Tuesday, June 30, 2009


REALLY! We want YOU to TELL US. Pop over to Holly's. We want to hear from you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Moment #25

Whoa! What a day we had yesterday.

We sailed over the Sound because dear friends, from out of state, were visiting and having a picnic get-together. But when you load a family of four into the minivan to venture across Puget Sound, you really want to make a day of it. I mean, the ferry boat crossing for the whole family is $45 alone. Phew!

The picnic wasn't happening until late afternoon, so we headed into the city with the girlies. We decided to go the Pacific Science Center which is located at the Seattle Center. We arrived around noon, as the sun started shining, and people were just starting to arrive at the Seattle Center. We could see that some sort of festival was getting started as we walked through the big, grassy, fountain area on our way to PSC. A massive rainbow banner tipped us off that it was Pridefest09.

We went about our business at the PSC exhibits, starting with Grossology, which was fun and gross and educational. We went through the many other exhibits, including the butterflies which are very cool. All super fun. But, before we knew it, it was time to go.

Once we left and ventured back out into the Seattle Center, the place was hopping--shoulder-to-shoulder kind of hopping. People were happy and decked out in lots of rainbow colors, some more bright and colorful than others. But once we were in the thick of it, things started to become more interesting. First there was the run in with, what my seven-year-old girlie dubbed, the butt shorts (meaning buttless). Probably a bit uncomfortable when you're eye level with the wearer's backside. As I tried steer one of the girls a bit to the side so her view was a little less cheeky, the view instead became breasts (and as the girls said, "with tape.") But, there were many really interesting costumes, too (like the one in this photo...sorry friends, no photo of the butt shorts).

So, my kids (like most 7 and 9 year olds) have not been exposed to "butt shorts" or pasties. But I have to say, they handled themselves very well, in a situation where I know they felt a bit embarrassed. And so did their mom and dad. I think I blushed a bit (more because I was with my kids than anything). But the mommy and daddy handle it well, too (I hope). As we walked through the crowd, we let them know it was a festival and that it was okay to dress (or more like not dress) as they were, that we all have butts and breasts. No biggie. Then once in the car, we told them a bit about Pridefest. But the interesting part was to hear them chat about it as we drove down the road, so matter of fact.

Anyway, it got me thinking about coming upon something unexpected (especially when that something might make one feel embarrassed or uncomfortable).

How about your main character? Can they identify with something (or someone) being unexpected? How do they react? And how does the adult(s) in their life react or handle the situation?

Whip of the Week #5

Truly, you all should be giving yourselves a pat on the back - you've hung in there for four weeks of revision and even liked it! Holly and I have been inspired by your participating and dedication: both of us have made significant progress on our projects, too! Inspiration in numbers has become a theme here at the Summer Revision Smackdown.

And it's not over yet! We still have much to do this week!

Tomorrow, go to Holly's blog for a "You Tell Us" feature. What's YOUR best revision tip?

Then, on Wednesday (after June is officially over!) come to Jolie's blog to make your case for THE WHIPLASH AWARD. Why should you get the hottest award of the summer? Tell us the sordid, fascinating details - we really want to know.

But first things first: honorable mentions for this week's WHIP OF THE WEEK (and trust us, it has become increasingly difficult to choose in this incredible pool of deserving Smackdowners).

Janet Lee Carey, who wrestled with the dreaded synopsis of one novel and wrote the first three chapters of a new novel. Be fearless, Janet! (Note from Holly: being in Janet's critique group, can I just say that I can't wait to hear the new book?!?!)

StinkyLulu, who met two of his three goals: revising PB#1 and making huge progress on a YA novel. Way to rock it, Brian!

-karen ann., who finished her manuscript revision and will be giving it to her critique group today. Right on, Karen!

And...the Week 5 WHIP OF THE WEEK...a force to be reckoned with is...

Realm Lovejoy!

Here's what Realm said about her week:

I am satisfied with the goals I've met this week. I finally caught up to my illustrations and producing at a healthy rate. I work best in the mornings on them. I was able to work on both book illustrations and ones for the blog.

My second novel draft is headed in the right direction and I got to write a bunch on the weekend. I actually changed what my second book will be at the start of June. A lot of my writing went into plans, research, throw away drafts and such, but I feel that I know exactly what I want for the second book and confidant that the first draft will keep growing this summer. I will be using the tips you all shared!

I learned a lot about managing my schedule and knowing what times work best--and how easy it can slip away. The Summer Revision Smackdown helped me get back on track!

Thank you, everyone!

We are proud of every one of you as you near the finish line. So, Smackdowners: what will be your goals for this week and beyond?

Friday, June 26, 2009

SRS Revision Report #4

That's right! Week 4. And we're so excited about how much has been accomplished in theses last four weeks, along with the true show of community and support. It's been a blast.

So much so that we told you earlier that we do have future plans for the smackdown. Stayed tuned to hear about them next week as June comes to an end.

Because...that's right...June is nowhere near over. You still have through Tuesday the 3oth to meet those original SRS goals.

But right now, we want to know how you did in week 4. Tell us...tell us...tell us!!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

SRS Lash Flash #4: Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

Wow. In some ways this month has flown by, but the progress made indicates the time that's been spent. And the tips! Man have they been wonderful--not to mention helpful.

Today, I'm pleased to welcome debut novelist Krisin O'Donnell Tubb for this final Lash Flash of Summer Revision Smackdown. Kristin's book AUTUMN WINIFRED OLIVER DOES THINGS DIFFERENT hit the shelves in 2008, and she recently sold her second novel to Feiwel & Friends. Way to go, Kristin. Make sure you head over to Holly's where she has Mitali Perkins.

When I asked Kristin for her revision tip, she jumped out with this:


I might as well have hopped out of the bushes on a dark and stormy night and yelled, “Boo!”, right? That’s how I felt about revising until I took a Novel Revision Workshop with Darcy Pattison (
http://www.darcypattison.com/). One of the coolest tricks I learned at that workshop was what Darcy calls the “shrunken manuscript:” shrink your entire manuscript down to single-spaced 8-point font, and remove all page and chapter breaks. This will bring a 100-page manuscript down to roughly 20 pages.

There’s something about working with a shrunken manuscript that makes the revision process seem more manageable. Perhaps it’s easier to kill off your precious words when they’re in 8-point font. Perhaps it’s easier to move a block of text two pages, instead of ten. And for visual learners like myself, it’s much easier to see the arc of your story when you can physically lay out your pages before you on the floor.

Revising is more than word choice and punctuation. It is “re-visioning” your story. And for me, being able to see my entire story in 30ish pages helps me to see if two characters play the same role, or if I’ve bludgeoned a point to death, or if the protagonist acts one way in Chapter 2 and another way in Chapter 10.
I have officially banished my fear of the Revision Ghouls leaping out at me on a dark and stormy night. Now if I could just do something about those First Draft Demons…
Thank you, Kristin!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SRS Wednesday Whip Tip #4

Number 4...really!?! I can't belieive it. I hope this final week is turning into a whip-crackin'-get-it-done week! And, can you believe there are still tips to be had? Truly...amazing tips!

I'm thrilled to welcome Liz Gallagher, author of THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE. Be sure to check out her personal blog as well as Through the TollBooth. And Liz recently joined readergirlz as their Seattle Host/Events Coordinator...too cool!

Welcome, Liz!

Liz offers the following tip:

I'd say my best revision tip is to become a stranger to your work. Which is as difficult as it sounds. But if you can manage to read your work as if you didn't write it, you're likely to spot bumps and bruises while there's still time to heal them.

I find this technique to be best for when I'm at the point where I'm pretty sure the content of what I'm reading is set. If I know a chapter's plot and events are in stone, so I don't have to worry about them for the moment, and I want to make sure that chapter reads well, I'll step away from it for a bit and then read it just for language and flow--and, perhaps most importantly, what I think of as the emotional arc. Can I read it and feel what the character is feeling? I'm looking for snags.

If I don't find them, then I'm happy to become me again and be proud of a smooth chapter. And if something snags, I'll smooth it, and then I'm doing good revision work!

Love this, Liz. Thank you! I think it comes at a perfect time.

Ah, and tomorrow, our very last Lash Flash (sniff-sniff) with Kristin O'Donnell Tubb (here) and Mitali Perkins (over at Holly's).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SRS Smackdown Spotlight #4: Kjersten Anna Hayes

I think it's time to hear from an illustrator (and picture book writer), don't you?

But first, don't forget to stop by Holly's where she's spotlighting Beth Kephart.

But let's get back to spotlighting an illustrator smackdowning. She was our first Whip of the Week, it's Kjersten Anna Hayes! Visit her website, Collage Clips blog, and Etsy Shop!
First, I asked Kjersten to tell us a about her current revision project:

My current revision project is an illustrated dummy of a picture book story I wrote, called Patchwork by the River. I love working on it because the main characters, Opossum, Crow and Armadillo are scrappy, full of heart and fun to draw. Plus Tree houses are involved. Who wouldn’t want to sit around drawing tree houses?

I’m also working on an illustration assignment for the SCBWI Nevada Mentor program that I’m participating in. It’s a blast.

And for a revision tip, Kjersten offers the following:

I try to approach drawing, writing and revising all with a spirit of play. This is especially important with revision because it’s the easiest part to bog and clog up on.

What I mean is, revision can often be like the parachute jumper trying not to land on the only tree in the field but ends up there anyway because it’s the only part of the field she was focusing on. When you focus on what doesn’t work with your writing, you clog up your mind; you end up tangled in your obstacles because they were what you focused on.

Instead of focusing on what sucks in my work, I prefer to aim my wings towards where I want them to go. Revision is asking the question, "What can I do to make this better?" over and over and over. And then it’s answering that question with a spirit of play by brainstorming.

Brainstorming simply means trying lots of stuff. It means sitting down and working. I ask "what if" questions and "how about I try" questions. I draw and draw and draw some more. I keep trying different things like I’m playfully solving a puzzle in the Sunday paper. If something new or better comes along, I take note. I hone in. I draw until one part is markedly improved and then move to the next challenge.

When I revise, I go through this process with every drawing, every composition and every page turn. Even the ones I already like. I ask myself the same question over and over. "What can I do to make this better? What can I do to make this better? What can I do to make this better?" Then when I’m done I go back around for a second revision or a third or as many as it takes.
Because that’s my job as an illustrator: to make my picture books be the best they can possibly be.

Great message, Kjersten! Hey, smackdowners...where will you put your focus during this last week of the smackdown?

Plus, I love Kjersten's fresh take on journaling...check it out HERE.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Moment #24

Ah, Father's Day. It put me a bit behind schedule. I typically try to pre-post my Monday Moments so that they are available first thing...for all you up-and-at-'em-go getters. However, yesterday I tried to stay away from my computer as much as possible. You see, for some reason, my husband often thinks I love it more than him. Poor fella. I felt for Father's Day I would only use the computer for absolute musts and nothing more.

It's fitting that today's Monday Moment comes straight from Father's Day and a sweet kiddo.

I love that my girlies would much rather create gifts and cards than buy them. Really, it's nothing I've encouraged, but what they do and who they are--and quite sweet. And, really...have you seen the price of cards lately? Plus, the ones they make are always soooo much more special. Anyway, my seven-year-old girlie also really wanted to bake something. She loves to work in kitchen. Her choice--brownies. Yum!

When it was time, she went into the kitchen, put on her apron, and was ready to work. But this time around, I tried to keep my hands out of the work as much as possible. She read every direction, retrieved each ingredient and measuring tool, and put it all together. At one point she asked, "Mommy, why aren't you helping?" I told her it was her gift and I knew she could do it herself. Then she asked, "Even putting it in and taking it out of the oven?" I told her I thought she was ready. I stood back and watched her hard at work. I could tell she was proud. And I was proud of her. She cracked an egg like a pro, mixed it all up, and the only help she required was a little extra muscle to hold up the bowl while she scraped every bit of brownie batter should could into the pan. Not only that, but when she was done, she washed, dried, put away her dishes. Impressive, eh?

It was very cool. Sometimes as a mom it's harder to step back and let a kiddo go at it alone, but when they do, you can see the pride. I know it in the face she makes, licking her lips, as she tries to hide a smile.

But we all have these moments, as kids, teen, and adults. The moments of doing something for the first time completely on our own. It can be exciting and scary all at once. And I suppose, depending on the situation, the outcome positive or negative.

Describe an experience your character has when doing something on their own for the first time.

SRS Whip of the Week #4

How can that be? How can we be in our final week of Summer Revision Smackdown 2009? (Well, stayed tunes for breaking details.)

It's been great to see that, although it seemed to be a quiet week around the smackdown, many of you were hard at work and making progress. Just what we like to hear. Holly and I also noticed how eager you all are to meet your original goals and your plans for an all out run to the finish line to make it happen. We can already hear the crack of the whip in the air as you all gear up for the final stretch...a sprint to the finish line (just imagine the sweet victory as you break through the licorice tape, hands in the air, triumphant)!

Keep it up!

Now to Whip of the Week. Let's start with our Honorable Mentions:

Lisa L. Owens, who cracked the code to meeting her original goal and is diving into a total rewrite. Right on, Lisa!

Alison, who has been doing well with her revision goals despite vacation, work, and a new arrival in 4 weeks--yes, a baby. Amazing, Alison!

Shari Green has not only been meeting her revision goals but had a "lovely little plot epiphany" as a result of banging her head against her keyboard. Thanks for the revision tip, Shari (even though we may have red foreheads)!

Instead of drum roll, how about a big, rolling wherplash to announce this week's Whip which goes to...

Here's what llt said about week 3:

This week has probably been my best. After receiving a very helpful critique at a SCBWI Conference last Saturday, I sat down with my plans all sketched out. I listened to the editor and began my WIP with my female MC and not the male MC. Then I revised the first 50 pages, moving and removing, putting back in some mystery and revving up the conflict.

With my second WIP I took some advice from this blog and got out a stack of index cards and outlined each chapter. It felt so good to be organized and to see everything sketched out in front of me. I went in and revised forty-five pages with the help of my new card system.

This smackdown has really helped me keep my focus on organizing, revising and writing in general. Paired with the conference, I feel my creativity mojo has been enhanced and I'm determined to finish both works by the end of August.So I thank you ladies for the good swift shove I needed to remain on track:)

You are so very welcome, llt!

The fact that this little venture of ours has been helpful (we so appreciate your appreciation) has our writerly hearts soaring over the smackdown rainbow! And so many of you have asked, Can you keep the Smackdown going? And we're taking your request seriously. Stayed tuned for future info about Summer Revison Smackdown!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why I Don't Work At Home

I get nothing done.

It's all...

Visual evidence:

We've been working on our office, attempting to make it a cozy place to work. But there's been some shredding going on. It only took one ring of the doorbell and the need to go get something from the garage for Luna to make her way into the office to work on her own personal art project (or contribution to the office clean-up).

However the above title doesn't work any longer, because now I do have to work at home, and somehow make it productive, regardless of all the interruptions.


Here's my latest interruption...

Blogging about my interruptions (updates included). Here's a pic of Luna outside my office doors looking oh-so pitiful!

SRS Revision Report #3 (and a suggestion)


A suggestion: You've been working so hard...but have you backed up your work lately!?!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

SRS Lash Flash #3: Paula Yoo

All right, smackdowners. You've been quiet this week, but hopefully you're continuing to soak up all the goodness and tips coming at you. And today continues to deliver. Don't miss Carrie Jone's over at Holly's.

I'm so excited to welcome acclaimed author, TV drama screen writer, and musician, Paula Yoo. Paula's latest book is SHINING STAR: THE ANNA WONG STORY. Paula is also the author of GOOD ENOUGH and SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY. She also recently organized and hosted NaPiBoWriWee!

Today, Paula offers us this great thought:

Here's a fun revision tip I learned at one of the billion writing classes I took when I was first starting out as a writer.

I remember one writing teacher suggested we consider cutting the final paragraph. She said often times, we would find that the second-to-last paragraph truly was the real ending to our story. She explained that when we write first drafts, sometimes we aren't confident enough or we don't trust our readers, so we add on that extra last paragraph that over-explains the ending or over-sentimentalizes the story's final image to the point of sledgehammer overkill.
I have found that every time I try this trick, nine times out of ten it works and the real ending was the second-to-last-paragraph!

So next time you are revising a completed first draft of your picture book or a full chapter of your novel, place your hand over the final paragraph and hide it. Then read the draft all the way through, and decide if the story/chapter works without that last paragraph. I guarantee you will be surprised at how this tip really works!
Thank you, Paula. This is the perfect tip as we get ready to enter our final week of the Smackdown!
Don't forget to report in at Holly's tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SRS: I'm Crackin' the Whip with a Big LOUD Smack!

Hey, Smackdowners!

Where are ya? I think we've hit that third week let down.

Don't do it!

Don't you do it!
Stick with it. Even if you're goal is feeling out of reach, readjust instead. Keep the forward momentum and give an extra crack of that licorice whip.

If you need a personal lashing from moi, let me know. I'll visit your blog or inbox with a big werplash!

For a smidge of extra inspiration, and a great reminder, take a peak at this post by author/illustrator Paul Schmid about striking the balance. And thank you to Martha for passing along that post.

But if it's just that you're so busy revising that you haven't had time to comment lately, let me know and I'll stop worrying.

SRS Wednesday Whip Tip: Jill S. Alexander

I'm a boot stompin' kind of excited to introduce you to my friend and debut novelist, Jill S. Alexander. But before I do, don't miss Justina Chen Headley's Whip Tip over at Holly's today.

I'm thrilled to welcome Jill Alexander, a debut novelist breaking onto the scene in big ways with her novel THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY. SWEETHEART was chosen to be part of BEA's first-ever YA Buzz Forum and was presented by Jill's editor, the fabulous Liz Szabla. How cool is that? Just take a read of the highlights of her BEA experience.

Jill sent along this tip for all of us in Smackdown Land (in complete Jill style!):

Back in the eighties, I landed in the mosh pit at a Bon Jovi concert in Dallas. I remember it like it was yesterday: the musty smell of sweat, the panties (not mine) flying, the jumping and shoving and warm beer chugging. Every time I hear the guitar intro to “Living On A Prayer,” I’m back in the pit – holding to the vibe and Jon Bon Jovi’s voice.

One of the things I hope to accomplish as a writer is to hold a reader in the story mosh, my words, and even when he or she has long since put the book down, a sound or a smell or glimpse can take them back to that story, that place, that character. So it is through this filter that I revise. Crappy dialogue, weak plot points, dry descriptions generally occur when I’ve written too far removed from the vibe or the voice. Improving any area of a manuscript requires my reconnecting with those two elements.

The Vibe: This is the mood, baby. My tattered
HANDBOOK TO LITERATURE defines mood as “the emotional attitude that an author takes toward the subject or theme.”

The Voice: For me, this is the phrasing and word choice of the narrator as well as his or her outlook on the world.

Here are a couple of revision tips on reconnecting with the vibe and the voice.

1. Create a playlist. SWEETHEART has a playlist and so does my current WIP – lots of Texas country like Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Dixie Chicks, even Lyle Lovett. Music takes me back to my story quicker than anything. My best writing occurs after I’ve dropped my son off at school, and I’ve driven home with the novel’s playlist on blast! (I noticed on Holly’s Blog that Stacey Goldblatt uses music too.)
2. Read the work aloud. This is a great way to catch those words, phrases, and paragraphs that just don’t jive with the vibe and the voice. If possible, read to a critique partner or group. Nothing shines a spotlight on the author's voice intruding on the story like reading aloud to a group.

Best of revision to everyone!
Love it! Thank you, Jill!
And tomorrow, you'll find Carrie Jone's with Holly and Paula Yoo right here! WooHoo!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

SRS Smackdown Spotlight #3: Kelly Holmes

I can't tell you how much fun it has been to spotlight fellow smackdowners and get to know some peeps better! This community is amazing and has so much to share. Don't miss Holly's spotlight on Molly Blaisdell.

Today, I'm thrilled to spotlight Kelly Holmes aka YAnnabe (another blog name I just love!).

Kelly peaked my interest during week one's report when she mentioned that she had almost completed a plot board. So I bugged her to share her process with us. And she agreed! Yay. I also asked her tell us a little more about herself and her current project. Her is what Kelly had to say:
A little about me: I'm an unpublished wannabe YA writer. I've started 3 novels and finally finished one (thank you, NaNoWriMo!). As a mom to a 1-year-old, my biggest writing struggle right now is making the time to work on my novel when it seems like there's always something else that needs doing. But I recently explained to my husband that I might be more fun to be around if I were regularly feeding my soul what it needs, and he's on board. Unfortunately, that means on the days I work on my novel I won't be able to get away with being as surly as usual.

My current project: I finished the first draft of my current WIP last November during NaNoWriMo. I then heeded the advice from NaNo's founder to wait a month before reading the whole thing. Better, I waited 6 months. (Procrastination is a good thing, finally!)

After reading it, I learned 3 things:
1. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
2. It was still pretty bad.
3. I had no idea what to do next.

Then I came across writer Diana Peterfreund's blog, where she talks about how to...My tip: Make a plot board. This tool will be useful if:
* You feel like you have too many subplots or too few subplots
* You're not sure you've threaded a subplot all the way through your novel
* You want to get a handle on the overall structure of your novel to check for things like a sagging middle

Here are the basic steps of making a plot board, but swing over to Diana's blog for all the details about making one of your own:
1. Get a posterboard (or butcher paper) and several different colors of sticky notes.
2. Divide the posterboard into 3 sections - one for each act. (Or if you're like Diana, 4 sections for a 4-act structure.)
3. Make a list of your subplots and assign each one a separate sticky note color. (Example: You could assign your romantic subplot the color pink.)
4. Now, the fun part: For the first scene in your novel, figure out what happens for each subplot and make a corresponding sticky note. (Example: Grab a pink sticky note and write what happened to further the romantic subplot in the current scene, like "Jack kissed Jill, Jill told him to go throw himself off a hill.") You'll most likely have more than one sticky note per scene because you've furthered more than one subplot in your scenes, but you won't necessarily use every color for every scene. A couple other things you can do:* Number your scenes and put the number on the sticky notes.* Write any other information you want to track on the sticky notes, like setting.
5. Take all the sticky notes for the scene and put them on the posterboard in the appropriate act section. You can stack them on each other but stagger them so you'll be able to see all the different colors.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all your scenes have been sticky-noted, then stand back!* Pick a subplot and look for its color on your board. Do you see pink in scenes 1, 2, and 3, then not again til scene 42? Depending on the subplot, that could be a sign you need to pull that thread through a few more scenes so scene 42 doesn't seem to come out of nowhere.
* Maybe you'll see pink in every single one of your scenes. That could be a sign that you can give the reader a little break every now and then from that subplot, or that you have a few scenes you could combine to tighten up the story.
* Do you have a couple sets of stickies in the first act, a couple in the third act, and so many in the second act that you had to go buy a second posterboard? A sagging middle might be the culprit. You don't need the same number of scenes in each act, but a huge act section could be a sign of a problem.

Going through this process showed me that I have too many subplots, a couple of them completely disappeared in the middle of the story, and my second act's sticky notes could fill up an entire wall. Thanks to my plot board, I have a place to start on my revisions. And it only took me 3 hours to make.

Happy plot boarding!
Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Kelly!
You will NOT want to miss tomorrow's Wednesday Whip Tips. Holly will have the amazing Justina Chen Headley and I will introduce you to a new voice you are going to fall in love with, Jill Alexander!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Moment #23

I found myself in a couple of intimidating situations over the weekend, both happened while subbing at my gym. First, I taught the seniors class. This is totally outside my comfort zone. It was a sort of wing it situation: a little aerobics, balance, strength, abs, and stretching. No routine, no way to know I was doing it right. And trust me, seniors know what they like and what they want.
I survived and looked forward to subbing in a Bodypump class the next day. It's my class, so I had far more confidence. No unknowns. No worries.
At least that's what I thought, until a few minutes before the class was supposed to start, and four young twenty-somethings walked in: one girl and three muscly boys. I've seen these boys. These are the ones that are out on the free-weight floor, loading huge lbs. on their bars, then grunting and moaning as they lift. They're never in class. But suddenly they were in mine. I have to say, this not typical, a group of young people attending class together. And they acted just as you would expect; they were silly and loud and a bit over confident. In other words, I had my hands full--a real instructing challenge. (Side note: I learned after class the girl was from Seattle and they give her a hard time for taking a similar class, so she challenged them to go with her to the one at their gym--my class. So they did. Let's just say, I think--I hope--they have more respect.)
But truly, in both situations, there was an intimidation factor. It got me thinking about how I handled each situation. And you know what? I thought I handled both well, but I think it was because of my age and personal confidence. I certainly wouldn't have had it in high school or college or even probably even ten years ago.
Describe an intimidating situation your character is and how do they handle it?

SRS Whip of the Week #3

Hey, Smackdowners - you've hung in there... You've had ups and downs... You're encouraging yourself and others to do your best on revisions... So Holly and I say, give yourselves a pat on the pack for cracking the licorice whip for the second week!

Let me tell you, it has been no simple task for us to choose one Smackdowner for the Whip of the Week. First, we have honorable mentions:

Sara Easterly, who caught up and surpassed her goals this week on her graphic novel. Go, Sara!

Jennie Englund, who whittled her manuscript down by 13K this week (!) to tackle the next phase. Woohoo, Jennie!

Shelley S., who subconsciously sabotaged her TV habit this week to make huge progress. Nice work, Shelley!

Casey McCormick, who revised every day this week and is 78 pages in. Sweet, Casey!

and now...our Whip of the Week for Week #3...the name you've all been waiting for...


Mary Cronk Farrell! Here's what Mary said about her week:

This week:

1) finished revising 48-page non-fiction project and handed it off to my critique group. 2)To begin my novel revision I packed up five copies of the manuscript returned from my critique group and set off to visit CHOCOLATE APOTHECARY. Cool chocolate store that serves espresso on the side. I sat in a comfy chair, sipped a mocha and read through all the critiques.
3) Sat down at computer and made the first run-through of the revision deleting an entire subplot.

Feels great.

So Smackdowners, feel the high-five of this Chocolate-sippin' moment. Go forth and revise, revise, revise!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

SRS: A Smackdown Host's Call for Guidance (in other words HELP)

All right, all! I know I'm not the only one.

It's looming. Big time.

No, not the end of the Summer Revision Smackdown.

The end of the SCHOOL YEAR!

How will you handle it?

Will you cut back on work? Push ahead, just as usual? Schedule many summer camps? Give up? Keep the TV on...the kids in a daze?

I sort of feel like I have only one option, to start working from home--with distractions. This is a task that I find immensely challenging, even when I don't have the interruptions of..."Mommy!" and the shrill scream of two sisters going at it. Oh, yah! And they require food.

I turn to you, smackdown friends, any advice about how to make this work? My smackdown goals are important to me. Personally, I don't do well in the wee hours of the morning (before they're up) or the late night hours (long after they are asleep). So what do I do?

And, how about suggestions on how to make the home office more appealing. The key word is "home" since it's not only mine to use. Perhaps I should cover the walls with a licorice reminder that the whip needs crackin'!

Any and all ideas welcome (okay, more like desperately needed). Or if you would just like to commiserate, I'm here for ya (with ya).

Friday, June 12, 2009

SRS Revision Report #2

That's right! The half-way point, baby! Time to check in. How are you doing with your smackdown goals? Are you half-way there? Doing better? Or do you need a big ol'


'Cause we've got a licorice whip and we're not afraid to use it.

So, come on...toot your own horn...sing your praises...or out yourself! We want to hear it all.

Report your progress here in the comments (today and Saturday) and make sure to come back on Monday to see who gets WHIP OF THE WEEK!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

SRS Lash Flash: Joni Sensel

Wow, we're almost through our second week of Summer Revision Smackdown. Wowzuh! Almost the half-way point. Don't miss Holly's Lash Flash: Melissa Walker.

A special treat here at Cuppa for this week's Lash Flash, the wonderful and talented Joni Sensel (btw, her name is pronounced Johnny). I mean, look at her...doesn't she just look like she's got a good little nugget to share?

Joni is the author of REALITY LEAK, THE HUMMING OF NUMBERS, and FARWALKER'S QUEST (with the sequel TIMEKEEPER'S MOON coming this winter).

I've always found Joni to be generous and smart when it comes to advice, and so no surprise that this is what she had to say about the Smackdown and shared revision tip:
I can’t say the Smackdown has been going terrifically for me so far — I’ve had too many high-priority obligations take my attention from the pages this past week. I hope to do better the rest of the month. But my irritation with that has turned out to be useful, because it’s made me think more about interruptions, and I’ve realized they can be a revision tool.

I don’t mean interruptions to getting the work done, like urgent phone calls or overflowing toilets. (Although those sometimes can jumpstart revision, too, simply because I stop thinking about a revision problem for long enough for a solution to spark.) I mean interruptions in my characters’ lives.

A trick I’ve just discovered for adding tension or increasing pace is to cut an action or conversation short by having whatever I think should come next interrupt it, rather than waiting politely in turn. (I mean, interruptions add tension and pace to our real lives, don’t they?) In this way, threads of action or dialogue can be braided together for a richer and less predictable read. I’ve started looking for places where my characters can barge in on each other, verbally or literally. And if I play with rearranging scenes, as I’m doing right now in my Smackdown project, I look to see if or how they can actually overlap in a braid. If whatever gets interrupted is important to finish, I can go back later, hopefully holding the reader in a bit more suspense for how that thread will turn out. But often, I realize that what I’ve interrupted doesn’t need to be finished because the interruption makes it moot, sending the story zinging off in another direction. In those cases, I’m glad, because it means I’ve cut something dull or unnecessary.

And thinking about this has helped me grip a new tool for my revision toolbox, one I may have used before but not consciously -- that alone makes the Smackdown worthwhile!

Thanks, Jolie!
How 'bout that for a lash of smart? Thanks, Joni!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

SRS Wednesday Whip Tip: Darcy Pattison

For our second Wednesday Whip Tip, Cuppa Jolie is thrilled to welcome Darcy Pattison!

And don't miss Brent Hartinger's tip over at Holly's blog.

Darcy Pattison is the author of four picture books and one middle grade novel that have been recognized for excellence by starred reviews, Book of the Year awards, state award lists and more.

Welcome, Darcy!

You seem to have a passion – or at least a great interest – in revision given that it’s your blog focus, your revision retreats are hugely popular, and you’ve written a book to guide writers through the process. What is it about revision that revs your writerly engine?

For 12 years, I was the conference director for the Arkansas SCBWI spring conference and every year, someone one would come up and hold out a thick manuscript and ask if I could read it for them and tell them how to get it published. Well, no. I couldn’t do that. But I saw a passion and hope in the eyes of each writer and I wanted to help. I knew that the only thing that would ultimately help was a deep experience with revision.
Over a period of eight years, I led retreats and slowly developed the workbook which became Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise. I never intended to publish it, but it’s been a great way to bring the process to a wider audience.

On my blog, Revision Notes, I keep thinking I'll run out of revision topics, but everything we do as writers comes back to revision.

How cool that you are joining in the Smackdown with the rest of us. Tell us a little about your current revision project.

Revision is personally hard and I fight against the process all the time. But I know, it’s the only way to develop stories to a publishable level. Like everyone else, I have passion and hope for my own stories.

Right now, I’m wrestling with a novel that has been long in process. I had written the opening chapters in a different sort of omniscient voice and it has been Smacked Down by those who read and/or considered it. I’m revising the opening 20 pages to be more immediate and active, and while I’m at it, I’ll give the rest of the story a fast run through. I’m hoping this revision will be relatively fast and I can also work in a second revision this summer. It’s a new story, with only a first draft done and I’m actually pretty pleased with that draft; but it needs extensive work on plot and character.

I guess the one thing I really want to say to the Smackdown Crew is that revisions are emotionally hard. My DH has been amazed at my passionate outbursts. You know the ones: how could that reader say this about my story; obviously, this reader didn’t read the whole thing or they’d understand and not ask such ridiculous questions; you want me to do what?

I’m fighting the process hard; but I’m not abandoning the process. I’m sticking it out – she says dramatically, throwing back her face and shielding her delicate skin from the sear of criticism. To say that I dislike drama queens is an understatement; yet, when I go through revisions, I become the most melodramatic drama queen in the nation. It’s hard. But I’m there.

For an amazing revision tool, Darcy shares this exercise:
To see the overall structure of your novel, try the Shrunken Manuscript.http://www.darcypattison.com/revision/shrunken-manuscript/

Darcy's Novel Revision Retreats are fantastic. So if you have the chance...
Upcoming Novel Revision Retreats (darcypattison.com/speaking):July 16-19 Northern California SCBWI Novel Revision Retreat (One spot available)http://www.scbwinorthca.org/September 11-13 New Orleans SCBWI (Still has a few openings.)http://members.cox.net/scbwi-no/

2010April 30-May 2 Utah/Southern Idaho SCBWI, Sun Valley, IdahoNovember, Exact date TBA, Brazos Valley/Texas SCBWI

Thank you, Darcy! And to all you smackdowners, Darcy's blog/website is filled with tips and wonderful information...you won't want to miss it!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

SRS Smackdown Spotlight #2: Vivian Mahoney

Time for another Smackdown Spotlight. (Because it's fun to meet other smackdowners, no?) Make sure to visit Holly for her spotlight on Stacey Goldblatt.

Here at Cuppa Jolie, I'm thrilled to welcome Vivian Mahoney, aka HipWriterMama.

Vivian, tell us a little about yourself, like what makes you a HipWriterMama (LOVE the name by the way!)?

Thank you, Jolie! Hmmm. What makes me HipWriterMama? When I started blogging a couple years ago, I wanted a moniker that made me feel fearless in going public with my writing dreams. It was hard for me to see outside my identity of 'Mommy' and in some ways, I lost sight of my inner confidence after leaving my career to have children. Thus, HipWriterMama was born.
My blog is all about inspiration posts, writing tips, author interviews, and musings about life. I like to keep positive on my blog and find ways to encourage others to reaching their best. I'm also fortunate to be a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens -- probably the first and only time I'll ever be a poster girl -- and it's a total kick.

Tell us a little about your current revision project. Why is the smackdown for you?
The Summer Revision Smackdown couldn't come at a better time. Thank you so much, Jolie and Holly for organizing this! I've revised my historical YA manuscript numerous times, from first person to third person, back to first person, and now to alternating POV's. I could probably revise forever. But, sometimes it's time to let go of the fear and say enough. It's time.

Fear has been my biggest challenge in moving forward. Getting my butt in the chair to write? No problem. I crave my writing time since my life is all about the kids and helping my husband grow his business. It's the fear that maybe an agent won't like what I've written that keeps me revising, rather than submitting.

My challenge in this Smackdown is making sure the alternating POV's work and flow well together. Some chapters are more tedious than others, but it's been very rewarding seeing the result. After this revision, I'm going to throw down the gauntlet and say I'm done. After all, it's okay to have self-doubt, to question, to worry. But I'm not going to let my dreams fizzle. I've worked too hard on this manuscript.

Great attitude, Vivian! Keep on being fearless. Do you have a revision tip you can share with the rest?

The revision tip I'm going to offer today is to be easy on yourself and break your project down into manageable chunks. It could be one hour at a time (like Robin Mellom) or one chapter at a time. Whatever you choose, make sure it's something that's attainable so it can be done on a consistent basis. This habit will give you the strength and ability to work on your project no matter what gets thrown in your way. Let's face it, life throws a lot of curve balls and we need to know how to work past them. I've found it's the little steps that provide the fuel to take things to the next level. One chapter can turn into two. Into three. Into done. Are you game?

Thanks so much, Jolie!
Thank you, Vivian.
Don't miss tomorrow's Wednesday Whip Tip!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Moment #22

Over the weekend we journeyed over the Hood Canal Bridge for the first time in over 5 weeks. Being cut off from the other side of the canal has been a big deal for the community and our lives personally (we travel that way many times per month).

So, on Saturday afternoon I loaded the girlies in the mini-van for our first trip across the new Hood Canal bridge (you know, to do important stuff...like go to Target, Costco, and the mall). As we approached the bridge, I made sure to announce it to the girlies, because it's a big deal, right? To travel over this new 5 million dollar project?

But what was their reaction. "Yih..." Shrug. One said, "There's sure a lot of bird poop for a brand new bridge." Which was true.

Isn't that just how it is though? When adults view an event or situation one way, it's experienced by a child so differently.

What event or situation does your character experience differently than an adult in their world?

SRS Whip of the Week #2

What a week, whipper smackers. Holly and I were blown away. Keep it up in week two, and please feel free to post your progress (from week 1) if you haven't done so yet. And, it's never to late to join.

Drum roll please...

This week's Whip of the Week is...Wait...Wait...

It was a tie. The week was that good.

First, Kjersten Anna Hayes.

Here's what Kjersten had to say about her week:

Pin a rose on my nose because, no joke, I DOUBLED my goal for the week!

Here's one way to get a lot of revision finished: 1. Have a long to-do list of other stuff that doesn't seem as fun as (*ahem*) drawing.2. Have Holly and Jolie give you a permission slip to slack off on that long to-do list by working on revising that dummy you love to work on.3. Take up drawing. I think it was Kevan Atteberry who said at the conference, "what artist walks in their studio and says, shoot I think I have to draw today. Bummer." Certainly not this one. Drawing is what I do to procrastinate on other stuff.Thanks for the permission slip, Holly and Jolie.Now. I have a dusty to-do list of other stuff that REALLY needs to be tackled today.


Helen Landalf

About her week, Helen said:

I had a great week! I accomplished the following:- Made it through my entire novel, "first draft" revision. This included more filtering of events through the main character's perspective, more transformation of all major characters from beginning to end, several major new scenes.-Made it through the first 9 chapters, "second draft" revision: sharpening descriptions and dialogue, word choice tweaks, expanding scenes (I tend to rush).I'm right on target for finishing a "third draft" revision by next Saturday!

Way to go!

Honorable Mentions go to Molly Blaisdell, Martha Brockenbrough,and Mindy Hardwick! Go forth and crack the whip this week, Smackdowners!

Friday, June 5, 2009

SRS Whip-Snapper: Ben Watson

I had to share this one with all of you smackdowners.
Ben Watson has a great and fun post...My Summer Revision Progress.
I have to tell you, Ben grew up here in Port Townsend where I live. I used to walk into his dad's gallery and bug him about his novel. "How's it going, Ben. You working on it?..." Now he lives up in Canada with his adorable wife and pup, so I can't bug him as much anymore. But the smackdown has given me great opportunity to do it again! Some of you may be familiar with his too-nice-to-be-real-but-they-are family--The Watsons. Richard Jesse Watson is his dad and Jesse Joshua Watson is his brother. I swear I have yet to meet a Watson I didn't like. They're just jammed full of talent of niceness. But as you'll see from Ben's post, he somehow missed the drawing gene. How'd that happen, Ben?
If you post about the Smackdown or your progress, be sure to leave a link to it in one of our comments. I know Holly and I will want to check it out and so will your fellow Whip-Snappers! That said, still be sure to post this week's report over at Holly's today or tomorrow.

SRS Revision Report #1

It’s REVISION REPORT day! Make sure to leave a comment on your progress at HOLLY’S today or tomorrow.

But feel free to say hi here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

SCBWI TEAM BLOG: Interview with Betty G. Birney

Don't miss this fun interview, Everything You Wanted to Know about Betty G. Birney, over at Paula Yoo's Write Like You Mean It!

SRS Lash Flash: Kirby Larson

For today's first addition of LASH FLASH, Cuppa Jolie welcomes the amazing and lovely, Kirby Larson. A perfect way to start! And over at Holly's, don't miss her editor, Catherine Onder.

Kirby was awarded a Newbery Honor in 2007 for her novel HATTIE BIG SKY, a definite must read. Recently she's made her way back to picture books and has been celebrating the success of TWO BOBBIES which she co-wrote with Mary Nethery, and a new project is in the works for this great team. And be sure to bookmark or follow Kirby's blog Kirby Lane: A Place for Readers and Writers which is always packed with heart and wisdom. Oh, and pictures of her new puppy, Winston.
Kirby is a fellow SRS participant, albeit a rule breaking one. But I say, if it gets the job done, then good.

Here's a tip she had to share with the rest of us:
"The tip I would give is one I am personally using right now -- taking lots of walks and letting my mind go. I'm finding it's a terrific way to process all the editorial feedback I've been given without feeling uptight and constrained. For example, on Friday, two unrelated bits of info that had been buried deep in the old gray matter surfaced and bumped into each other, giving me a great idea for resolving one of the problems I'd been working on.

The other thing, which isn't as fun or healthy, is sticking with it -- the old bum glue advice. But now that I have an adorable puppy to sleep on my lap, sitting in my work chair isn't so painful!"

I love that from Kirby we get a little bit of B-O-C (butt-out of-chair) and B-I-C (butt-in-chair)!

Thanks, Kirby!

Don't forget to check in over at Holly's tomorrow with your Revision Report. We can't wait to hear all about the progress that's been made out there.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

SRS Candy Buzz: Progress (or Procrastination) Posts

Productive Procrastination? Could there be such a thing? I'd like to think there might be.

A few of you chimed in about the ways you procrastinate over at Holly's yesterday. So I was thinking about ways we might be able to help each other through while getting in just a wee bit of procrastination. Sound good?

When Holly and I were doing our 5K days, one thing that helped us through was posting comments throughout the day. I'd have a comment pop up that would say something like, "I just hit two thousand." We'd go back and forth like that through the writing day and it pushed us along. It also provides a little break (or a wee bit of procrastination)...that chance to check your inbox or the comments section of the post to see how others are doing. And to report how you're doing, which makes you actually do something! Right?

Want to play along? Check in here by leaving comments throughout the day on your progress. I'll make the first.

Blog note: Paula Yoo has a fun post on the progress she made yesterday over at Write Like You Mean It. Let us know if you make post related to the smackdown on your blog.

SRS Wednesday Whip Tip: Bruce Coville

Yes! You read correctly...BRUCE COVILLE!

Today Cuppa Jolie welcomes the amazing Bruce Coville to offer the first Wednesday Whip Tip.

Leave it to a talent and fantastic guy like Bruce to pass on a tip during a very busy time for him. And don't miss the Wednesday Whip Tip from author and readergirlz diva, Lorie Ann Grover, over at Holly's blog.

Bruce Coville is the author of nearly 100 books for children and young adults, including the international bestseller MY TEACHER IS AN ALIEN, and the wildly popular UNICORN CHRONICLES series. He has been, at various times, a teacher, a toymaker, a magazine editor, a gravedigger, and a cookware salesman. He is also the founder of FULL CAST AUDIO, an audiobook publishing company devoted to producing full cast, unabridged recordings of material for family listening.

So, in few words, the guy ROCKS. And if you've never heard him speak...you must!

Here's a few words, straight from Bruce, on revision!

I have a list of words that I overuse in early drafts, and that generally add little of use to the text. "Just" is one, "that" is another. "Started to [verb]" and "began to [verb]" (okay, those are phrases, not words) are also there, as generally you can just go with the verb. At some point I just do a word search (in which case I would delete the just I just used!) on these words and phrases and evaluate each for elimination. No single one of these changes makes a big difference, but the cumulative effect can be a tighter, cleaner text that reads more smoothly.

Thank you, Bruce!

Don't miss tomorrow for tips from Kirby Larson and Holly's editor, Catherine Onder!