Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Moment #100!!!: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)

Wow! What a milestone for Monday Moments.


It's been almost two years in the making. The very first Monday Moment was posted on January 12, 2009. It was just an idea I had; something I did as a writer. I didn't know if anyone else would find them useful. I didn't know if I'd continue posting them. Or for how long. But it seems Monday after Monday I found some personal experience in my life that could possibly relate to your characters.

So...for #100 I thought one of you wonderful Monday Moment readers should get a CUPPA! (Details below.)

Getting to 100 (of anything) takes a bit of waiting, patience, and perseverance. A whole lot of what we do as writers, no?

I also did quite a bit of waiting yesterday. I was crazy enough to think the Santa line at the mall wouldn't be a mile and a half long on the Sunday before Christmas! I'm sure you're all thinking, DUH! OF COURSE IT WAS THAT LONG!!!

So I put on my patience pants and waited in the line as my girlies wandered around the mall with their grandma and papa. I also felt the need to be the one waiting since I think the picture was for my own good and not theirs. They're now 8 and 10 and just hitting that age where...well, you know.

How'd I make it though that long line without crumbling like a tasty Christmas cookie? I tweeted about about my people-watching experience while I waited. People watching in the Santa line is quite fun.

Here's my tweets:

For my own entertainment I will tweet from the Sunday before Christmas Santa line. #santaphotos

Little girl: Santa, please bring my mom a skirt long enough to cover her cheeks. #santaphotos

I'm fairly certain those two little guys just asked for spray paint for their future graffiti masterpieces. #santaphotos

Sibling fight is breaking out behind me. Mom may ask for a new set of marbles. #santaphotos

Young girl just swiped extra candy canes from Santa's basket. I hope this doesn't jeopardize her list standing. #santaphotos

Here comes the classic clinging to mom's neck, do not make me go near that guy experience. #santaphotos

This might be the last time my girls do this. I think this year they are taking the photo for me. #santaphotos

Al. Most. There. #santaphotos

Little tiny people are so stinking precious. (But my big ones can take themselves to the bathroom.) #santaphotos

Two year old: *stares at ground* When will this be over. I will NOT smile. #santaphotos

Two year old trying so hard to smile he can't keep his eyes open. #santaphotos

Success! #santaphotos

I had to sneak a shot with Santa too. Whispers: Do the elves make MacBook pros? #santaphotos

What has your character had to wait for? Did they have patience and persevere?

And in honor of this 100 Moment milestone, I would love to thank all of you who visit Cuppa Jolie and read Monday Moments. I know you don't always comment, but I know you are out there, reading. And, I know you all have been in the same WAITING-PATIENCE-PERSEVERANCE boat when it comes to writing. I would love to hear from you in the comments, whether you've read Monday Moments 1 or 100 times.

So here's the deal. From now until Monday, January 3, leave a comment about a time you have had to wait (requiring patience and perseverance) whether it relates to writing or not. For all those who comment, I will put your name in a drawing for a CUPPA (a good cup coffee or other drink of choice) at your favorite spot.

(Monday Moments will take a holiday on December 27.)


Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Moment #99: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)

99 MM posts on the blog, 99 MM posts! You take one down, pass it around...

99! How'd that happen?

Okay, getting to it. I apologize ahead of time for the bit of bah humbug in this post, but a particular person sucked it right out of me over the weekend.

Isn't it amazing how one person, ONE, can bring a certain energy to a room big or small, with few or many? That energy can be amazingly positive or ridiculously negative. Unfortunately, I had the experience of the latter over the weekend.

I was so looking forward to watching both my eight-and-ten-year-old girlies play their basketball games on Saturday. But once my eight-year old's game started, all the fun was drained from the gym. It's hard to imagine how that can be when there were two teams of young girls, full of energy and sparkle, out on the court, surrounded by family, cheering them on.

It took the crappy energy of one single man, the other team's coach, to take ever bit of fun out of the game. He stood on the sideline, never once cracking a smile, only yelling, yelling, and yelling. You'd think he was Bobby Knight or something. He required those girls play so aggressively, there was no fun to be had. He ordered them to run, even if they were headed back to the bench. He'd shake  his head and get upset if they did something wrong. I don't think I ever heard him shout encouragement. Again, these are 3rd and 4th grade girls!

I could tell even the supporters of his team were shaking their heads at the scene. Thank goodness there were no chairs around for him to throw, or he might have thrown one.

When has your character been in a situation where one other person has changed the energy in the room for better or worse?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Pre-conference interview: LINDA SUE PARK

I've had the immense pleasure of hearing Linda Sue Park speak at a couple of SCBWI conferences. Not only that, but I've also had the opportunity to sit and talk with her, and let me tell you, the words that come out of her mouth are so great, so helpful, so smart that you won't want to dare miss them when she's gives her keynote presentation at the upcoming SCBWI Winter Conference.

Linda Sue Park is the award-winning author of many books for children, including A SINGLE SHARD which won the Newbery Medal in 2002. The list of awards Linda Sue has won is as long as my arm, and sure to keep growing. Linda Sue also serves on the SCBWI Board of Advisors.

I'm so honored that Linda Sue was able to find time for this interview as her latest book A LONG WALK TO WATER was just released on November 15. Check out her great book trailer and PW interview about this booked based on a true story.

Then, if you haven't already, click here to register for the conference and ENJOY the interview.

As I mentioned in the introduction, you are on the SCBWI Board of Advisors. How and when did your involvement begin with SCBWI, and what has it meant to you?

I attended my first-ever SCBWI conference in the fall 2001; it was organized by Ellen Yeomans, who was then RA for upstate New York. I had already published three novels at that point, and Ellen invited me to be on a panel, I think. I was fortunate because we have a well-established children's writers' group here in Rochester--the Rochester Area Children's Writers and Illustrators--so I had been active with them for a couple of years before that, and Ellen used to visit us once in a while.

After the conference, I signed up to attend the national SCBWI conference in New York; I think that was its first year? I had always wanted to go to LA but couldn't afford it, so I was delighted when Lin and Steve brought a big conference to New York. And just a couple of weeks before the conference, the Newbery Award for A SINGLE SHARD was announced! I remember Lin announcing from the podium that this year's Newbery winner was in attendance at the conference--as a participant, not as a presenter--and I felt so honored by that.

Then I was invited to join the Board. Unlike some authors, I don't have stories about how SCBWI helped me 'break in'--I was already published when I found out about SCBWI. But what RACWI and then SCBWI in turn have given me is invaluable: the camaraderie of other people who care about children's literature as much as I do. For people who spend much of their working lives alone in a room with a keyboard, that kind of companionship is invaluable. Being on the Board is a way for me to give back to a community that has given me so much over the years.

I think I can call myself a conference vet, having been to more than I can count. That said, I believe the best conference take-away I’ve ever had came from you at an SCBWI conference years ago. You said it never hurts to try something new (changing POV characters, tense, etc.) for a few chapters. So, thank you for that.

What’s been the most helpful tip someone has shared with you?

My most valuable tip came from Katherine Paterson, who wrote in an essay about how she tries to finish two pages per day. I read that when I was starting work on my first novel, and it was a huge light-bulb moment. I thought, I can do that! I don't know if I can ever write a whole novel, but I sure as heck can write two pages a day. I've written every single one of my novels that way, and I'm positive I never would have written even one if I hadn't read that tip.

I also read about Lois Lowry's general outline for novels:

--complications and choices

I've modified this over the years to suit my own temperament and style, but in essence it's still the first thing I write down when I'm working on a new story.

I think you (and Katherine) just gifted me with another favorite tip! But I have to ask, what gets you through on those days when finding the words seems impossible, and how do you keep yourself from being distracted by those tasks that easily pull us away (email, blogs, etc)?

I give myself a mandate to write two pages, AND permission to write two BAD pages. Most days, I start my work time by throwing away a lot of what I wrote the day before. If I can salvage half a page, or a paragraph, or even a single line of dialogue...that's progress. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, it's a vital part of the process to find out what *doesn't* work!

But I do get distracted, and many are the days that I spend way too much time on e-mail and the internet. (I am, alas, an eBay fan....) On those days, when I get close to the end of my writing time, I'll look up from the screen, slap myself mentally, and crank out two bad pages.

In general, though, the two pages thing is a habit for me. By that I mean, I don't ever say to myself, "Oh--I must make sure to brush my teeth today." I don't have to say it, because it's a habit, an automatic part of my day. It took me many months of trying and failing, but eventually the two pages became a habit. When I'm in the groove working on a novel, *not* writing my two pages feels all wrong to me...just like when I don't brush my teeth!

That makes such great sense!

You’ll be giving a keynote at the conference on Sunday morning. Can you give us a little teaser?

I usually write my speeches a couple of weeks before I have to give them, so at this point I haven't yet written the keynote. But what I'm planning to talk about is doubt: How to keep writing and do our best work in spite of all the doubt demons that plague us. I hope it's a topic that almost everyone will be able to relate to. But for those folks who never have doubts about themselves or their work? They can go for coffee during my presentation. ;-)

I have a feeling I’ll be hanging on your every word during that keynote!

Thank you so much, Linda Sue. I feel like I just had a short writer’s therapy session.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Moment #98: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)

The sleeping hours. Aren't they wonderful?

Well, yes! That is, if you're actually sleeping.

Don't you just hate it when you wake up in the night, for whatever reason, and can't go back to sleep? For us adults we tend to have to-dos, or too-much-to-dos, on our minds. You they there. Flip over. Keep thinking. Think of something else. Flip over. Check the clock. Been an hour. Flip again. Replay the list. Check the clock. And on, and on, and on...

But remember how different it was as a kid? At least it was for me. I certainly wasn't playing to-do lists in my head.

What was playing instead? My imagination!  In dark-scary-night- imagining ways. For me, every nighttime noise, familiar or not, was something frightening. I still recall one night when I heard scraping on my ceiling, slow and constant. And loud. Right above me. Now I'm sure that it was a mouse, doing it's mouse thing, but in  my scared-kid-nighttime brain, it was a scary guy in my attic digging through the ceiling with an ice pick. Yes, I was sure it was an ice pick. I still recall nights when I'd hold tight to the pillow just under my head with one arm and my favorite blanket with the other, just in case I was taken during the night and held captive in a cave. This way I wouldn't have to use a rock as a pillow.

I was a normal kid, I swear. But perhaps the nighttime stories I freaked myself out with were some of the first signs that I'd one day become a writer. Do you think?

What does your character think about when they wake up in the middle of the night? What kinds of nighttime noises do they hear?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Season of Love and Hope

Help Bridget kick cancer!

Most of you probably know about the great auction happening to help young-adult author, Bridget Zinn. The Season of Love and Hope Auction has all kind of great items/services for auction to help Bridget as she battles stage 4 colon cancer. The auction ends tomorrow, so check it out and start bidding!

Five other WA writers, as well as myself, are offering a super-loaded critique. Here's the description:

Five Washington writers (Kim Baker, Martha Brockenbrough, Joni Sensel, Jolie Stekly, Laurie Thompson) and one very insightful writer/illustrator (Jaime Temairik) will critique up to 50 double-spaced pages of a picture book, middle grade, or YA manuscript and/or a query letter and synopsis. If you have a 50-page picture book manuscript, we'll REALLY critique it.

Six published and otherwise, creative, and grammar-wise ladies with lots of experience workshopping and critiquing manuscripts in multiple genres will provide a thoughtful, detailed editorial letter full of constructive feedback along with additional manuscript notes.
And, we'll send chocolate.


I will leave myself out of this, and just say about the other five ladies...uh, THEY ROCK. Not just rock at life in general, but if you want some kick-ass feedback (yes I said kick-ass because it's true) these five will knock your socks off. And she might hate me for saying this, but all you novel writers out there, some of the most insightful thoughts will come from our lone illustrator, Jaime. So, what I'm really trying to say is, if a critique would be valuable to you, bid away and help Bridget kick cancer!

There's also an awesome SCBWI WWA package. If you go to our conference and participate in our events, you might as well bid. This way, you'll get what you usually pay for anways AND know the dollars are going to help Bridget. What could be better?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The 2010 December La La: State Your Goals

I don't know about you, but December can give me a serious case of the Fa la la la las!

Anybody else? Or perhaps you just don't know what I'm talking about?

Two years ago I had to do something to keep myself writing and pushing through in December. (You can check out my 2008 post here.) And, each year, I feel the same. I want to end December proudly beating my drum. Pa rum pa pum pum.

This year's no different. As I said yesterday, I want to serve up a major helping of productivity with a nice side of outside accountability this month. If that's something you desire too then lets help each other get through the December la las.

What's that mean? Well, what do you realistic want and need to accomplish this month? State it in the comments and together we'll help each other through by checking in and cheering each other on. The more the merrier.