One Writer’s Journey

October 16, 2019

Writing Fast: 3 Tips to Help You Get the Words Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:11 am
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Image from Microsoft clipart.

Does your manuscript pass the egg timer test?

have a book due Friday so I’m in the midst of a rewrite.  Before I can do this essential task, I need to get words on the page. I can rough out 12,500 to 15,000 words in about 7 days.  Here are three tips to help you get the words down fast.

  1.  Have a plan.  When I’m working on one of these nonfiction projects, my plan is generally an outline.  If you are writing fiction, each might be a Save the Cat beat sheet.  Your plan doesn’t have to have a lot of detail.  You just need to know where you are going and various points of interest along the way.
  2. Write now.  Not only do I mean sit down to write but I also mean don’t stop to do other things. A friend co-authors and she has to take her partner’s phone away to keep her friend on task.  If you are working alone, leave your phone in the other room.  When you are writing, you may come across something you don’t know.  Maybe it is a statistic, a full name or a quote.  Don’t stop writing.  Instead, leave yourself a note.  WHAT IS BUBBY’S REAL NAME?  You are going to need a break but plan for this by . . . 
  3. Setting a timer.  Fifteen minutes usually feels scant to me, but I also know that I can’t write for an hour without moving.  I tend to go for 25 minutes.  Try 20 minutes and see how that works for you.  Get up.  Take a 5 or 10 minute break, but again set a timer.  When that timer goes off, sit down and write some more.  Yes, you will eventually hit a while but little by little you will build up your writing muscle.  Who knows, you may work yourself up to 2 or 3 hours with breaks.  If you do just think about the progress you will make.

When I’m facing a really tough deadline, I’ll write for 25 minutes, walk on the treadmill for 10, write for another 25, then head back to the treadmilll.  After about four writing sessions, I usually need a longer break but I can do this twice a day.  You may not have as much time so work with what you have to come up with a schedule and practice that work for you.




October 15, 2019

Teen Read Week: Win A Set of Books

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:45 am
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Teen Read Week: October 13-19. Enter to win 1 of the 13 collections of books below by these amazing publishers. Join us in celebrating Teen Read Week, October 13-19, 2019.Mackin Library Services is celebrating Teen Read Week by giving away book collections from 13 different publishers.  If you are a teacher, check it out and enter!  You can click here to go to the entry form.

Participating publishers and imprints include Bloomsbury, Candlewick Press, Diamond Book Distributors, Hachette, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, MacMillan, Penguin Random House, Penguin Young Readers, Random House, Scholastic, Simon and Schuster, and Tor.

Fortunately you don’t have to decide which package you would like to win.  You simply enter.

Which would I want?  I’d love to read Mimi Yu’s The Girl King and Kingdom of Ash by Sarah Maas from Bloomsbury.

Then there’s Dreaming in Code about Ada Lovelace from Candlewick.

Mike Winchell’s nonfiction Electric War is bound to be good.  That one’s from MacMillan.  Hey, I was raised by an electrical lab instructor.  Some things you can’t shake.

There are so many good books.  If you teach teens, enter.  If you know someone who teaches teens, let them know about the contest!

Now, off to work on my rewrite.


October 14, 2019

Book Sightings

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:40 am

Last Friday morning, I was puttering along on Facebook.  I hadn’t even made coffee yet when I came across a friend’s post.  “When your kid brings this book into your perfectly happy dog-free home and you have to read an entire chapter that very persuasively debunks your #1 allergy argument, suddenly censorship of books doesn’t seem all that unreasonable.”  Oh, yeah.  I remember those arguments.  No, you can’t have a snake/snapping turtle/goat/savanna cat, etc.

Then I scrolled down to the photo.  That cover looks familiar.

Wait a minute, my friend was joking about MY book.  So I responded.  “Hmm. Of all my books, I never thought this was the one parents would try to censor. 😁”

We’ve had a good laugh about this and she said that I could share her daughter’s photo.  But seriously, if you want to make an author’s day, post a photo of your child with their book.  Or your class with their book.  Or maybe even your cat with their book.

Okay, the cat is mine.

The next time you or your child enjoy a book, share a photo.  There is a good chance that you will make someone’s day especially if you make a cheeky comment.

That said, I feel like I should said my friend Julie a fruit basket or something.  She has requested that I write a book about pet rocks.  I’m thinking about something on the importance of zoo adoptions.  Or wildlife sponsorships.  Sorry, Julie!


October 11, 2019

Setting the Scene in Your Home Office

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:39 am
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The other day I read a post by Debbie Ridpath-Ohi, Want to Do Your Drawing or Writing in a Medieval Tavern...  This was the first that I had ever heard of of ASMR or Animated Scenes for Meditation or Relaxation.

As Ohi explains, she has a basement office and she likes to shake things up a bit.  With a quick visit to Youtube, she can have a fireplace flickering away on her screen which she especially enjoys doing in winter.

Hmm.  Sometimes I need just a bit of noise to function much like a white noise machine.  So I clicked over to the Youtube Channel that Ohi recommends, ASMR Rooms.  Take a quick look around and you’ll discover that the animator has a thing for Harry Potter.  Of course, Harry Potter is a natural choice for this kind of thing.  The focus is on one scene, something not quite static. There might be snow or rain falling and a fireplace or candles flickering.  Footsteps.  Voices.  Pages turning.  The emphasis is on subtle sounds.  I can definitely see having somethink like this going in the background while I work.  Given that the videos tend to be about an hour long, you’d have plenty of work time.

In addition to Harry Potter there is Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.  Yeah.  That one gave me pause. How many places in Westeros would I really want to be?  Why not toss in the Walking Dead?  Oh, right.  Not relaxing.

I think my favorite is “Summer Night Study Ambiance, My Neighbor Totoro Inspired, Night Fieldsin Rural Japan.”  The sounds include crickets and other insect and/or frogs and the breeze.

Check out the page and see if something strikes your fancy.  Maybe even Westeros.


October 10, 2019

Inanimate Objects Tell It Like It Is

How do you take a step back from an emotional topic and give young readers the space they need to read and learn about it?  Linda Skeers recommends using an “unnatural narrator.”  Think inanimate object.

One of the topics that Skeers discusses are riots, specifically the Stonewall Riots.  Rob Sanders rights about the riots in a way that is suitable for young readers by showing everything from the perspective of a wall that stood where the riots took place.  You can read Linda’s post here.

What would the cobblestones on the St. Louis riverfront have witnessed?  Families arriving to leave again by wagon train.  Lewis and Clark. Floods.  Parades.  Possibly even the Dred Scott trials.

What about a rivet on the space shuttle?  I’m assuming there are rivets.  If not a rivet, a tile.  The construction of the shuttle. The first time the crew sees it. Pre-flight checks.  Launch.  Space.  Reentry.

Then there are belongings of famous people.  Abe Lincoln’s top hat.  I almost said Maria Tallchief’s toe shoes but toe shoes get disgusting so I’ll give that one a miss.  An explorer’s spy glass.  A musician’s violin.  Oooo.  I like that idea.    An inventor’s soldering iron.  The fresnel lens in a light house.  The Mona Lisa.

I think I would avoid trying to write from the perspective of an animal.  This came to me as I was contemplating an explorer’s horse.  As much as I adore horses, I think it would be a lot of “good forage,”  “Oh, no!  What’s that?”

I’m going to read a couple of the books that Linda recommended but I’m thinking this is form I might want to play with . . . ooooo, a printing press.  A river boat.  No, a keel boat.

Yeah, this is definitely a form that intrigues me.


October 9, 2019

Spin a Story: How to Avoid Preaching to Your Reader

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 12:17 am
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Recently I read New Kid by Jerry Craft.  This book is a must read for anyone who is writing about a sensitive topic.

What do I mean by a sensitive topic?  Anything that it is easy to, as my mother would have said, get on your high horse about.  Politics.  Immigration.  Social justice.  Anything like that could be a sensitive topic.

The sensitive topics that Craft deals with in his book are race and social justice.  He keeps from preaching by creating a rich story that pulls the reader in.  In New Kid, Jordan Banks is wild about his art.  He draws pictures of the world around him and longs to study art in school. But his parents send him to a posh private high school known for academics, not art.  From day one, Jordan feels like he doesn’t belong. It is a private school.  Jordan is there on scholarship.  Jordan is African-American.  The vast majority of his classmates are white.  Like many schools, this one goes nuts over their sports teams.  Unlike many schools, students are required to particpate in theater or be on a team.  The story is all about Jordan’s struggle to make friends and to find a place at his new school.

How does Craft make it work?  He uses humor.  Seriously, do not read this graphic novel any place you have to be quiet.  The humor is 100% tween boy and I found myself laughing aloud again and again.

Another reason that New Kid works so well is that Craft tells the truth.  It may not be a truth that everyone will appreciate but it is the truth experienced by African American all over this country.  Teachers cannot tell Jordan from other African-American students.  One teacher is blatantly racist, calling Jordan and another student on anything they do that is aggressive or inappropriate but ignoring the same things when Caucasian students do them.  She also refers to their scholarships every chance she gets.  Then there’s the teacher who worries that every other thing he says might be racist so he apologizes.  Repeatedly.

What sensitive topic are you writing about?  Even if it isn’t race or social justice, take a look at New Kid for some ideas on how to do it right.


October 8, 2019

The 2019 Kansas Authors Club Children’s Book Award

When a writer creates a new manuscript, we hope it will connect with readers and help them see the world in a new way.  Jennifer Bailey not only succeeded in doing that but has been recognized for her accomplishment.

Congratulations to writing friend Jenn Bailey!  Her picture book, A Friend for Henry, just won the 2019 Kansas Authors Club Children’s Book Award.

For those of you who have never heard about this award, here is the description from the site:

“The Kansas Authors Club Children’s Book Award was created in 2018 to honor the best book written with an audience of children in mind. . . The Children’s Book Award is sponsored in memory of Craig Grant. Craig was a champion of public education. He believed reading is basic to sharing our thoughts and feelings; understanding and accepting our differences and sameness; and helping us to learn about our world.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d think that Jenn wrote her book with this award in mind.

Her main character, Henry, is a boy on the autism spectrum.  To look at Henry, someone who doesn’t know him may not realize that he’s been on the lookout for a friend. He simply has troubles connecting with people and when he tries, people misudertand his efforts.  Add to this the problem that most of his peers are just TOO much for Henry to handle.

Given the number of children on the autism spectrum, we need books that will help their classmates understand what they are thinking and how to connect iwth them.  Jennifer’s book does that and hopefully this award will help word get out and get this book on the shelves of classrooms and libraries.




October 7, 2019

Free Conference: LibraryCon Live!

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:03 am

LibraryCon Live! is a virtual conference put on by Library Journal and School Library Journal. I attended this event last fall and have to say it was the best conference I’ve attended in years.  Informative and entertaining and, unlike many virtual events, no tech issues!

Here is their description of this year’s event:  “We’re excited to offer a day-long celebration of fandom-beloved stories and characters, featuring the creators behind mind-bending speculative fiction, innovative comics, and fan-favorite graphic novels.”

They’ve also posted the agenda:

11:00 AM – 11:30 AM | Opening Keynote
Stan Sakai in Converation: Talking Manga (IDW)
Best known as the creator of the “Usagi Yojimbo” comic series, Stan Sakai has been creating cartoons and comics for over 35 years.

11:30 AM – 12:15 PM | Panel 1 | Fantastic World-Building
Mystical Viking warriors. China in 484 A.D. A ruthless galactic empire. A modern Gothic nightmarescape. A secret society of black magicians. While wildly different, each of the works highlighted by the authors and artists on this panel share a common trait: exemplary world-building. Five creators discuss how they construct intricate and believable fantastic worlds.
Natasha Alterici Heathen, Vol. 2 (Diamond)
Sherry Thomas The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan (Lee & Low)
Emily Skrutskie Bonds of Brass (Del Rey)
Hannah Templer GLOW vs. the Star Primas (IDW)
Brandon Thomas  Excellence, Vol. 1 (Image)

12:30 PM – 1:00 PM | Lunch Keynote
Henry BarajasLa Voz de M.A.Y.O Tata Rambo (Image)
In La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo, Henry Barajas tells the true story of how his grandfather, Ramon Jaurigue (a.k.a. Tata Rambo), co-founded the Mexican, American, Yaqui, and Others (M.A.Y.O.) organization, which successfully lobbied the Tucson City Council to improve living and working conditions for members of the Pascua Yaqui and led to federal recognition of the Yaqui tribe.

1:00 PM – 1:45 PM | Panel 2 | Stories That Engage Young Readers (and Beyond)
Relatable heroes, adventure-filled journeys, and laugh-out-loud truisms define these narratives for middle grade and teen readers. In this panel, authors and artists will discuss how they craft the highly engaging stories that young readers crave.
Lucy Knisley Stepping Stones (RH)
Christine Taylor-Butler The Lost Tribe: Trials (Move)
Jen Wang Stargazing (Macmillan)
Will Henry Snug Harbor Stories: A Wallce the Brave Collection (Andrews McMeel)
Drew Brockington “CatStronauts” series; Hangry (Little, Brown)
Sarah Kuhn Shadow of the Batgirl (DC)

1:45 PM – 2:15 PM | Fast Learning Session 1: How the Arlington Public Library Does Their ComicCon Program
Thinking about hosting a ComicCon-style event at your library? Hear Tamera Miller, Program Specialist at the Arlington Public Library (TX), discuss her library’s highly successful model, and learn how to plan, market, and run your own Con.

2:15 PM – 2:45 PM | Fast Learning Session 2: Comics Nerd Expert Picks   
Nicholas Allen, comics writer and co-founder of Rexco Comics, will talk about some of the must-have, under-the-radar new and forthcoming comics titles librarians need to know about, including his favorite web comics.
3:00 PM – 3:45 PM | Panel 3 | Portrait of the Artists
Though their styles and techniques vary greatly, the artists on this panel share a commitment to excellence in visual storytelling. This panel will offer a behind-the-scenes deep dive into their artistic processes.
Erin Nations Gumballs (IDW)
Khary Randolph Excellence, Vol. 1 (Image)
Becky Cloonan Reaver; By Chance or By Providence (Image)
Gabriel Rodriguez “Locke & Key” series; Tales from the Darkside (IDW)

3:45 PM – 4:15 PM | Closing Keynote
James Tynion IV, Something Is Killing the Children (BOOM! Studios)
Best known for his work on the Batman series with DC Comics, GLAAD Award-winning writer James Tynion IV now delves into horror with a brand-new limited series, Something Is Killing the Children, about “staring into the abyss to find your worst fears staring back.”

Sue here:

All of these sessions look really interesting.  The ones that I’m looking forward to the most? I’d have to say Henry Barajas, La Voz de M.A.Y.O Tata Rambo, and Panel 3: Portrait of the Artists.  I really want to see Barajas session because I’m a sucker for social justice true stories.  And, although I don’t illustrate, I love illustrator sessions.

So looking forward to this event.  If you are interesting in signing up, click here.


October 4, 2019

Slow Reading: A TED Talk with Jacqueline Woodson

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:08 am
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Unlike my husband and my son,  I am a fast reader.  I fly through books at an alarming speed.  If I drove this fast, someone would pull me over.

I’ve always known that fast may not be best when it comes to reading.  My husband and son both remember virtually everything they read.  I remember the broad strokes.  Some of the details filter down before I turn the page but not all.

Don’t tell the boys but like them, Jacqueline Woodson is a slow reader.  Check out her TED Talk below on the benefits of slow reading.


October 3, 2019

Cover Reveals: JFK plus Tupac & Biggie

Love, love, love finding my book covers online. If nothing else, it means I can now tell people about the books. These are my two latest.

When they sent me the list of “American Crime Stories” titles, I immediately requested The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.  I’d grown up with this story.  My father worked at Channel 11 in Lubbock, Texas and was at work when JFK was shot.  My mom told me about getting a phone call from Dad telling her to turn on the TV and he had no clue when he’d get off work.  He was there for the duration. I grew up hearing about the assassination and Oswald. This wasn’t an opportunity I was going to pass up.

The day I was assigned the Kennedy book, I told my son I had the assignment. He asked me what other topics were on the list.  “Why didn’t you ask for Tupac and Biggie, too?  Can you still claim that one?” He did a hard sell on how culturally relevant this book would be to younger readers who liked rap and thus had more interest in rap icons than in dead presidents.

“Dead presidents?”

“Old white guys, Mom.  You know what I mean.”

He did eventually admit that he also thought the JFK book was cool too but that he thought I needed to do both.  “You’ve done a whole group of books that deal with race.  You need another one.”

That was an argument that actually made more sense to me.  Shore up an existing specialty with another title.

I’m not going to say that either was easy to research. There are a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding each topic.  Making a collection of each actually got pretty interesting.  Between the two books I have to say that my favorite conspiracy involved little green men.


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