Why Is It More Fun to Write Something New?

New territory lies just beyond this wall.
New territory lies just beyond this wall.

Last week, I read The Thrill of the New and Shiny by Rachel Harris with great interest.

As much as I enjoy rewriting and watching a piece transform, there is an electric joy that comes from a first draft.

And I don’t mean the first draft of the new attempt to get a story right.

Nope.  I mean the honest to goodness first draft.  For me, not much else compares to creating that initial draft and watching it all come together.  Obviously there are times that it doesn’t all come together, but when it does . . . is anything better?  Maybe its the glory of discovery and shiny possibility.  I’m not sure what  causes it, but when I finished the first draft of a new picture book last week, I practically danced my way through the house.  Sure, it looked like I was just dodging cats but I was actually dancing.

Part of it may be that this is very different from anything else I’ve written for kids but it is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  The format is also going to be somewhat different from what I’ve done before.

What about you?  What’s your favorite?

Starting a new project…

Finishing a draft and typing the end…

Or reworking something…

For me there is something magical about beginning something new and I don’t think that it is just because it is a new manuscript.  It is a new topic and a somewhat different format.   I am, at least here at my desk, pioneering and exploring all new ground and it is truly amazing.


Congratulations to St. Louis author Jan Greenberg

Ballet for Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
My personal favorite.

I’d like to take a moment to congratulate the writing team of Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.  I’ve actually heard Jan speak and we’ve met in person.  She is the author, with Jordan, of amazing nonfiction biographies.

On Saturday, April 20th, the pair will receive the 2013 Nonfiction Award from the Children’s Book Guild.

If you haven’t read any of their books, you should.  My favorite is Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring which is both an Orbis Pictus Award winner and also Sibert Honor book.  Their book  Action Jackson is also a Sibert Honor book.  Wow.  For a complete listing of their books, visit this page on their site.

I’ve always been fascinated by the people that they choose.  Their subjects are usually artists of some kind and not necessarily people that you would think of as kid friendly, yet Greenberg and Jordan make them accessible.

Congratulations to two very deserving authors!


PW Fall Preview of Children’s Books now online

I know, I know.  If you’re a serious writer, you subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly.  I’ve heard it said.

Generally, I content myself with reading their online articles and reading the print magazine at the library.  Frankly, I’d rather save my money on things the library won’t buy for me.  Important things like coffee and chocolate.

The only information that I want in its entirety are the previews lists so I was incredibly happy to discover the Fall 2013 preview on line.  You can read it here.  I always scan the listings for the names of publishers that I don’t recognize as well as books from publisher’s that I’m interested in publishing with.  Sometimes I’ll see something and think “I didn’t know they were interested in anything like that.”

Yes, its twenty-five pages long but there’s a lot of useful information for those of us who do not yet have an agent.



Have You Replaced Your Google Reader?

As a result of a comment on last Monday’s blog post, I have abandoned Google Reader and made the switch to Feedly.

If you know me well, you probably already know that I generally only make technical changes kicking and screaming.  Technical, incidentally, involves things with buttons that use electricity.  Thus, my coat is not technical but my computer, my microwave and my phone are.

Anyway, I’ve made the jump to Feedly and thought I’d let all of you know how its going.

The first day, I was disappointed simply because the feed was really slow.  Really.  When the amount of time you watch the little swirly “I’m loading” icon equals the amount of time you spend reading, that’s slow.

But it makes sense.  Feedly probably didn’t plan on getting 500,000 Google Reader users in two days.  The fact that it was simply SLOW is somewhat amazing.

I’m still learning to navigate in Feedly.  It isn’t remotely difficult and I’m successfully reading everything that I want to read.  It only took me a day to figure out where the “number of new posts” was listed.  What I’m still figuring out are all the nifty little features like how to scroll back up to the top of a post or how to e-mail a post to myself or someone else.  Still haven’t figured that one out but I’ve also noticed that Feedly’s features are changing daily, judging by the appearance and migration of various buttons and icons in my feed.

Moving a blog feed from one folder to another is so easy that I’ve been doing housekeeping that I ignored with Google Reader.  Yep.  Housekeeping.  Scary, isn’t it?

I would definitely recommend Feedly to anyone looking for a RSS reader.


How to Hook Your Readers with Character Emotion

Paint chipOn the Education.com wall, I spotted a teaching aid made out of tri-toned paint chips. Each paint chip was labeled with an emotion, for example “scared.” Then each color value was labeled with a more or less intense version of said emotion. This meant that the lightest tint on a green paint chip labeled “scared” might be labeled “worried,” the medium tone “afraid,” and the most saturated “terrified.”

There was a whole stack of these paint chips each for a different emotion. Sad. Angry. Happy. They had been made up to help children understand “shades of meaning,” or what to call it when you’re a little scared vs. really scared.

That’s when it hit me.  Writers need to have an equal awareness of emotional intensity.

If I write a piece with my character emotions in the “tints” the entire time, it is going to be very quiet.  That might be ok, but it might also mean that I need to intensify the emotion.

If, on the other hand, I write a piece in which the characters are always elated, terrified or furious, I’m going to wear my reader out.

To read more about my musings on character emotion, check out yesterday’s blog post at the Muffin.


Music to Write By

Special thanks to writing friend Al White for alerting me to the fact that YouTube has entire Symphonies available.  I love listening to music while I work but I don’t like having to select a new piece on YouTube or listen to a commercial on Pandora or get up and find a disk (yes, we still have cd’s).

Then Al recommended Beethoven’s 7th Symphony which you can find in its entirety on YouTube.

I listened to this and what did I discover in the side bar?  Additional symphonies by Dvorak, Mozart, Vivaldi and Rachmaninoff.   Now I have plenty of music to help me complete a draft of my middle grade novel.  Of course, I’ll still be getting up for coffee.



Absent Characters and Shadowy Paper Art

First of all, thank you to Ann Martin of All Things Paper from bringing Rachael Ashe and her work to my attention through this blog post.   Although I love all of Ashe’s work, I have to say that my favorites are the paper cut structures.  You’re going to have to click on this link [http://www.flickr.com/photos/goddess_spiral/8548612557/] to see one of them since I can’t imbed the image.   What I like is that the shadow is every bit as impressive as the object.

This got me thinking about the shadow characters in our stories.  I just finished reading Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio.  In this story, the main character is haunted by the loss of her unborn son as the result of a car accident that happens before the book begins.  The boy is never there physically but he effects everything that his mother and father do.

I have a shadow character in my current WIP.  In the original version of the story, Mom had a tendency to interfere and make decisions that other mom’s (like critique partners and agents) questioned.  No, she wasn’t a good Mom but I’ve seen moms like her in action.  In this version of the story, Mom is absent.  My main character thinks he knows why but he’s wrong.  Yet Mom’s absence colors so many of his actions and decisions.

Do you have a shadow character in your own story?


Online Crafts and Activities

For this company, I write e-content.

Three more of my activities are up on Education.com.

How to Make a Secret Code involves wrapping a strip of paper around a broom stick.  Very high tech!

Layers of the Earth Project was a lot of fun since I got to make homemade play clay (remember, no brand names).

Mayan Art involves making a Mayan glyph by gluing twine on cardboard and then painting it white so resemble stone.  This one actually took several tries to get right since the original plans were to “draw” with glue on cardboard to make the glyph and then paint the whole.  The wet glue warped the corrugated cardboard before the glue dried so I initially made Salvador Dali melting glyphs.  They were, to put it mildly, odd.

But this highlights something very important.  If you are going to submit activities and crafts, follow your own instructions.  This way, when something doesn’t work, you can come up with something that does.

It also means that sometimes, when you read other people’s crafts, you’ll laugh out loud.  “You so did NOT make this first!”

If you want to keep selling to your editor, give her something that you’ve tested unless you can figure out how to work the goof-up into the activity.


Bye-Bye Google Reader

Last Thursday, I got everything set up on my treadmill desk and clicked on Google Reader, ready to settle in for a nice long walk and time to read 190 or so blog posts (no, I don’t read all of them).  Before I could click on any of my categories, I cute little message popped up.  Google wanted to tell me that Reader would no longer be available as of 7/1/2013.

Yes, that gives me some time, but its time I could have spent . . . well, what do you think? . . . writing.

The problem with finding another RSS reader is that many of them use Google Reader.  I’m not sure how this works but without Google Reader, they aren’t going to have access to the information either.  Oh, joy.

I’ve been doing some looking around and reading various recommendations.  Go with another free service, and I might find myself having to replace it when the provider shuts it down.  This is a realistic concern given the fact that the same day that Google made their announcement, another free feed reader, FeedDemon, announced that it too is closing down.

Now is when I have to be honest.  I read on my reader.  I don’t store things or file things or read on multiple devices.  I don’t need numerous feature or bells or spinning lights.  I am also astonishingly frugal so I’ll probably go with something else that is free.  Here are the ones that I am currently considering:

The Old Reader.

Feedly which may be in the lead because it offers a Chrome version.  Since I use that particular browser, this one might be my choice.

Bloglovin has a nice handy “click here you poor Google people” button. Okay, that’s not what they call it but it is certainly what they mean.

Yes, there are scads of other choices but if you give me too many choices, I just freeze up.   So right now, these are the three I’m considering.

If you too use Google Reader, you can find out how to export your data here.

I started using Google Reader some time ago when the service I used shut down.   Hopefully I’ll mange to transfer my information successfully a second time.  Fingers crossed!