Kidlit Fundraising for Boston
Last week's tragedies hit uncomfortably close to home. In 1994, I moved to Boston for school. For many years I lived in Brookline and Brighton, and watched the Boston Marathon run right down my streets. In 2004, my husband and I moved to a town bordering Watertown, where the grisly final showdown of last week's crime spree played out. The manhunt for one of the bombing suspects took place within 1.5 miles of my neighborhood near all the places we go on weekly errands. The suspect was apprehended in the backyard of a house mere steps from a play area where I've been taking my son for years. (I blogged about our long day in a lockdown zone at Sleuths Spies and Alibis
earlier this week).
I think so many of us feel these events hit close to home even if we don't happen to live in the lockdown zone. We all know runners, and maybe some of us run. We know policemen. We know sports fans. We know eight-year-old boys. And so forth. If you talk to enough people, you are bound to find some kind of personal or emotional connection to the horrors that unfolded in the news.
Always, though, I come back to these fundamental facts: I am not
that close to the events. I was not a victim. None of my friends or family were either. Any complaining I might do about personal inconveniences and fears I experienced last week do not come close to the losses experienced by those at the finish line -- people who lost lives, limbs, or loved ones.
In the face of past national or international tragedies, I have found it helpful to channel my emotions into taking action. Donating money or time to a cause. I am therefore participating in a kidlit community auction to benefit Boston Marathon victims and their families: The Write Stuff For Boston
. YA writer and blogger K.T. Crowley (also a fellow Bostonian) has organized this auction and is hosting it on her blog. Ten new items will be unveiled every day, starting today. Authors, bloggers, editors, and agents have donated books, manuscript critiques, school visits, and other items and services. Money raised from bidding goes directly to The One Fund Boston
or to The Boston First Responders Fund
. Items will be open for bidding for five days after they are listed.
My donation is a manuscript critique of a MG or YA book (up to 30 pages) OR a YA short story, plus a copy of Tokyo Heist
Another wonderful initiative is spearheaded by YA author (and Boston-area resident) A.C. Gaughen and YA author Kimberly Sabatini. They are collecting books (from authors, readers, anyone) for an initiative called Books for Boston
. New children's books -- with uplifting inscriptions or messages of hope -- will be collected and donated to the Boston Public Library and to the Neighborhood House Charter School, which is where 8-year-old bombing victim Martin Richards attended. You can read more about Books for Boston, including the philosophy behind it and how to help, on A.C. Gaughen's blog
I hope you'll consider participating in one of these efforts, donating to The One Fund
, or helping to spread the word.
Labels: A.C. Gaughen, Books for Boston, Boston kidlit auction for marathon victims, Boston Public Library, K.T. Crowley, Kimberly Sabatini, The Write Stuff for Boston
A Poem for National Poetry Month
I rarely write poems. Okay, I never do. I used to, many years ago, and I don't know what happened, why the poetry ideas dried up. I love reading poems, but I think somewhere along the way my ideas started talking to me in full-on sentences, and paragraphs appeared before my eyes rather than stanzas. I'm not known for brevity, and I usually feel constrained when I impose a structure.
But I'm so inspired by my fellow YARN
editor Kate Burak's poetry prompts
this month, I just can't help myself. Plus my other fellow editor Kerri Majors wrote a cool poem today, which you can read here.
So I'm rolling up my sleeves today and actually writing a poem! I think for those of us writing stories and novels, it's a great exercise to try a different form of writing now and then.
Before I plunge in, let me tell you about how YARN (Young Adult Review Network) is celebrating National Poetry Month
. We're running a poem-a-day project
. There are prompts on the YARN website for every day of the month. Every Monday you'll find seven prompts, one for each day of the week. Today is Day 3. It's not too late! We'd love to see people's results and encourage you to share your prompt-inspired poems with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.Tag your Twitter and Tumblr poems with the hashtag #NPMYARN. For Facebook, tag YARN!
Okay, here's today's prompt:
Write directions for preparing food. The food can be simple (a glass of
rain) or outrageous (cooking the world’s last antelope)—you decide.
Oh no. Anxiety. Not only do I not write poetry, I do not cook.
Wait a second. I did
cook yesterday -- it was my son's birthday and I attempted to make him a cake. I even took pictures of the process. Hmm. Ingredients for a poem in all of that? Maybe? Here goes!
PIECE OF CAKE
When I take my son's birthday cake out of the oven,
I nearly drop it in horror.
The cake has sprouted a full set of lips
that seem to smile at me,
and narrowed eyes,
You cannot cook
, the cake breathes,
emitting a tendril of steam.
You have walked the earth this many years,
become a mother,
and until today,
you have never made a round cake?
Not even from a box?
You hold an advanced degree
and you cannot follow five simple steps of directions?
The cake's pockmarked face shifts and settles
as I set the pan on the counter.
The lips protrude into a pout.
Then the corners of the mouth curl up.
I am torn between
immediately sending a picture to a tabloid magazine
("The Virgin Mary's face is in my cake!")
and making a million dollars --
or throwing it in the trash before my son sees this aberration
and is scarred for life.
I opt for the heavy concealer.
I slather on frosting, working fast,
while the cake's uneven surface heaves beneath
my frantic spatula.
I think of all the childhood cakes my parents bought me
with their neat round shapes,
their even layers,
their perfectly coiled confection roses,
their slight whiff of supermarket refrigerator case,
and I think
yes, that was the way.
I cover up every last bit of the cake,
and all the stress that went into its making --
the skipped step, the out-of-order step,
the incorrect measurement,
the eternal feeling of not measuring up
on the motherhood meter --
and throw handfuls of candy at it when I'm done.
Later that evening,
my son admires the cake,
blows out the candles,
and eats it with both hands,
and my husband says,
"How many kids are so lucky
to have a homemade cake?"
I smile and shrug,
as if I made cakes like this all the time,
as if the cake concealed
Labels: Kate Burak, Kerri Majors, National Poetry Month, poem a day project, YARN
Today my 5-year-old drew this picture for me on a white board:
"They look startled because they're about to be erased," he explained.
My son is normally quite sensitive about anything dealing with finality. Deflated balloons, dead flies on a windowsill, even a withered leaf can bring tears to his eyes. So I was surprised at his matter-of-fact tone.
"Where do you think these characters will go, after they're erased?" I asked gently, bracing myself for the emotions around the corner. "Maybe back to Idea Land? Where they came from?"
Idea Land! Yes! A place where half-formed thoughts and two-dimensional characters could run around dead ends or play jump rope with tangled-up plotlines! Cast off characters -- from different chapters, even from different books -- could all meet up and hang out. Surely that's where these stick figures were going in that car -- and no doubt they'd run into countless abandoned relics from the novel I'm now revising. I let myself drift into this fantasy for a moment. The scenario appealed. Sometimes it's hard to let go.
My son snapped me out of my reverie. "No," he said. "They get devoured."
"Devoured? By what?"
"By the eraser, of course."
I had just a moment left to snap this picture, and then these guys were gone.
I missed them. But minutes later he'd drawn a better picture.
I wished I could hit my delete button as boldly as he swiped that eraser. Sometimes I cannot simply cut -- I have to retype completely, conjuring everything up again, and not thinking about what I'm lost. I'm always happier with the result. It's the anticipation before the cuts that feels hard.
Do you cling to old ideas -- saving them in a file, printing out scrapped pages? I do this even though I may never look at those files or pages again. I like just knowing they are there. Other writers are more ruthless.
How do you make peace with cuts when you're revising?
Labels: revision, writing process
Celebrating POISON (by Bridget Zinn)
Tomorrow (March 12) is the release date for Poison
, a YA novel by Bridget Zinn
, one of my fellow Apocalypsies
(a group of debut authors from 2012).
Sadly, Bridget isn't here to see her debut novel make its way into the world. She passed away from cancer in May 2011 at the age of 33.
I'm joining other kidlit authors in honoring Bridget and her debut week
by spreading the word about Poison
-- a funny, romantic, and action-packed fantasy. Her family has also asked writers
to blog about their own debut experience or a topic that would have been of interest to Bridget.
I didn't know Bridget personally, outside of some exchanges on the Apocalypsies discussion forum and email threads. I do remember her upbeat spirit. I remember how she seemed way more focused on books than on cancer. I remember how she found time and energy to respond thoughtfully to group emails -- and even to vote on my author photo when I was agonizing over choices. From what I've read about Bridget since then, that was very typical of her. She was a librarian, a writer, a reader, a champion of books and writers, and totally involved in the kidlit writing community.
Because Bridget was also a librarian, I thought I'd take a moment to rave about librarians and the role they can play in a debut author's journey.
Before my book launch, I always heard so much the importance of cultivating relationships with bookstores and booksellers. That's important too. But bookstores can only host a certain amount of events each month for authors in general and for YA authors in particular. They only have so much shelf space, and your book may not always be prominently displayed, or not for as long as you'd like.
Conversely, if your book gets into a library, it's going to have a long life there. Librarians are eager to get more teens into the library and to host events; many will also permit you to hand-sell your book at such an event or they will work with a local bookstore to make sure that books are for sale.
Here are just some of the amazing things teen librarians have done for me and Tokyo Heist over the past year. They have . . .
- Distributed bookmarks and talked up my book when visiting local schools
- Slipped my bookmarks into related books on their shelves, to entice readers to try my book
- Selected Tokyo Heist as a teen read for a community reading program and arranged for an author talk
- Chosen my novel for a parent/teen book club choice and invited me to talk at the book club
- Advertised my library talks widely, in all kinds of events listings and other local media
- Made beautiful flyers and posters for my events and plastered them all over towns
- Invited me to hold writing workshops in their space -- and helped to advertise them widely
- Reviewed my book on GoodReads and helped to spread the word among other librarians
To honor Bridget, her novel, and librarians, I'll be buying three copies of Poison
this week and donating them to libraries.
Curious about Bridget's book? Here's an enticing blurb about Poison, which is getting rave reviews!
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only
one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means
she's the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra
decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom's future ruler, who
also happens to be her former best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of
hide-and-seek with the king's army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal.
At least she's not alone. She's armed with her vital potions, a too-cute
pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can't stop thinking about.
Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will
she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find
Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she's certainly no
damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this
romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls
Want to learn more about Bridget?
Check out her website
, where you can find her bio, some of her excellent writing tips, and a great video.
Want to help spread the word about Poison and celebrate Bridget's debut week? Here's a list of ways to help
. There are all kinds of fun ways to participate in the "Do Something Sweet for Poison" campaign, from blogging to tweeting about #poison this week to participating in the What's Your Poison?
writers' discussion online.
Thanks for taking the time to read about Bridget and her book!
Labels: Apocalypsies, Bridget Zinn, debut authors, Do Something Sweet for Poison, Poison, teen librarians
On the Clock
Having recently finished a draft of my novel, I thought I'd share my top three tools for getting a draft done:
1. A timer
. Specifically, this one:
This is a visual timer made by a company called Time Timer
. (I know, kind of a redundant name -- they needed to hire a writer to come up with a better one!) I originally bought this when my son was in preschool; it's the type of clock they used in his classroom to help kids with transitions or to help them comprehend the idea of "just five more minutes." He's since lost interest in it, so it now rests on my desk.
When I'm having trouble getting into a writing session, or feeling uninspired, I set it for 25 minutes. (Or if I'm really stuck, just five! I can do anything for five minutes). Something about seeing all the red -- and seeing the red disappear -- makes me feel "on the clock" and I use my minutes productively. Sometimes I set a goal of a certain word count in a time period. Sometimes my goal is just to keep typing until I no longer see red. My optimal work sessions run in 25-minute writing bursts followed by a 5-minute rest. (This is a variation on the patented "pomodoro
" method of time management).
You really could use any timer, even a stopwatch function on your phone, but I love this clock too because it doesn't tick or make distracting sounds, and a gentle "beepbeep" signals the end of your session. And the constant presence of this oversize clock keeps me on task.
2. Post-it notes!
I use them for jotting quick notes. Things to fix in the story that aren't urgent, but are worth addressing later. Research questions to work on later. Page markers as I flip through print-outs of the manuscript. Reminders of my story goal, or a character's objective in a scene -- and I'll place the note right at the edge of my computer screen.
Here's how I sometimes use bigger sticky notes.
Yellow = a setting I'm interested in using.
Blue = a plot development. Something that happens.
I play around with these on my wall when I'm stuck, trying to match plot developments or scenes to interesting settings. This also ensures that characters roam around and don't get stuck talking in the same cafe, or a room in a house.
See the blank yellow one? There's a setting with nothing going on. See the blue one by itself? That's a scene with no setting. Mapping this out in advance helps me to plan my scenes more effectively.
This is Internet blocking software. I use it in conjunction with my timer clock. I may set the timer on this for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, and I use it in conjunction with my desk timer. I could still check email or tweet something from my phone, but I find I tend not to. Once I'm plugged into Freedom, I feel like I've "punched in" for the work session, and I am more focused. It's sad I had to pay ten dollars for this application, when I could simply switch my wireless button to "off," but for me this really works.
For more tips on drafting -- and getting a draft done -- I've posted at Sleuths, Spies and Alibis
today: "Drafting, and the Aftermath
What are your favorite tools for getting a draft done? How do you get to "the end"?
Labels: finishing a novel, Freedom internet blocking software, pomodoro technique, Sleuths Spies and Alibis, Time Timer, writing process
So . . . What's Your YARN?
Here's some news . . . I've taken on a new job as of this month, exchanging my writing hat for an editing hat! (I like to change hats every once in awhile. Even though hats make my hair look terrible, and really I don't look good in any hats at all).
Anyway. I'm excited to announce that I've joined the awesome team at YARN
(Young Adult Review Network) as their new Fiction Editor. YARN is an award-winning online magazine dedicated to short-form writing for young adults. YARN features short stories, poems, and essays, publishing teen writers alongside emerging and established authors.
My friend and fellow YA novelist Kathryn Burak
(author of the Edgar-nominated Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things
) has also just joined, as the new Poetry Editor. You can read the news item about us here
I first discovered YARN a couple of years ago when I was looking for markets for short YA fiction. There weren't that many. YARN, founded by Kerri Majors
, was among the first to emerge online. A few more YA magazines have come out recently, but there are still not as many publications as there are for adult short fiction. And with an Innovations in Reading Award from the National Book Foundation, YARN has quickly established itself as a leader in this publishing sector. As both a reader and a former contributor to this magazine, I'm thrilled and honored to be part of this dynamic team.
I'm enjoying this dip back into short fiction, too. I've written and read short stories for as long as I can remember. Short stories taught me to become a writer. Writing stories for literary magazines in college and after taught me a lot about storytelling, as well as working with editors. I still love the satisfaction I get from reading -- or writing -- a story in compressed form. I love how great stories stand up to rereading and can offer fresh insights each time. I love the tiny windows into other people's experiences that short stories can give us. And I believe we need MORE short stories for YA readers.
It's also fun to wear the editing hat again. I worked as an editor for many years, in educational publishing, before focusing on writing novels. Editing involves a different kind of creative process; I can almost feel different muscles in my brain working. And getting involved with an innovative, energetic magazine, with some freedom to develop my own ideas, is a wonderful opportunity.
yarn? We're looking for great YA stories, so if you have one up your sleeve and are interested in submitting, please do! You can read about YARN's submission guidelines here
. (Please submit through the YARN website).
And finally, if you're going to the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference in Boston
next week -- or even if you're just in the area -- you're welcome to come hang out with me and my fellow YARN editors, Kerri Majors and Kathryn Burak! We'll be at the YA Publishing Cocktail Party, sponsored by Paper Lantern Lit, along with folks from Figment, Sucker Literary Magazine, and other YA-themed publications. YARN will be running a cool contest too, with copies of Tokyo Heist
and Emily's Dress
among the prizes. We're still nailing down some details, so check the YARN website or Twitter feed (@YAReviewNet) for more info in the coming days!
The cocktail party is free, but RSVP is required. Click here for details and the RSVP info
. (Also, attendees must be 21+
-- sorry!!) Would love to see you there!
Labels: AWP, AWP Conference 2013, Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things, Figment, Kathryn Burak, Paper Lantern Lit, Sucker Literary Magazine, Tokyo Heist, YARN, Young Adult Review Network
Signing in Seattle
Whew -- dusty here! (cough, cough
). Have I really not updated this blog since January 15
? Are those cobwebs over there? Did I leave milk sitting in the fridge? Is that a carcass in the corner? Gah.
I've just resurfaced after finishing a draft of my next novel -- more on that later -- which has taken all my writing time lately. Now that it's handed in, I'll be back on the blog, doing some much-needed housekeeping and updating.
But first, just briefly: I'm in Seattle this week, visiting family, and making only ONE book store stop. Tomorrow I'll be dropping by Seattle Mystery Bookshop
around 1:00 to sign stock. It's not a reading or an author talk. But unless there's a gag order I'm unaware of, I will totally talk to you! So if you're in the area, do come by; I'd love to meet you.
And if you're in need of a signed hardcover of Tokyo Heist
, this fabulous bookstore is THE place to get them. They'll have some on hand.
More to come!
Labels: Seattle Mystery Bookshop, signed copies of Tokyo Heist, Tokyo Heist