Saturday, June 26, 2010

technology fast

I was going to write a post about my experiences teaching a craft at a theater camp but I'm going to save that for next week.

Instead due to the state of my house (it's a mess) and the state of my revision (not done) I am writing about the fact that I'm going to take a tech fast. See If I write about it on my blog I'll actually do it.

So starting tomorrow (cause I've already checked my facebook page today) I'm only going to check my email for a week. No facebook, no blogging for a week.

Hopefully I will use the time I usually spend on facebook to do things like revise my novel and clean my house.

I can already feel my productivity rising and my house is beginning to look cleaner. I'm planning to use my time between shows today for writing. I'll keep a list of all the things I accomplish during my week off from facebook/blogging.

Have a good week.

Monday, June 21, 2010

writing practice

I bought myself a writing book a couple weeks ago and I have a feeling that it is going to become my new go to book when I need a little jump start on my writing.

The book is An Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg.
This book has writing prompts and exercises to help you think about memory and writing.
Normally I write children's stories but I'm trying to stretch myself in other areas.
I love reading memoirs but whenever I think of writing my own memoir I immediately brush aside the idea because 1) I've never written for Spin or been a contributor on NPR. 2) I am not famous and I'm not connected with anyone famous.

I occasionally title my memoirs.

I wrote a story for Chicken Soup for the Runner's Soul that is being released this summer. When I read magazines with personal essays in them it occurs to me that I could do that. So I use my journal for this practice of memoir type writing.

This book has helped my writing practice. I look forward to working on the writing exercises. Writing about a memory of swimming or the end of something. The exercises usually say to write for ten minutes but I seem to lose track of time and I realize I've written for twenty minutes.

I've even been finding time to write on the weekends. I usually consider myself too busy to write on the weekends and I don't even try it but maybe it is because the book gives me permission to write for ten minutes. It doesn't ask for a word or page count. Just ten minutes. Surely I can devote ten minutes on a Saturday to writing about my beloved childhood pet.

If this book isn't on your writer bookshelf I recommend it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Writing on Madeline Island

A few years ago the term was the Quarter life crisis was coined. It was something that people in their 20's experienced as they transitioned out of college and into the real world.
I have decided that I need to coin the phrase Three Quarter Life crisis for the phase my father is in his life. I miss the midlife crisis days when I came home one day to find he had purchased a BMW convertible and then a week later he bought a 45 foot sail boat. I really miss the boat.
Recently my father went to Mexico where he married a 27 year old he met in Cabo. *My parents have been divorced forever so this is OK*
This would be OK if it meant that my vacation to Alaska with my Dad didn't get cancelled. Bummer.
But rather than be bummed and feel out of control of my own summer plans I decided that this would be the perfect chance for me to take a writing retreat. My mom thinks it would be the perfect time for me to take an adventure vacation, but I don't think "hotel in the woods" is what the adventure website means when they say "camping".
So I've been researching writing retreats for the last week. I live in MN so Split Rock was where I started looking but alas the weeks I have off they are full. I looked elsewhere. I even thought about the Iowa Summer Writers Festival but that is in Iowa and I'm from Iowa so Iowa City is not a vacation.

Finally I discovered Madeline Island School of the Arts and this is where I want to go. The website didn't answer enough of my questions so I called today and found out, much to my sadness that the classes I want to take are probably going to be cancelled due to lack of enrollment.

 Sandstrom Farm
It is the first year the classes have run and they aren't really listed in a lot of places that writers would see. I'm super bummed because this sounds way cooler than spending a week in Iowa City, even though I have happy memories of Iowa City. I'm not really sure how I found them. Maybe I saw an ad or something. They did not pop up on the multiple Google searches I did looking for a summer writing retreat.

The man who answered the phone was so nice about answering my questions and taking my name and number in case the class does run. He encouraged me to tell my friends about the class and I said I would facebook, blog, email and tell everyone I could. He told me he finds the telephone useful for getting the word out.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Re Vision

Yesterday was critique group day. I belong to two critique groups. One contains people who are writing middle grade or YA novels. The other group is mostly picture books. I attend both of them because it keeps me motivated. It isn’t that I don’t think my novel group could give feedback on my picture book manuscript or that my picture book group couldn’t say what they think of a chapter in my novel. But each group seems best at what it does.

The picture book group is sort of fluid and as people keep taking classes more people get invited to the group but the group manages to stay to about 4-6 people each week. So every time I go it seems like there is at least one new person there.

Usually it is a person who I haven’t taken a class with so we don’t have an established trust factor going on with regards to critiquing stories.

This week I brought a rewrite of a picture book that I’ve been working on. As I’ve mentioned before I’m trying to tell the story from the dog’s point of view in this story. The revision felt like a stretch creatively and I tried to tell more of the dog’s story. The version I brought was very rough and I know it needs more dialog, more show, less tell.

After my last critique group I was ready to do one of two things.

1) Give up on the story and hide it in a folder with my inexperienced stories from when I first started writing.

2) Submit the story to a kids magazine just to see if it could get published and not have to keep revising it.

But I didn’t. See I have a dream of this story being a picture book. Last time we met the ladies in my group had rewritten their stories so that some were unrecognizable from what they were before. They stretched themselves creatively by trying different forms. If they could do that surely I could look at my story with new eyes.

What do you do after critique groups? Do you go home and revise like crazy? Do you let the manuscript sit for a day and think about what it has done before diving in to revisions?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Rainy Days are productive days

Since Minnesota looks like this in the winter.

It means that summer must be enjoyed to its fullest extent. Which means on days when it looks like this I have a hard time sitting inside working away on my novel.

There are two solutions. Write at the coffee shop at one of the nice outside tables or use walks and such for sunshine fix/writing breaks.
This is a much better solution than my previous summers where I have dedicated my days to long bike rides and runs and then when it is time to sit down and write I am ready for my nap.

But yesterday was perfect. It was raining. Not one of those June just passing through thunderstorms. This was perfect all day rain. Which meant I could stay inside and work away without feeling guilt that I was squandering one of the perfect 100 days of summer.
When I came home from the gym I started working. I wrote in my journal. I worked for a while. I got laundry done. I got dishes done. I went to the bank. I went to Barnes and Noble and bought a book about writing. I revised some more. I wrote in my journal again because my life has been really journal worthy lately.
I had no idea there were so many hours in a day and how much I could accomplish when the sun was not calling me to play outside.

Friday, June 04, 2010

the end of a productive week

Today turned out to be a totally surprising day.
I was ready to spring into action as super nanny at the last minute for a coworker even though it meant not working on any of my writing projects today.
As I was putting on my back pack to go out the door to babysit I got a phone call saying the meeting was cancelled. Woo hoo.
Since I had already worked out and gone for a walk to enjoy the sunshine I took the freeing up of my afternoon to get some writing done. So I feel like this week has been productive.

So when I was reading my Nancy Drew books my boss noticed decided to lend me her entire Trixie Belden collection. So I decided to read these and I have to say that so far they are a lot of fun.
I am currently reading Trixie Belden and the Mysterious Visitor .

The thing that is great about these books, and Nancy Drew too, is that the characters are always looking for and finding mysteries which lead them into all sorts of adventures. The chapters always seem to end with suspense. I mean how can a reader possibly put the book down when Trixie is hiding in the hay loft of an old barn and has just been discovered by trailer thieves.

Reading through these books has been good for my writing as well. Even though my MC is not solving any mysteries I have been trying to revise my novel and am really trying to end my chapters with an exciting or mysterious finish that make people want to read the next chapter.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Holiday fun

I admit that I had fun on Memorial Day. Maybe even too much fun. The best thing about holiday Mondays is that everyone else has the day off too so it is more fun than my regular Mondays off. I threw out my Monday To Do List and decided to celebrate that this was the first paid holiday I've had in nearly 10 years.
I rode my bike to meet up with some friends at Fort Snelling State Park. So seriously if you live in the Twin Cities and you haven't been there you should totally go. It is so beautiful and not nearly as busy on Picnic Island as its neighbor Minnehaha Park.
There is a little lake to swim in and the Minnesota River to fish in.
I biked there and it was a lovely bike ride there. While there I played bocce ball, kickball, ate cook out food, played more kickball and swam.
I saw some wildlife.
Then I had to bike home. Back up the giant hill that leads down to picnic island. I was so tired at the end of my day that I struggled to stay awake until 9 pm. I did a little writing yesterday and am feeling back in the swing of writing today.

I did get a little surprise yesterday. Earlier this spring during the great show shuffle of 2010 I thought I was going to have 3 months off work so I applied for a part time position working with childhood literacy. I interviewed a month ago and really didn't think anything would come of it because they didn't have any part time positions left and because they didn't have any positions left in the city. So I was surprised to get called for an interview.

This part time job sounds like a ton of work but at the same time I am hoping that working to help kids read will help me be a better writer.