Sunday, November 29, 2009

On Christmas Eve

Last spring I went to a SCBWI event and I won a door prize. I picked the book On Christmas Eve by Ann M. Martin.
I chose this book because I love books about Christmas and also because I have such fond memories of The Babysitters Club series.
Since it is finally the Christmas season I figured it was time to read this book.
This is a great story about the magic of Christmas.
The character, Tess is in third grade and believes that this is the year she is going to meet the real Santa Claus, not just a department store Santa. She has some important questions to ask Santa. She also believes that Santa can help her friend Sarah's dad get better.
On Christmas Eve, Tess waits up for Santa and gets to experience Christmas magic.
I thought the book was a very sweet story about the magic of Santa and Christmas.
A few weeks ago in my writing class we talked about metaphors and similes and keeping these in the world of the story. Martin does a great job of this. When she writes about walking through the snow she doesn't say "walked through the snow" she says "fluffed".
The is a sweet little book about Christmas Eve and the magic and hope it can bring.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Memories

As I watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from the comfort of my living room I am reminded of what is still to this day the most memorable Thanksgiving Day I ever had.
When I was in college and my sister and brother were in high school my mom decided that we were old enough to go to New York City for Thanksgiving. So she called her brother who has three kids around our same ages and lives in Upstate NY and we decided to have Thanksgiving in NYC.
At six in the morning on Thanksgiving morning my Mom knocked on my door.
"Carrie, we need to go get a spot to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade."
"Doesn't it start at 9?"
"Yeah but we have to get a spot."
So Mom and I went and secured our place on the parade route.
The it started to drizzle. Fortunately we were able to buy umbrellas right away from a person selling them on the street for $2. By the time my stepdad and sister got to the parade at 8:30 the umbrellas were $5.
Perhaps you have watched this parade on TV year after year. I bet you didn't know that the area right before the carpet where the acts perform for TV is known as the "Quiet Zone" This is where the acts stop and get into formation before they get to the carpet in front of Macy's to do their big act for national TV. If you want to see Kenny Rogers sing "The Gambler" this is not the place to do this. Nobody performs here. It is the "Quiet Zone". Acts have to be quiet here so that they don't interfere with the performance of the act in front of them. This is where we stood. By the time it was light enough out to read the "Quiet Zone" sign and realize what it meant it was too late to move and still get a good spot on the route.
I would like to say this happened before the age of cell phones. If we had cell phones we may have gotten a call from my uncle telling us to come watch the parade from his warm hotel room. As it was the only person who got that call was my brother who made the wise choice to sleep in and not get rained on for five hours.
So if there was a moral of this story sometimes it is that the early bird doesn't always get the worm. Sometimes the bird who sleeps in gets to eat continental breakfast at the Marriott.
Miraculously at the end of the parade the drizzle let up.
That day we ate Thanksgiving Dinner at Tavern on the Green which I only knew from the film Ghostbusters.
Even though we stood in the rain forever that Thanksgiving was my most memorable ever. Every year my mom calls me on Thanksgiving morning and asks me if I'm watching the parade (which still doesn't come on until 9).
So Happy Thanksgiving all

Monday, November 23, 2009

Even though I am not NaNoing I am in the middle part of my novel and I feel like I just keep writing the same thing over and over.
One of the instructors of the class I'm taking sent us Maureen Johnson's NaNo pep talk in which she compares writing a novel to visiting Australia. Right now I feel a little like I am in the Outback part of my novel. I keep writing in circles.
I abandoned all hope of getting what I was writing into the computer a couple weeks ago and have just been writing in my notebooks.
Work has been a little crazy the last week as well and then while I am in the middle of the outback of my novel I got rear ended by an Outback the other night.
My mom freaked out because I'm the closest child geographically since my sister is in Alabama and my brother is in Africa for two weeks. She wanted me to go to the emergency room and I assured her that I work with a first responder and there was no need for me to go to the emergency room. I am instead going to the chiropractor. My mom freaked out. I might as well have told her I was going to a Witch Doctor.

But in good news I submitted a story to Chicken Soup for the Triathlon's Soul which has now been combined with Chicken Soup for the Runners Soul. My story is in the final round of consideration so I am very excited. They were also looking for more stories so I may try to write a story about my running group.
I'll find out this summer if I made it and I'll get ten copies of the book.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pet blogging

Over the years I have entertained the idea of starting a blog for my cat.
While I read some pet blogs something always stops me from putting my pet into the blogosphere.
The main reason is I feel like it is one step closer to crazy cat lady for me. I have two cats and feel like there are certain things that would push me over that line. A third cat for example would push me over the line. Once you have three case what's one or two more right. Same thing with the cat blogging for me.
Yesterday I discovered another reason not to blog for my cat (or let my cat blog). Snoop and I were featured on the Powderhorn365 website yesterday so naturally I posted a link on my facebook page. By the end of the night Snoop had eight comments and seven "likes". By the end of the night I felt like I was just answering Snoop's fan mail. It turns out Snoop is already pretty popular. Allowing Snoop his own blog isn't something I'm prepared to handle.
But then again maybe I could use Snoop's blog to get traffic to my blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't Stop Believing

We came to the part of my writing class where we talked about plot yesterday.
I have to say that in a previous class I took plot was up there in the first two weeks but that was for picture books so really we did need to think about our plots earlier.
I'm OK with plot coming a little later in the class. It seems like we all have good characters we are writing about and I sort of believe that characters drive plot anyway. I mean different people do different things in each situation. Pippi won't do the same thing as Ramona.
So the instructors talked about different plot structures like the inverted check mark and the three act structure and the hero's journey.
Then oh speaking of journey, we got to listen to a little Journey. Why? Because plot is like a Journey song. According to the instructor's brother. It starts of with an intro and we get to know the characters (a small town girl and a city boy), there are some guitar riff and stuff happens (they take the midnight train going anywhere). Then the music builds more with additional guitar and there is more story (streetlights, it goes on and on) then we get to the climax of the song/story and there is that even more awesome guitar riff and then Don't Stop Believing (hold on to that feeling) and then happy cords at the end. \m/
Armed with the knowledge that plot is like a Journey song is pretty awesome. I woke up today and wrote nine pages. It was brilliant. I wrote some interesting stuff and complicated my character's life. I feel like I may even write again later tonight.
I've been a music junkie my whole life. When I was four my mom bought me a record player at a garage sale, not one of those cheap fisher price ones but a real one with speakers of its own. I wore that thing out until my dad bought me a cd player when they first came out. I watched MTV since I was six. I don't play music but it is nice to know that my lifelong love of music is going to pay off by helping me be a writer.

Friday, November 06, 2009

mean witch story

Since I have been trying to focus on this writing thing more I currently work one job. Previously I was working 2 jobs and had no time for writing. There was only driving, working, driving, working, sleeping. So I decided if I could put even part of my 2nd job energy into my writing I'd be doing OK. In order to make a little extra money and also to get a chance to hang out with kids I sometimes babysit. It is good.
Here is a conversation I had with one of my charges. She is 4.
Fi: What do you do?
Me: Well I work with your mom.
Fi: What else do you do?
Me: I write stories for kids.
Fi: Why do you write stories for kids?
Me: Because it's fun and I love books.
Fi: Tell me one of your stories.
Me: Ok Once there was a girl, Rita and her dog Rufus.
Fi: Is there a mean witch in this story?
Me: No. (I tell the story about Rita and Rufus which was in the Sept issue of Stories for Children Magazine)
Fi: That was good. Can you tell it again but this time with a mean witch?
So I modify Rita and Rufus to include a mean witch. It was really Hansel and Gretel with a dog instead of a Hansel but there was a mean witch. I think I told her the "mean witch" version of the story ten times.
Anyway it was kind of a fun revision exercise and it got me thinking about "mean witches" so maybe next time I sit down to write something after this whole novel thing it will have a mean witch.
*Although there is not a mean witch in my novel there is a mean middle school girl.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Today in my cycling class we were talking about ancestors and family trees. There are some pretty cool branches on the tree but there is one who I feel a great connection with.
My great grandmother was an English teacher. She was affectionately called Stone Face Fitz by her students. She taught during the knuckle rapping days. Although she died before I was born her memory lived on in my mom and grandma.
Whenever I wrote a lazy, sloppy sentence or used poor grammar when I spoke Mom and Grandma would talk about my poor dead great grandmother (Old Stone Face) and the shame I was bringing upon her.
As a result I learned when to say ______ and I instead of me and _________. The word "gots" was eliminated from my vocabulary two days after I learned it. I said "ain't" once. The word came up again in a song in jr. high choir and I couldn't bring myself to sing it.
Despite the fact that my great grandmother was rolling over in her grave at my inability to spell and write a good sentence I still loved reading and I loved writing. My spelling was horrible. I would bring home spelling tests and mom would wonder if there was an ounce of great grandma's blood running through my veins.
Sometimes my mom would read a paper I wrote for school. As she corrected my grammar she told me I was lucky I wasn't one of Fitz's students because my knuckles would have been rapped for sure.
Currently I'm working on a first draft in a class at the Loft and I'm sure it is full of run on sentences, comma splices and dangling participles. I was given some pictures of my great grandmother recently and as I looked at her stern face with her reading spectacles on a chain tucked into her pocket I wondered if she would be horrified by the over abundance of adverbs in my first draft.
I figure it must be OK so far because Fitz's ghost has not come from beyond to rap my knuckles yet.
My grandma was a stock broker. If I ever have children I wonder if I will instill in them the importance balancing a checkbook and investing wisely. Would I ever say things like "Your great grandmother would be rolling in her grave over the state of this portfolio"

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy NaNoWriMo

As the sun rises on another NaNoWriMo I am a little sad that I am not participating and trying to figure out if there is a way.
Here is the deal. I am working on a novel in a novel writing class the idea of which is to write a first draft in 12 weeks. So I am already 20,000 words into that novel. To take time off from my novel, which I think has legs, to churn out 50,000 words could be detrimental. I even feel like any extra time I have should be spent tightening up m current novel and writing the best novel possible.
I love NaNo and the creative challenge it is. The last two years I have won getting my 50,000 words in by November 30th.
The only problem is that I have also written these things which I feel can't be edited. I thought at one time that I could edit my first year NaNo. I could never figure out where to go because it was so daunting.
So I'm taking this class and there were no crazy rules. I came in with a couple chapters written and some ideas but once I started the class I changed some things. But there were no NaNo guilt monkeys that would haunt me for having two chapters already written. We set goals and we celebrate meeting them.
The process with this slower novel writing means that I have been able to pay better attention to chapters, plot, structure and pacing. I'm not under the gun so I can thing about different scenes and where those scenes go.
So anyway I am halfway through a novel that I love and a process that is slower. I think at the end of the class I will have something I can really work with. Something I can edit and something I can maybe hopefully sell once it is all cleaned up. I can not leave my MC waiting for a ride outside of school while I go frolic in the crazy frantic energy that is NaNo.
I will not be tempted by the haunted house thriller novel idea. I will see my main character though as she struggles to fit into her new step family and deal with sixth grade.
The thing that I do thank NaNo for is giving me the confidence to write a novel from start to finish. The things I learned on my previous NaNo journeys have really helped me through the novel I'm writing now.
So Happy NaNo and good luck to all my friends who are NaNoing