Tag Archives: scbwi

Why I’m Saying No to NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMoAs most writerly folks know, today is the first day of NaNoWriMo where scribblers around the world pledge that they’ll get 50,000 words–any words–on the page by the end of the month. Each year when this event kicks off, I think about joining in. Then opt out. With 170,000 participants last year who collectively penned over 2.4 billion words, it’ll do just fine without my meager output.

Here’s my reasons for saying no to NaNoWriMo:

First, I’m about 20,000 words through the rough draft of a novel. The national writing frenzy is all about starting a brand new project, and I don’t want to put my current story aside. It’s at a fragile stage where I’d possibly never pick it back up again. I’ve lost sight of how awesome this idea was when I first started hammering at it. The sheen is gone. While part of me would love to start on a squeaky, new idea, the rest must resist. Also, while I might have this rough draft done by the end of the month, if not that’s okay too. I’m withholding freak-outs until the end of the year.

Second, I’m heading off this weekend for the SCBWI Weekend on the Water retreat at Alderbrook Resort & Spa. Sounds very spiffy. I haven’t been to this before so not sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to getting some early feedback on the novel that’s underway. It’ll be good to meet some other writers (and illustrators) who focus on kid lit and stretch the writer muscle a bit. Plus, a little time in a beautiful place never hurts.

Finally, and most importantly, I have an appointment with my six-year-old niece to bake an apple pie in Massachusetts. It’s become our annual Thanksgiving tradition. One of the posts I read on NaNoWriMo mentioned how it’s a great excuse to get out of Thanksgiving obligations with the family. A few years back before the nieces and nephews arrived I may have agreed, but now I wouldn’t trade the pie making for any number of words. I figure in another ten years, I can hand off the pie responsibilities entirely. And yes, the crust will be from scratch. The secret is to make it the night before and refrigerate so that it’s easier to roll out.

So, another year with no NaNoWriMo for me. Best of luck to all who are participating, maybe next year I’ll join you…


Comments Off on Why I’m Saying No to NaNoWriMo

Filed under Writing

Top 3 Things I Learned at SCBWI

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a week since the SCBWI conference ended. Though now that I’ve had a little time to digest all of it, I can whittle down the two-day conference into the top three things I learned.

Try not to confuse the reader. Ummm… yeah. I had a personal critique of a work in progress with Laini Taylor, who was a finalist for the National Book Award and one of the keynote speakers. She was fantastic, gave lots of encouragement but also pointed out where my story had gone from good confusing (ahh… intriguing) to bad confusing (argh… just confusing). Poor Laini. I left her in the weeds. The bigger problem: I’m a repeat offender. I’ve heard this before. I’ll do six or seven drafts of a piece, and by the end of it lose all track of what I’m doing at each point in the story. I told Laini that I need feedback from other readers to identify the confusing bits. “Yup,” she said, “but come on, you can do this without them.” She’s right. I just need to make a point of reading specifically for what I want the reader to know at each point in the story. Laini gave some great pointers along with a bunch of plotting advice that she’s since posted on her blog. Check it out as well as her books. I recently finished Blackbringer which I can sum up in one word: awesome.

Method writing. Sundee Frazier, author of the award-winning Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It, had a break out session on writing believable boy characters. There were some ideas on the differences between boys and girls that were interesting, as much for life as for fiction, but she also offered a writing tip which I’ve since come to think of as method writing. When a scene should capture a certain emotion, think back to a spot in your own life where you felt that emotion. Then write it down, get it all on the page in a great non-thinking flurry. Use that as clay that you can mold into something workable for the character. Sundee also thankfully told us that the “sensitive boy and snarky girl” duo have become so commonplace in kidlit that they’re practically a cliché. One of my projects has exactly that in it, and once she pointed out this cliché, it clicked why I’ve been struggling with it.

Enter contests. Jay Asher, bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why gave another keynote speech. He spoke of the ups and downs of his 12-year struggle and the four agents that he worked with until finally landing a publishing deal.  His strategy seemed to involve wearing costumes to writer’s conferences and entering every contest he could find to help build recognition. His speech was heralded as inspirational. I found it just the opposite: depressing. Curse ye fickle publishing industry and how random ye award success! As he was speaking, I thought: I’d give up long before I ever got to that point. I’m doomed. It wasn’t until I got home and was reminded that money and publishing have nothing to do with why I write that I realized two things. First, I have fantastic support for my writing at home. Second, I already gave up writing once. No publisher ever came crashing through my front door to implore me to write. I just started again because I want to write, and that’s what I’m doing. Though that said, I could also start entering contests again too.

Comments Off on Top 3 Things I Learned at SCBWI

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Is This the iPad Version of a Picture Book?

The SCBWI conference was both amazing and exhausting. I learned tons, and will write a full post about it later. For now, check out this snippet from the newly released Alice for the iPad.

I’m not sure what to think about it. On one hand, it entirely misses what reading the book is all about, fancy animations are nothing more than fancy distractions. Narrative has never been interactive, and it’s not because we haven’t had an iPad to get us there. Interactive narrative could have happened just fine while humans still enjoyed their stories exclusively around campfires.

On the other hand, there’s no denying that it looks cool. The iPad is indeed a snazzy device for games. But you don’t read games, you play them–which makes me wonder about picture and board books. Some already are mildly interactive. What would the wild rumpus from Where the Wild Things Are look like on the iPad?

Comments Off on Is This the iPad Version of a Picture Book?

Filed under eBooks

SCBWI Conference This Weekend

I’ll be at the SCBWI conference this weekend, in Seattle (Redmond technically, but that’s getting a bit nitpicky). This is the third year that I’ve attended. Two years ago I went for inspiration and had yet to get back into writing, just toying with the idea. A year ago I was prone to fits and starts on a  novel. This year I’m all in, looking forward to a weekend of bumping elbows with others who trade precious things like sleep for scribbles.

Hope to see you there! Oh, and if you want to say hi, here’s a little insight into where you’ll be certain to find me… at some point.

Comments Off on SCBWI Conference This Weekend

Filed under Writing