Realization Brought On By 7/7/7

Quick update on the newsletter situation: I have now tried three new programs, and all of them were much less user-friendly than the one I’d initially chosen. Naturally, that one is still not working, and the support team has not gotten back to me. I’m still working on this. Wish me luck!

Last week, my friend Sara Letourneau tagged me in a 7/7/7 challenge. The rules for the challenge are as follows. (For non-writers, “WIP” means “work in progress” and generally refers to a book manuscript.)

  1. Go to page 7 of your WIP.
  2. Scroll down to Line 7.
  3. Share the next 7 sentences in a blog post.
  4. After the excerpt, tag 7 other writers to continue the challenge.

The beginning part is easy. Here’s my 7/7/7, from the first chapter of Waist: A Tale of the Triangle Fire. In the scene, teenaged Rachel is spending her first day doing at-home work with her Aunt Rosa, making hats for a nearby factory. [Read more…]

August Book Review

Welcome to the monthly book review! At the end of each month, I review the books I’ve read. Enjoy!

all the bright placesThe Book: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The Category: YA

In Three Words: Bi-Polar teen suicide.

Biggest Takeaway: I semi-enjoyed this book at first; the main characters were engaging and I liked the road trips they took while trying to complete a “class project” that turned into much more. But then the book turned very message-centered, almost preachy. It was an important message, but I felt a little bludgeoned on impact. This book taught me not to let theme completely overtake other elements of the story.

the girl who chased the moonThe Book: The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

The Category: Literary fiction

In Three Words: Magical Southern town.

Biggest Takeaway: I realized about three chapters in that I’ve read the book before, probably when it came out 5 years ago (before I started writing about what I read). I’d completely forgotten it. It was beautifully written with a charming setting and fun plot twists, the kind of book I love to read. But it didn’t stick with me last time, and it’s not sticking now, either. What does make a book “sticky?” That’s a question for another blog post. [Read more…]

4th Anniversary Blog Post: The Juicy Stuff

Much like a misspelled birthday cake or the wrong color centerpiece, my fourth blog-aversary celebration is hitting a snag in the form of issues with subscribing to the newsletter I announced this week. It worked when I was testing it out, but not since I put it back up on the site. I’m getting it resolved and will let you know when you can start subscribing. Make sure you check back, because there will be a special giveaway only for new subscribers! I had hoped to do that on the anniversary itself (today!) but… oh well.

In the meantime, let’s continue the celebrations, shall we?

I thought I’d spend my anniversary writing about things I don’t typically share on this blog. The “juice,” if you will, about my life.

Let’s start with the serious stuff: 

My politics. I rarely write about politics online because there’s nothing more divisive to a community than political opinion, and I don’t want to encourage that. But just for the record, I’m liberal; I’m a (usually) proud Democrat. I vote in every election, from school budgets to local elections. I believe that people really can make a difference through politics, and it’s a dream of mine to one day serve on a town council or school board.

My “other” job. Almost all of my online presence is about my writing self, but I actually devote more real-life hours to my music-teaching self. Like most public school teachers I know, I love my job when it’s just me, the kids, and learning. A lot of bureaucracy and needless testing gets in the way of that these days, but for the most part, I still enjoy my job. I love the age of the kids I teach (4th and 5th grade) and I take seriously my role as the first person to teach them a musical instrument. After more than a decade, I still get shivers up and down my arms during band rehearsals when the kids really show me what they can do.  [Read more…]

Big Announcement!

Before we get started, I wanted to share my most recent “Be Well, Write Well” column for DIY MFA: How To Turn On Your Creativity Faucet (And Keep It Flowing). You don’t have to be a writer to learn about cultivating creativity!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about blogging in the four years since I’ve started (anniversary celebration coming on August 28th!) it’s that writing a blog is the complete opposite of writing a book.

When you write a book, you are looking to take a big idea and contain it within a structure of plot, chapters and word count. Writing a book is challenging because you need to wrestle with those limitations, trying to cram as much rich information as possible between the mandatory covers.

A blog has no such constraints. The only limitation on a blog is the author’s creative energy and time. Writing a blog is challenging because the possibilities are endless, and the act of writing about things one post at a time requires an endless sequence of new ideas.

With a book, you start with the tree of a big idea and prune it down until the details of characters, events and settings are visible. With a blog, you start with a tiny seed and grow it one idea after the next, sometimes changing direction, but always increasing content.

Which is a very long way of saying that this blog has changed a lot since its birth. And I love it. I love that it’s different from my fiction writing. I love that it encourages me to generate new ideas. I love that it keeps my brain working creatively.

So I’m making another change today. A big one, on the scale of re-launching the whole blog with a new theme, or changing the website itself. 

I’m adding new content. I’m starting a newsletter. [Read more…]

Shine The Light

Most writers accept the idea that it’s only other writers who understand us. We close our office doors and connect with each other via social media, or attend conferences so we can excitedly talk about writing with real people. Because our work is so private and often happens silently, we’re accustomed to the idea that our families and friends don’t really know what we do or how hard we work.

Our families might know that we sit down at a computer, lock ourselves in our offices and “write,” but they have no visual evidence of our work until the day it’s published. And even then, it’s just a small book or magazine, easy to stick away on a shelf, not something to be hung in a gallery or performed at a concert.

Compare that to how other creatives work.

Artists display their work on canvases, propped around their studio or hung on walls. They do this even if their work is unfinished. Anyone who walked past the workspace would see that their art is “in progress.”

A composer’s work is heard well before completion, by family and friends listening to him play around on his instrument or hum a melody.

Choreographers need people to work with, even if they’re able to sketch out ideas or go through the moves on their own for awhile. Those dancers become part of the process and can physically demonstrate how much the piece has grown.

Artists, composers, choreographers: their work is always witnessed.

But writers? Once upon a time, a writer would carry her handwritten or typewritten manuscript around in a leather folio. That would be the evidence of her hard work, something that people could point to and whisper, “She must be a writer.” [Read more…]