Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Salt Cellar: Object Inspiration

By Photo by Nick Michael (Private collection)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On every visit, the salt cellar takes me back to our first meeting.   

When we flew from Washington, D.C. to London to meet my boyfriend’s parents, I was nervous and intimidated.  Their flat was in the upscale Mayfair area of central London.  Their neighbor was ‘Punch’ Sulzberger, former publisher of the NY Times.  They belonged to dining clubs.  

Their apartment overflowed with status, each museum-like piece reminding me of my modest experience in life. Persian rugs.  Original oil paintings.  When we sat down for dinner, there was so much sparkling crystal and silver, I felt the need to shade my eyes.

The intricately carved silver salt cellar (no, no, not just a bowl – a cellar) sat on the table mocking me.  The salt rested there, open-faced, fresh, clean white grains.  I LOVE salt.  I needed salt.  But…there was no spoon. 

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December Summaries: Two "Best" Books Lists

December.  We look back and summarize our year on Christmas cards. Book review journals summarize a year of publishing in "best" lists.

School Library Journal has published three Best Books lists: Fiction, Non-fiction, and Picture Books. (From the fiction list, you can access the other two lists.)

These SLJ lists hover around twenty titles in each category. It's interesting to compare those lists with the shorter (more selective?) list from Horn Book.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

What's Better Than the Library? Nothing.

I've been spending a lot of time in the mall and online, looking for those perfect gifts for the special people in my life. I'm so happy when I find the exact perfect match for that special person, at this particular point in time.

I love it when I'm on the other end of that deal, too. When I open a box and in it is exactly what I want at that moment.

But I'm lucky. Really lucky. I get that feeling of opening up a box and finding that exact special treat so many times every year. I get it every time I walk into my library.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas (Bookstore Style)

Hope you enjoy this adorable 12 Days of Christmas video from the Bookish Elves! Happy Holidays!

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Writers to the Core

To follow up on Julie's post, I think writers have been adhering to the "common core" for centuries.  Most writers are not just story tellers. They are teachers as well. It comes naturally to them to describe a scene, a sequence, a beginning and an end. Writers raise questions and answer them. They use history, science, anecdotes, folktales old and new, stones, ducks, rabbits and wizards to tell their stories. In every story there is something that relates to what constitutes an education for a child.

I was reminded of this today in a Wall Street Journal piece, "The Hunger Games" Is a Civic Lesson" by Robert Pondiscio, a former fifth grade teacher in New York's South Bronx. He explains that when parents decry the brutality in Suzanne Collins' novels, they overlook the excellent opportunity the author offers. Not only do the books keep "reluctant" readers turning the pages, but, Mr. Pondiscio says, "they also provide an opportunity to educate kids about the relationship between the individual and the state, personal rights and responsibilities, and the civic duties expected of citizens."

So, writers, worry not. Keep on writing, whether it is about Yetis, frogs, spoonbills, alligators or penguins, graveyards or vegetable gardens.  You are all "writing to the core."

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Common Core: Basics and Opportunities

Everyone is talking about the Common Core Standards: it's implementation means nonfiction is up and coming. Not being a librarian or teacher, I didn't know more than that, and thought I should.  I delved in, and discovered some useful resources and emerging opportunities.

Common Core Goal 
“To align instruction…so that many more students than at present can meet the requirements of college and career readiness.”   
Sounds like a worthy goal, but what does that mean for me as a writer?

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Favorite Writing Tips

Nathan Bransford's contest to win a Kindle in honor of his new book How to Write a Novel is over, but he's published many of the "Favorite Writing Tips" he received as contest entries.

I quoted Lela, the winner, in my comment to J.A's post last Wednesday: "Write. Write poorly, but WRITE."

But there are other gems . . .

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I've started NaNoWriMo a few times before, but never got further than around 5000 words. This year, I'm still behind, but I've written 14,046 words. If I write just under 2000 words a day, I can finish on time.

But do I still want to?

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Making Time to Write

I do a lot of my writing when I'm inspired. An idea takes hold of me and I just can't stop writing.

This is a very fun kind of writing to do.  My writing tends to just flow.

But I often don't dedicate nearly as much time to writing as I would like to do. Life keeps getting in the way.

Recently I was able to dedicate one evening a week just to writing. An evening to myself! When I could focus all my time on writing. It sounded like heaven. But...

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Falling in Love

I asked my husband at dinner, what's your favorite character in literature? After convincing him that Alfred Sloan ("My years at General Motors") was not what I was looking for, he came up with Faust. He said, "I like characters with whom I can identify."

Granted, I could understand Sloan (my husband is a linear businessman) and not so much Faust (my husband is not that consummate a businessman, selling his soul, etc., but at least he picked a character with hopes and faults; in this instance, faults too great to save his soul.

Creating a sympathetic main character or characters is the writer's biggest challenge. Somewhere between nice and nasty is a good beginning…you want your reader to like her, and yet if the heroine is too nice, your reader will figure that there is no point in reading further. Nothing of interest is going to happen. Too nasty, and the reader will also lose interest. Newspapers have more to offer.

The writer must create is a heroine who knows what she wants, but whose human weaknesses prevent her from achieving them…initially. As a reader we want to be one step ahead of the heroine. We want to see her mistakes, to say, "wait, that's not such a smart move"  And we want to cheer her on when she finally makes the right choice. In the end, we want to identify completely with her, to fall in love a little with her even. And when the book ends, we want to find it hard to say goodbye.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

They Come to Me for Nonfiction Now

At our meeting last month, a topic that came up was the issue of using a nonfiction author's note with a fiction text. As Gale noted, it's possible that her offer to include map skills with a fiction submission helped get it accepted, but the her short tale retelling was a pleasure to read, so we really don't know. Anyway, I offered to post my two cents, for whatever it's worth, here, on how I see Common Core affecting publishing and the use of nonfiction texts in schools. I don't purport to be an expert on this, but I have about ten years of recommending, and selecting children's books and this is what I have come up with:

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Added Atrractions Necessary? Part II


 Received a contract last week for "Two Young Frogs: An Old Japanese Tale." (Post of 10/17) Those frogs will appear in Highlights someday. Perhaps mentioning map skills did help.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Liebster Award!

Thank you so much to Brianna Caplan Sayres of Brianna’s Book Stop for nominating The Paper Wait for a Liebster Award!  The Liebster Award is fun honor given to blogs that deserve more followers – thanks Brianna!  On behalf of the Paper Wait group, I accept. 

Now to answer all those questions Brianna asked…

1.     If you could be an animal what would it be?    An elephant – they have a great memory, have unique talents (their trunk can push over a tree, or pick up a single piece of straw - how cool is that?), they love their babies, and, the best thing, they never worry about their weight – they’re supposed to be that size. I‘d love that.

2.     What is your favorite part about blogging?
It forces me to think critically and more broadly about children’s writing; and it keeps me connected to a larger community in what can be a solitary task.

3.     What is your biggest writing challenge?
Keeping my bottom in the chair.  I am prone to distraction.

4.     What writing book/conference/website would you tell other children’s writers to read/attend/visit?
Book – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Conference – our local NJ SCBWI conference does a great job of getting editors, agents and writers together
Website – Verla Kay’s Blue Board

5.     What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you started writing?
Write badly, write worse, and keep going.  Don't stop in the middle because you're worried about every word choice and sentence structure -- finish it.  You can fix it later. (that's what revision is for).  Great writers write awful stuff too.    

6.     What book (or books) do you wish you would have written?
Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough (picture book); and probably Charlotte’s Web, for middle grade

7.     What are you most proud of
Besides my kids, hmmmm, ask me again after I publish my first book. 

8.     If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?  So many places… SouthAfrica (wildlife and wine); Petra, Jordan (city of stone); Israel (Holy Land)

9.     Book you most love to re-read?
Maybe not ‘read’ but I love delving into the Children’s Writers & Illustrator’s Market – despite many rejections, that list of publishers always fills me with optimism.  There's got to be somebody out there  who will love my manuscript.

10.  What question do you wish I would have asked you? Please answer it.
Something really easy, like... yes, I'd love another cup of tea! 

Thanks again, Brianna. 

Here are my nominations for the Liebster Award:

Nominees, if you choose to accept, link back to the blogger who tagged you.  Nominate 5 to 10 other blogs with less than 200 members and answer the questions of the one who tagged you.  Then ask 10 questions for the bloggers you nominate; and let your nominee know of their award.

Here are my questions for those of you who choose to accept the award:

1. Where is your favorite place to write?
2. What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?
3. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
4. What’s your favorite book(s)?
5. What’s in your TBR pile?
6. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
7. What distracts you most from writing?
8. What is your biggest source of inspiration?
9.  Why do you blog?  
10. Share one of your quirky writing habits…

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Companions Along the Journey

Let me introduce you to my writing partner: 

Max has been a part of our family for close to fourteen years now.  He was a gift for my son on his fifth birthday, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. 

That was just a ruse. 

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Added Attractions Necessary?


I recently finished retelling an old Japanese folktale. It was critiqued (thanks!) and then submitted to a magazine. It's the story of two frogs, one from the west (Osaka), and one from the east (Kyoto), whose curiosity about new places inspires them to travel. One spring day, they meet on a mountain - one traveling east and one traveling west. Tired and hungry, they devise a plan to view their destinations from the mountain top; to anticipate the new sights at journey's end. But their plan goes wrong - each frog looks in the direction of home! So discovering no new sights, they abort all travel plans. Their curiosity gone, they hop home, never to travel again.

To me, the story is humorous and passes the "so what?" test, but in my submission letter I mentioned an added curriculum-related attraction.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Defining YA

A few weeks ago, PW Shelftalker asked a simple question with a not-so-simple answer -- how do you define YA? They asked their readers to contribute their thoughts to craft the ultimate definition of YA. I did, and guess what? They liked me, they really liked me!

I am one of three contributors whose responses were merged into one ultimate YA definition:

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Saturday, October 5, 2013


Tension produces anxiety, excitement and fear. It's in the book a kid reads with a flashlight after Mom has closed the door. It's in the book a kid hides in his lap and reads while the teacher drones on about long division and percentages. It's in the book that makes the reader care deeply about the protagonist, and what is going to happen to that person.

I think creating tension in my writing is the hardest thing to accomplish. It means I must eliminate sections of description, dialogue and juicy observation, all excellent examples, of course, of my really great writing. At first it is hard to see why my story is better without all these paragraphs, why sixty pages can be cut without anyone (but me) noticing. But it's true.

As I revise, I ask myself exactly what happens on each page. How does the chapter support the plot? Would anyone notice if it were...gone?

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Sunday, September 29, 2013


On this perfect early fall day in our small town in western New Jersey, with the sun shining in a deep, autumn blue sky and the leaves starting to turn to oranges and yellows, the local fire company held its annual auction. It seems as if everything under the sun and then some are available for auction or purchase. Stacks of books pour out of the hall, clothes piled on clothes line the firehouse, sports equipment - skates, bats, balls, sleds, skis fill a shed, household items of all imaginations occupy a tent - pictures frames with photos of long gone great-grandparents, old Christmas ornaments that someone once lovingly hung on their tree, and decorations for  holidays through out the year, pots and pans, flower vases and baskets, table linens-and the auction tent itself packed with furniture, antiques, picnic tables, bikes, boats, and beyond.

What an auction of ideas for writers - the remains of people's lives. Who used all this? What did this table hear or that chair see?  Was it a happy home or did illness, sorrow, betrayal, history of war or economic problems trouble this house? Who looked at this photo and who gave it away?

Auction items are a treasure trove of inspiration for a writer  - for plot, for characters, for setting.

As a writer we can say, well, "What if....the owner of these faded silk flowers touched them gently as she smiled at a birthday being remembered?"  "What if ...the mother in the sepia toned photo cried as she read the letter from her son at war?"  "What if ...friends and family cheered as the athlete with that bat slammed the winning home run?" "What if ...that piece of jewelry was accepted by a teenage girl  who then tells the boyfriend that she is making other plans?"

I once heard Mary Higgins Clark, the mystery writer, give a talk where she said she began her first novel, and many subsequent books, by asking "What if...." when looking what might actually be a very ordinary scene or event and imagining something bigger and much more interesting and mysterious. She said she was in Singapore as a young air line stewardess and noticed an international looking group at the next restaurant table and haphazardly thought, "What if... they're not what they appear?" and she was off. 

Auctions offer much trash and many treasures but all have a past and can fit in a story as a main character or a minor plot point. A writer only has to ask "What if... " and can be off on a unique new book. Where do you see treasures of inspiration and when have you said "What if...?"

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Modifying a Longstanding Tradition

Something really stuck in my mind about the novel I recently read (Tabloid City by Pete Hamill) - not the plot or the writing, but the… punctuation. 

Instead of quotes to indicate dialogue, the book uses a beginning dash.  See a few sentences here in which the tabloid’s editors, Briscoe and Logan, are talking about a murder being investigated by a young reporter called Fonseca:

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Finding a Mentor

In one-hundred and two days The Promise of Amazing will be out in the world.  Even after all the work I've done on it this past year -the excitement of the sale, the editorial letter, seeing the cover, walking into the HarperCollins offices and trying desperately not to fangirl as I met my editor for the first time, holding a bound galley in my hand- it still seems surreal.  To put it in perspective, last year at this time I was busy polishing up the final draft to send to my agent.  In my wildest dreams I could never have predicted the route my manuscript has taken.  There are people who sell their novels and have to wait a few years before ever seeing it in print. I know I'm one of the lucky ones, and I never take that for granted.

I should be cracking open the bubbly, eating dark chocolate truffles and propping my feet up, right?

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Creating Memorable Characters

What makes us remember a character? Not what they're wearing, or the color of their hair, but "their quirks, their body language, their histories, their beliefs." How does a writer create vivid, memorable characters?

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

List-Mania for Writers

Who doesn't love a good list? Certainly, Buzzfeed readers do. On any given day of the week, Buzzfeed offers lists of advice from Wizard Chic: 10 Ways to Look Like Less of a Muggle to the 25 Most Awkward Cat Sleeping Positions

This week, Buzzfeed was one of several websites to focus on lists for writers. I have to admit, I got sucked in - I clicked on each one. So, for this week's reading pleasure, I give you my favorite lists of the week:

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Monday, September 9, 2013

To Write a Classic

Recently my son and I have been rereading the "My Father's Dragon" trilogy by Ruth Stiles Gannett. We read all three books several years ago and he loved them. As I was organizing my books in our new house, he spotted this old favorite and asked to read it again. I happily obliged.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"In media res." I've written on this several times, but in reviewing my own writing, I see again where a leisurely pace has resulted in a less than satisfying manuscript. The slow development of plot and character is no longer possible.

I'm always reading several books at once, and just finished Edith Wharton's autobiography. That made me pick up one of her very early novels, The Custom of the Country. Slowly, oh so slowly, she sketches her character, Undine Spragg. Delicately, oh so delicately she paints the Gilded Age scenery. This is a bit boring, I think, and then, POW, she drops the first brick of the plot and I MUST keep reading. But I'm on page 127.

If Edith were writing today, her book would begin where the brick was dropped. Backstory, all 127 pages of it, would fill in the gaps, inserted only where the plot couldn't be slowed down.

 I still find it immensely useful to read earlier works (I just finished reading Beatrix Potter books to the grandchildren) But whenever my writing strays toward that old fashion mode, I try to cut it off, albeit reluctantly.  I know I can't go there any more.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Comic strips as inspiration

If you ever have trouble following a teen's train of thought, or what he worries about, or what occurs to her that might not occur to the rest of us….try…comic strips? 

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Soul Would have No Rainbow....

                     The soul would have no rainbow
                            if the eyes had no tears.

Last week when in Jackson Hole nestled by the beautiful Grand Tetons, I picked up a book of Native American proverbs. This wonderful quote with its wisdom and rhythm, is the title.

Paging through the book I came across this quotation, pertinent to us all, particularly as writers.

                  Words are the voice of the heart.

When I read this I thought of the focus of our writing for children and YA's and what part of heart do we want or need to convey to them. Then I thought of the anniversary this week of Dr. King's speech and remembered a book I read as a child of 8 to 11.

Marguarite De Angeli's  THEE HANNAH still flashes through my memory, scene by scene. Hannah is a little Quaker girl in Philadelphia at the time of the Civil War. She isn't happy that she has to wear plain dresses and hats while her friend who is of another church gets to wear pretty, flowered dresses of different colors. One day she is walking home when a desperate African American woman with her child who are hiding behind a house, calls to her and asks for help. Hannah tells her parents and they help the poor fugitive to an underground railroad station. The fleeing woman tells Hannah she knew she could rely on Hannah to help her because she recognized her dress as a Quaker. Suddenly Hannah understands the symbolism and her family's courage and heart in living what they believe and helping others. What a great book for children to see other children's conflicts and see how their courage does make a difference.

What a great goal to strive for - bringing help and understanding for heart and soul through the books we write.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013


Farewell, Elmore Leonard, father of five children and 45 novels.  Glimpses of your hugely successful writing process will continue to inspire those of us struggling to find a fraction of your writer's life.

  • Elmore Leonard talked about his approach to Bob Greene (Wall Street Journal): "When I get into the writing, I have a pretty good idea of who the main characters will be. But I still don't know exactly how the story will work. And something happens to me in almost every book: A character that, in my mind, may have been fairly minor turns into a major character. I hear him talking, and I realize: This guy is interesting."
  • Elmore Leonard always wrote a scene from a single character’s point of view, then often rewrote the same scene from another character’s POV to see if it was more effective.  
  • His use of dialogue is legendary.
  • Though he started writing in the 1950’s, he ‘found his style’ after reading George V. Higgins’ classic 1970 crime novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle, with its prolific profane dialogue: “I read it and I changed my style somewhat…I started to use expletives where they belonged. I started to open my scenes with dialogue. Higgins set me free.”

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fly, Be Free

As I sit here on this rainy morning pondering what words of wisdom I'm going to lay on you, my lovely Paper Wait readers, I realize no matter what I say, I will most likely fall spectacularly short. Confession: at the moment I'm feeling a bit empty, maybe even melancholy.

This past weekend, my son went off to college for the first time.  And oh...so many feels.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Inner Truth of Teenagers

Why do teens love dystopia?  Well, according to Patrick Ness, best known for his extraordinary Chaos Walking trilogy, “Arbitrary authoritarian rulers. Nothing makes sense and there is no escape.  The grim social order is relieved by flashes of personal connection here and there...

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Best Times for Insight & Inspiration?


 Have you ever wondered why inspiration zaps your brain at certain times? Is it chance? Some scientists think not.

In a 2008 New Yorker article "The Eureka Hunt," Jonah Lehrer describes brain research that seems to explain the why of when insight and inspiration can strike.

"The insight process, as sketched by scientists Jung-Beeman and Kounis, is a delicate balancing act. At first, the brain lavishes the scarce resource of attention on a single problem. But once the brain is sufficiently focused, the cortex needs to relax in order to seek out the more remote association in the right hemisphere, which will provide the insight."

When is this most likely to happen?

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Revising and Revising and Revising!

Recently I had a lot of fun revising a manuscript. Well... it wasn't fun all the way through.

Basically here's how my revision process went...

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

"Everything You Feel Like Telling"

I am reading Edith Wharton's autobiography, A Backward Glance. It is rich with information on her development as a writer. Most interesting is her commentary on her critic, Walter Berry, who essentially "taught" her to write. I quote much of what she says in its entirety, as it is invaluable for both writers and critics.

About Walter Berry, she writes: "No critic was ever severer, but none had more respect for the artist's liberty. He taught me never to be satisfied with my own work, but never to let my inward conviction as to the rightness of anything I had done be affected by outside opinion."

Stuck with the development of a novel, she asked his opinion.  "He looked through what I had written, handed it back, and said simply: 'Don't worry about how you're to go on. Just write down everything you feel like telling.' The advice freed me once for all from the incubus of an artificially pre-designed plan, and sent me rushing ahead with my tale, letting each incident create the next, and keeping in sight only the novelist's essential sign-post; the inner significance of the "case" selected. Yet when the novel was done, I remember how meticulously he studied it from the point of view of language, marking down faulty syntax and false metaphors, smiling away over-emphasis and unnecessary repetitions, helping me patiently through the beginner's verbal perplexities, yet never laying hands on what he considered sacred: the soul of the novel, which is (or should be) the writer's own soul."

It is good to know that even one of America's greatest writers struggled to learn, and that the manuscripts she produced (according to a guide at The Mount, she wrote every morning in bed for four hours) all needed help from a sharp-eyed critic who respected what she was trying to say.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Taking my character far, far away to develop him - as in Jersey boy goes to British beach

Even though we've never met, Robin Constantine and I have been on the same page, so to speak, at the beach. We have been imagining characters from our respective novels (hers about to be published, mine a work in progress) on vacation at the beach. Since my novel also takes place in New Jersey, one would think that my main and secondary characters would also have familiarity with it. They don't. The absence of the Jersey shore experience among my New Jersey characters is, in itself, telling: Neither of them go for reasons related to their backgrounds.

However, while I was traveling through southern England last month and periodically writing, where did my second-most important character wind up? At another beach: Teignmouth, in the Devon region of England.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Making Books Live

Recently I was researching material for a book set in medieval England and delved into what kind of books were in use then. This prompted me to review the history of book making from the writings of the ancient world engraved on stone tablets, progressing to text inscribed on papyrus in Egypt at the time of the pharaohs and parchment in Greece and the
Middle East to paper in China. The invention of the movable type printing press by Gutenberg in the 1400"s expanded phenomenally the manufacture of books and the distribution of knowledge. And then on to ebooks and the Gutenberg Project which encourages ebooks distribution and expanding information, knowledge and story.

Back in medieval England, books or manuscripts were hand written on parchment and
used by scribes and scholars in goverment, the church and business, as well as by students in universities. We stand in awe of these historic volumes in museums and libraries and prize their history, language, script and illuminations. Hopefully some of the books we work on and produce in printed form or in the eworld will survive to be used and enjoyed in the future, and maybe even occasionally some one in the future will look at them with a little awe. 

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Writer's Workout

At the suggestion of a critique partner, I cut my latest manuscript into pieces.  I tell ya, critiques can be rough!

Seriously, they can.  But this was a new angle on revision.  I’m putting my ms back together like one of those magnetic poetry puzzles.  I mix and match the couplets that make up my PB, see what’s essential and what’s not.  In one exercise, I looked at only scenes with the main character.  A verse I thought was critical is actually redundant.  In another, I looked at only the bad guy.  Turns out he might be just as threatening without a verse or two.  Next, I’m going to rearrange the scenes with plot flow in mind. 

Something about the physicality– the touch and the visual of the paper pieces moving around, pushes my creativity button.  It’s also faster than doing it online. 

More physicality to come when I create a PB dummy for dummies by taping the paper verse over the text in an existing picture book.  You can see page turns and imagine the rising and falling action.  (Another helpful suggestion from a critique partner!)  All this physical hand waving and paper movement – maybe I'll lose some weight.

It’s impressive what new insights can be gained by viewing a puzzle from a different angle, like unexpectedly viewing a mirror or photograph of myself from the back (ooooh, that writer’s workout isn’t reaching much beyond my elbows...). 

Another great suggestion for a paper and glue workout comes from an interview with Jo Knowles (Lessons from a Dead Girl) on Inkygirl.  For her novels, she creates a storyboard.  Each chapter is represented by a simple picture (think stick figures a la Blues Clues), a quick plot summary below the picture, and the strongest emotion labeled at the top. The story arc is immediately apparent -- a one glance view of the ms.  It’s a great tool that should be just as (if not more) useful for PBs as well.

So writers, go get physical!  Let me know if you have any other suggestions for a writer’s workout, especially any that work off the weight that shows in those rear-view pictures.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Characters on Vacation

Over on the OneFour KidLit YouTube channel this month, we are highlighting places our characters would go on vacation.  Since THE PROMISE OF AMAZING takes place in New Jersey, I didn't have to think too hard about where the teens in my book might venture on a sweltering summer day.  I had such a blast creating this video that I thought I'd share it here as well!
Where would your characters go on vacation?

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On Censorship and Happiness

As writers for children, we often navigate the line between too little and too much gritty realism. For one thing, we don't want to cut out a giant portion of our audience because of the censors.

I always sneered at censorious parents till this summer when my daughter got a part in "The Laramie Project,” at camp. It's about that poor kid in Wyoming who was beaten to death for being gay.  I didn't stop her, mind you, but I fretted about it to everyone who would listen.

 “It must be one of those ‘socially conscious’ camps,” my boss offered dubiously.

“Well, you wanted her to do something besides Guys and Dolls," my husband said.

My best friend texted me back:  she's happy about it you're happy about it 

But I wasn’t happy about it. I'm not a Bible-thumper. I support gay marriage. I just didn’t want my girl immersed in the most morose, miserable story possible at camp. I thought it was all wrong for her. Was I right?  You look at her face and tell me.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

One Haiku: Help Wanted


Each year when we go to Maine, I take along a haiku for kids about sunset at the ocean. I've been fiddling with it for years - this metaphor about the setting sun as a basketball. Should the sinking sun be described as a slam dunk or a swish shot?

This year, you can help me decide.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Old School Index Cards Rule

As I zeroed in on the ending of the second major revision of my WIP, I came to a terrible realization. My ending sucked.

First reaction: Overwhelmed. How can I fix it? It's too much work. Maybe I should trash it and start something new. Maybe I should go find some chocolate.

Second reaction: Find the chocolate and think things through.

Third reaction: Okay, I think I've got a new ending, but holy shit! It's too much work. New ending requires new stuff sprinkled throughout. Maybe I should trash it and start something new. Maybe I should open up a bottle of wine.

Fourth reaction: Open up a bottle of wine and get to work.

Here's what I did.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Why I Love Our Critique Group!

I had a great night tonight! Normally I don't focus my blog post on what a great night I had, but tonight it seemed appropriate because tonight I spent my evening...

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

More for the Fourth

Happy 4th! Well, maybe. I just talked to my seven year old grandson who seemed a little vague on the details. A BOOK IS IN ORDER  said I, and I googled GoodReads for suggestions.

Humm. There are some old standbys, Sam the Minuteman and George the Drummer Boy written with the idea that kids understand things better from a little person's viewpoint. There are lots of books on the subject written from animals' points of view: mice, dogs, bears. Mary Pope Osborn has written on the subject, Happy Birthday America, and a popular book appears to be Wow America by Neubucker.  Commenters had good things to say about Jean Fritz's series on the Founding Fathers.

BUT, dear writers, my cursory survey on 4th of July literature indicates there is precious little out there for young readers. An understanding of the unique history of the United States is essential to coming generations. Let's get some new and interesting books on the market!

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Writing on vacation, English-style

As a child, when my parents took us places, sightseeing was nonstop. We weren't those "It's Tuesday, it must be Belgium," type people--they didn't rush us through places--but the whole day we were expected to be somewhere, on the move. I thought all people traveled like this.

And then, in my mid-20s, I made British friends..and traveled with them. They took longer hikes "walks" than my parents...but they would also stop for tea. Often. They didn't have to "be somewhere" every moment, or every day. They knew how to take breaks. I was amazed. And ever since then, I have traveled half like my parents, half like my British friends.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy Fourth -Independence Day !

Happy Independence Day to the Paperwaiters and all our children's writers. I'm thinking of the incredible gifts that are ours as writers here on July Fourth when we celebrate liberty and freedom. As writers we celebrate freedom of speech especially, and thus to bring the best literature to children too.

We forget sometimes how we got here...and the Fourth helps to remind us

"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..."                                                   
                           First Amendment- Bill of Rights

If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter."
                         George Washington

"Where the press is free and everyman able to read, all is safe."
                         Thomas Jefferson

Happy Fourth and Happy Writing!

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Monday, June 24, 2013

A Polished Pan, a Painful Illness and Writing

I roasted some chicken, then finished it off in the broiler.  The drippings burned and cemented themselves to my pan.  (Should have used tin foil…) I scrubbed hard, and a few of these lava-like rocks came off, but not enough for the pan to be used again.  I soaked it overnight.  Still, too much refused to budge.  I plopped more soap in and soaked it again.  More scouring only turned the Brillo pad’s pink soap into gray sludge, and gave me 'scrubber’s elbow.'  I wondered if it was time to trash it.

Something said ‘Try again – one more time.’  One more overnight soak, another hefty dose of aerobic elbow grease, and… it came clean.  Not only clean, but polished.  

Aaah, my writing lesson of the week – that’s how I should approach the manuscript I was thinking of abandoning.  Give it a little more brain-soak time, and a serious revision scour, again and then again.   That's how my process works.   For my current picture book project, that means considering a new creative non-fiction element.  Sometimes the process feels like I'm floating in gray sludge and those bits that don't work won't come out of my manuscript.  Then a piece of it comes up polished and ooh, that feels good!   

Two famous writers who, per Ariel's wish, did 'complain' about the writing process: 

"Easy reading is damn hard writing."  Nathaniel Hawthorne  

George Orwell's perspective is my favorite:

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Thursday, June 20, 2013


Dearest Paper Waiters,

This is a moment I’ve been dreaming about since, well, forever.   And the fact that I get to share it with you means so much to me.  Some of you have been with me since the beginning of my writing journey – at least the “official” writing journey.  I remember walking into Penny Pollock’s picture book class and feeling instantly at home, like “I’ve found my people”.   The creativity and the support in that room made me believe that I could follow this crazy dream of being an author.

The road hasn’t been easy for any of us, has it?  Ups and downs, almost theres, near misses and those wonderful moments we could bring out the champagne.  You were there for my first good rejection, nurtured me when I said I thought I wanted to write a novel and patiently supported me when tears of frustration would leak out during meetings.  There are no guarantees in this business except one: writer buds make the fiercest of friends.

So thanks for ‘getting me’ Paper Waiters! 

Oh, yes, I was revealing a cover wasn’t I?

Revealing this here, on The Paper Wait, feels especially sweet!! 

Here it is… yes, you have to jump to see it!!

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