Saturday, April 20, 2013

Writers - When Book Characters Call Your Name, Do You Listen? (A Reunion Post)

Woman Screaming
My Book Characters Are Screaming

Today I celebrate the progress I’ve made using tools I learned about in Robert Lee Brewer’s April 2012 Platform Challenge.

When I think back to where I was one year ago, it’s hard to remember. The months have blended, broken down only by my kids’ school schedules. So I decided to do a little research.

Pulling up my blog website, I found that before April 2012, I had written a whopping 30 posts on my blog since its birth in 2009.

As of April 9, 2013, that number increased to 112 posts.

I would say the Platform Challenge jump-started my blogging.

Some months I was busier than others. For instance, when I participated in Robert’s November Poem-a-Day challenge, I decided to post all of my poems on my blog. I also participated in at least one submission challenge, the Submit-o-Rama with Khara House. It was a busy year and some of my successes included having poetry accepted by various literary magazines.

I also met an amazing group of supportive writers; we band together under the name Wordsmith Studio. (Thank you to all of you!)

And now that I think about it, even though I’ve struggled with finding my “brand,” I have settled into a comfortable place there as well.

My blog claims that I spend time, “Interpreting signs in the storefront of life.” That pretty much sums it up.

Stay on Track 

Still, I have that work-in-progress sitting in the rafters.

It’s calling out to me. I can hear it.

I keep getting side-tracked. Maybe I'm spending too much time browsing through that storefront.

A blog post here, a challenge there, a website update here, a hand-crafted book there, a favor here, another favor there; it has left me with a still-not-finished book.

Yes, I’ve started rewriting the ending. And I do have a clearer picture of the overall story. I’ve made progress.

I’m still frustrated simply because it’s not done.

Last night was I was thinking about where I’ve been and where I want to go, I decided blogging is not my priority.

Yes, I enjoy it and I plan to continue, but for my own self-fulfillment (sanity?), I need to put my work-in-progress first.

So today I turned off my social media and . . . I, uh, I  . . . well, I wrote this blog post.

Hmmm . . . still distracted.

No More Distractions

Time to close this file - and brush the dust off my book; I can hear the characters screaming my name.

First, to my friends at Wordsmith Studio (and to Robert!) - Thank you all for riding along on this journey with me. I’ve enjoyed watching your progress. And I appreciate the encouragement I’ve received.

Here's to another great year ahead sharing our fears, our learning, and our many successes!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Creating Yourself and Your World

Picture of Blank Paper
Write Your Life Story 

I sit here overcome by emotions for the state of our world; in front of me, a blank page waits for me to make something of it.

It’s the same with our lives.

We start out in life as a blank page, being molded, and shaped by the world and people around us, influencing who we become through their actions and words.

Still, underneath it all, we remain the plain piece of paper we started out as.

Stripping away all of these influences to find ourselves again can be a painful time. The eraser scratches away bits of our fiber. Some of the markings are easier to remove than others. Some of the pencil scratches have left marks that can never be removed.

We each become pieces of art, displaying our past for everyone to see. We can choose to show our imperfections or try to hide.

What is more interesting? More truthful?

You decide.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How to Gain Focus and Achieve Your Goals

Archery Photo by Kaliyoda
Hitting Your Target

Mondays are always hard.

I noticed this over the past couple of weeks. On Mondays, I have a “trouble focusing” habit.

This week I have an excuse.

I just returned from a mini-vacation with my family thanks to my daughter’s interest in Stanford. I’m really not sure how she came to know about the college, but I thought it would be a fun excursion to check it out.

On one of the days, we visited the art gallery (one of my favorite things to do!). When we made it to the Warhol exhibit, I was more astounded by the typo on the label next to one of his photographs than the artwork itself.

I’m not saying I’m perfect. Yes, I make typos. But this was Warhol.

Anyway, on our way out, it was exciting to find the real version of The Thinker. (We have a mini “Thinker” in our living room.)

Thinking About Goals

When we got back home, I decided it was time to prime the room-in-need-of-painting-for-far-too-long.

On Monday, I was a big, achy mess. I had coffee with a friend. I tried to catch up with my poetry. I opened Pinterest to look for room decoration ideas.

And I couldn't find my way back out until bedtime.

This morning, I felt like I had a hangover. A Pinterest hangover. Not good.

How to Gain Focus

So today, Tuesday, I decided I was going to be organized.

And this is what I did to gain focus:
  1. Turned off Social Media.
  2. Made a prioritized to-do list (an editorial calendar for the day).
  3. Highlighted completed items in yellow. 
  4. After completing each item, rewarded myself with five minutes of checking email and Facebook.

Breaking Down Goals

The next item on my agenda (but not on that other list) is to complete re-writes on my work-in-progress. I have an unofficial goal of June 15 to have it done.

This is how I've broken it down:

  • I have approximately 10,000 words left to write.
  • There are about 569 words per page.
  • This breaks down into (about) 18 pages. 
  • I have 67 days left to write this.
  • This is 10 weeks.
  • Write 1 page per day or write 2 pages per week.
  • Sounds easy!

Of course, if my story wants to be longer than this, I will need more time.

However, now that I've broken it down, I can see that this is totally doable in the time-frame I've designated.

Allowing Play Time

Now that I've gotten through all of these math problems, I see that I totally have time to lose focus and play every once in a while.

And if Monday happens to be the day that I’m inclined to do so, I really don’t need to stress out about it. That is, if I can be disciplined to stick to my plan the rest of the time.

(I will keep repeating to myself, I can do it!)

So now I ask, what tricks help you achieve your goals? Because um, I can use all the help I can get.


Monday, April 8, 2013

April Poem-A-Day Challenge - Day 5

I'm tired, so I will get to the point.

The prompt for PAD, Day 5 is as follows: "For today’s prompt, write a plus poem. Plus can mean a lot of things, and even the act of addition could equate to subtraction."

Photo of math problem
The Answer is Easy

Math Lesson for Peaceful Living

Pick up, factor, and then deduct
Loose articles
Underneath beds = Formula for Feng
Shui's infinite energy balance.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

April Poem-A-Day Challenge - Day 4

Okay, okay, the purpose of this challenge is to write. I am not thrilled with this piece. It needs work, but since I'm behind, I am not going to worry about it. 

The prompt for Day 4:

"For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Hold That (Blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and write the poem."

Photo of Man in Thought
Thoughts of Offspring

Hold that Thought

Cradle in your mind, swing
it back and forth, nurture
with quiet contemplation, pet
it with smooth, motherly hands, watch
it grow, send it off to school where
thought will learn how to love 
through the name-
calling days, cuddle until 
it’s grown, set 
it loose, let 
it fly, cherish
what it does, nurturing 
the world the way you
nurtured it.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

April Poem-A-Day Challenge - Day 3

For Day Three of Robert Lee Brewer's April Poem-A-Day (Writer's Digest) challenge, I wrote a "tentative" poem. 

Photo of River
Is it Safe to Jump In?

Suspicious River

She stepped barefoot to rocky
shore, pointed toe towards icy
creek, dipped down in to flowing
winter, brushed away soggy leaves
left over from his last kiss, words
gushed out from heart to hurtful
until winter came round again, hardening 
all that flowed through her, back 
to stifled, uninviting, mouth
frozen shut


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April Poem-A-Day Challenge - Day 2

The below poem is for Day Two of the PAD Challenge. The prompt is to:
  • Write a bright poem.
  • Write a dark poem.
Since I'm late to the party, I combined them into one poem.

Cemetery photo
Watching Over Us

Changing Planes

He surrendered his earth-
ly life
  for light, leaving
us all behind
in time-
less dusk


Monday, April 1, 2013

April Poem-A-Day Challenge - Poem 1

Wow! It's hard to believe that another poem challenge is here - the 2013 April PAD Challenge with Robert Lee Brewer!

I'm excited! Robert's prompts help keep my old(er) brain challenged.

Photo of woman in bed
Dreaming Up Poems

The Arrival of a New Challenge

Just when sleepless couldn’t get
any more exhausted, April stepped

in and brought a mountain of prompts
to keep my mind working day into night,

dreaming pushed aside for a pencil,
notepad, computer, text message

to myself, a zombie marching through fields
of words like bones, stacked

together, a jigsaw of thoughts,
looking on to the daylight of May

first where sleep calls my name,
promising only a moment of rest

before the next challenge called some-
thing like submit-o-rama.


Read Any Good Young Adult Books Lately?

Photo by Peter Mazurek

All signed up and no place to go. That was me a couple of weeks or so ago.

I was signed up to take a Young Adult fiction writing class, but the school, after deciding they were not ready with the technical aspects of running it in online format, cancelled the class. So I did the next best thing; I agreed to run a Twitter chat about YA.

Since I was scheduled to volunteer at the book fair at my daughter’s middle school, in order to prepare for the chat, I asked the librarian which books were in the highest demand at the sale.

During normal school hours, the kids are required to read and test on a certain number of books for their Accelerated Reader points. Accelerated Reader is a reading program used by “tens of thousands of U.S. schools.” It encourages students to read and then tests them on comprehension. As they meet each goal throughout the year, their point goal is (usually) raised the following semester.

The librarian at the book fair said that kids buy about 50/50 - half for fun and half to help with their AR scores.

Popular Young Adult Books

At this particular sale, these were the top sellers (in no particular order):

  • Stranded by Jeff Probst - Adventure
  • Matched by Ally Condie -  Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Legend by Marie Lu (both Matched and this set in Dystopian settings) – Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Beware the Ninja Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales by David Lubar - Fantasy
  • Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl  -  Mysteries and Fantasy
  • Cinder (Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer – Fantasy

Yeah, yeah, I snuck that last one in. My source, the librarian, said that Cinder is popular in the library, but not so in terms of book sales at the fair.

Please note that the categories I listed with each book are from Amazon’s site. Scholastic’s flyer from the book fair was slightly different, where, for instance, Legend is listed as Adventure.

So it seems kids are most interested in Fantasy while Stranded is a no-brainer, having been written by the charming Survivor host, Jeff Probst.

All of this talk brings me to one question:

When thinking of a storyline for your YA writing project, do you take popular genres into consideration? Or do you just write whatever comes to mind, regardless of genre?

Well, okay, that was two questions.

If you would like to discuss this subject with a (fun) group of writers, I invite you to the April 11 Twitter chat at 12 p.m. Pacific time.

Go to Tweet Chat and put #WSChat in the hashtag search box to be taken to the chat room.

Thanks for reading! And I hope to see you there!