitch for Writer’s Digest.
  8. Solicit two more interviews for my next CW piece.  In progress.
  9. Write at least two more sections on my next piece for WOW.
  10. Work on the guest blog post.
  11. Pull out two manuscripts and decide which one to rework for critique.  Done!
  12. Apply for several more educational writing gigs.  I’ll be working up the materials for book writing gigs this week.  Done!
Hope everyone is having an excellent writing week!

You Need to Love the Process

Microsoft Clip Art
Long term, you can't write just for the check.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, not the end.”

-Ursula K. LeGuin

How do you choose your writing projects?  Do you gravitate towards things that interest you or simply towards things that will bring a check?  I’m asking, because if your focus is the latter, it will show and it will not sustain you in your creative pursuits.

What proof do I have?  Nothing scientific.

But I have talked to a lot of writers over the past twenty years.  And the ones who write to cash in on the trends or to make a quick buck, don’t last.   How do I tell who these writers are?  They usually let me know themselves.  They are the adult writers trying to cash in on recent enthusiasm for Twilight and Harry Potter.  They can’t stand kids.  They didn’t like Twilight or Harry Potter, but they want the money.  Or they are the people who jump into writing because they have an idea that fits a trend.  They don’t like to read.  They don’t enjoy writing.  Again, they want that money.

Who are the ones who last?  They are the ones who have a story they are just itching to tell.  They have a character who won’t give them any peace.  They love to read.  They are constantly jotting in a notebook or into some electronic device or another.

Sure, the latter sometimes get discouraged.  And the former sometimes make a sale.

But I’ve seen a lot more sales come from writers who fall into the second group.  Why?  I can’t help but believe it is because they love what they do.  They are the ones who put in the necessary time and energy to improve their craft and succeed.

Find something to love about writing.  About your writing.  About the writing of others.  If you can pull this off, I’ll be seeing your work in print.  I’m sure of it.


More Information on 3-D Printing

Today's printers work on more than just paper.

Some time ago, I blogged about a nifty 3-D printer that could be used to copy something with moving parts.  In the video I linked to, they copied an adjustable wrench and “printed” it from a composite material that ended up looking a lot like plastic.  It seems that there is another version that prints using a metallic powder and is already being used to “print” airplane parts.

You can see two stories about that here and here.

What does this have to do with writing?  Read blogs and news pieces about things other than writing.  Just this week, I’ve found this piece, a piece on a local ghost hunt in 1948 and more.  You never know when or where you will come across something that will finds its way into your imagination and, thus, into your writing.


Asya Gonta

I’ll admit it: I don’t fully understand why person X is a paper sculptor and person Y is a paper artist.  That said, I know what I like and Asya Gonta’s work fascinates me.

You can check our her site for the photos.  Yes, yes.  There’s plenty of text but I don’t read Ukrainian.

And there is also a Vimeo video.  If you don’t see it below, it refused AGAIN to imbed and you can just click here.

I like her masks best.  What about you?  While you decide, I’ve got an original fairy tale I’m suddenly inspired to rewrite.


Great Books Abound in the Midwest

Is it self-centered when I get excited when I see an announcement for the Midwest Booksellers Choice Awards?  It isn’t that I don’t love books set all over the world, but it is really nice to see things written by Midwestern authors and in Midwestern settings.  It is especially fabulous when you adore one of the books.

The 2011 winners of the Awards are:

  • Adult Fiction: Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr (Akashic Books)
  • Adult Nonfiction: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure (Riverhead/Penguin Group)
  • Poetry: Swallowing the Soap by William Kloeforn (Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press)
  • Children’s Literature: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte Press/Random House)
  • Children’s Picture Book: Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen and David Small (Philomel/Penguin)

I love, love, love Elsie’s Bird; you can see my review here.  It is one of those books that I just want to clutch to my chest and go find a child to share in the reading experience.  And I just picked up the audio book for The Wilder Life  which I will start as soon as I finish The Help.  

If you are a Midwestern author and you haven’t read at least one of these books, get crackin’!   No excuses will be accepted.


Goals — Hitting Some, Missing Others

Something I’ve noticed about publicly posting my goals is that I don’t always update the list as I finish things.  Early in the week, I’m a champion.  Later on, not so much.  This means that although last weeks list may not reflect this fact, I made progress on each and every item.  Wahoo!   And worked on two things that weren’t on the list at all.  Yay, me!  How I did this and pulled down only 5704 words instead of my 6000 word goal is something of a mystery, but there you have it.

Among other things, this productivity brought in two new assignments so my to-do list this week looks something like this:

My goals for the week are:

  1. 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey.  Done!
  2. Post a review on the Bookshelf.  Done!
  3. 1 post for PrayPower.  Done!
  4. Write my post for the Church blog.  Done.
  5. Brainstorm some new writing ideas.  In progress.
  6. Rewrite chapter one and write chapter two on my middle grade.
  7. Work on a new pitch for Writer’s Digest.  In progress.
  8. Solicit more interviews for my next CW piece.  In progress.
  9. Start my next piece for WOW.  In progress.
  10. Work on a guest blog post I was asked to do.  In progress.
  11. Pull out two manuscripts and decide which one to rework for critique.
  12. Decide on applying for two educational writing gigs.  If “yes,” apply.  If “no” . . . that should be kind of obvious, yes?  Done.
That should be enough to overwhelm just about anyone so I guess I better stop there.

That Was Then . . . Writing in the Midst of Change

Change doesn't have to be a dirty job.

As I’m sure you realize, I’m big on setting goals.  Let’s just say that without a goal or three, I am very, very good at frittering away time.  But the goals that worked the last ten weeks or so probably won’t be a great fit this week.  Why?

Because my son has gone back to school.

And this school year is going to be different — he’s in middle school.   Middle school has brought a cluster of changes:

  • A new schedule.
  • Riding the bus.
  • Less (yes, less) homework.
  • Absolutely zero text books — ok, there are text books but they don’t hand them out.  They are for class room use.  At least in one class this means electronic books available online but I’m waiting to see what happens in the other 7 classes.
  • More after-school activities, including choir rehearsals.
  • Using a locker and switching classes.
  • A PE uniform.

While all of these things effect his life, only some of them effect my life directly.  The big ones are the new schedule, no homework and riding the bus.  I can’t count on late afternoon or evening hours to myself because he has so little homework.

But I can count on a longer scheduled workday, because I don’t take him to school or pick him up.  Having longer than I’ve ever had to work each day is definitely going to take some getting used to and I’ll probably alter my work habits a bit to compensate.

What changes do you need to make to address in your own work life?  Or are you persevering with “the old plan” even though it may no longer serves you well?

Give it some thought and you may see that you too need to change.  Please tell me that I’m not the only one!


Writer’s Block

To begin again or not to begin again?

After launching into the rewrite of my middle grade novel, I managed to log about twenty pages before I came to a screaming halt.  I realized that not only was I not working on it, I was actually cleaning house to avoid working on it.

For me, that’s a bad, bad sign.

Maybe I needed a better handle on the story.  I went back to the notes that I took while watching the Plot Whisperer videos.  I used these notes to make something vaguely resembling an outline.

Yes, vaguely.  But that part doesn’t bother me.

Next, I opened up the outline I had created before watching Plot Whisperer.   I simply had  to work this into my current outline as well.

This might not be avoidance-by-housework, but I dislike this kind of pre-writing almost as much as I dislike housework.  Clearly, I was still avoiding writing.


Unfortunately, I think that that problem may be that I don’t like my protagonist.  More accurately, I like my protagonist, but I don’t like the view of him that you get in my current first chapter.  He’s just too much of a victim.

I know, I could just keep writing.  And maybe that’s what I should do.

But I just don’t like this version of my character.  He isn’t the happy go-lucky goof that I know readers will love as much as I do.  I feel like I need to refind the kid that I adore so that I can tell his story in a way that will pull readers in.

Tomorrow I’m back to the beginning for a new chapter 1 — I have some really good ideas — and then we shall see what we shall see.