Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2 Days Left...Things I Learned in 2010



I can't believe there are only two more days left of 2010. What a year. Oh the ups and downs, the smiles and tears. Here are the top 5 things I learned - as a writer - in 2010...

#5 Determination is everything. After I landed my agent my father in law framed this quote for me and it sits on my desk. I read it every single day. "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common that unsuccessful men with talent...Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." ~ Anonymous

In short, dear blog readers, agented and not, doggedly keep at it...no matter what stage of the journey you are in.

#4 Landing my agent *Hi, Sarah* is everything I ever dreamed of and worth every single drop of sweat and every tear. I truly believe the Universe made me want it and work for it so that when it all happened it would be that much sweeter. Just like in The Alchemist.

In short, dear unagented blog readers, keep at it. If you work for it...it will happen. By work it could mean query writing research, attending conferences, joining crit groups, re-writing/revising until your brain bleeds, posting your query publicly for critique, entering writing contests, researching agents. You know...work.

#3 The work doesn't end once you land an agent... or even have your agent sell your book. Oh no, it basically keeps right on going. Again, I know that's what the Universe wanted me to experience - the work of it all - so that when everything fell into place I wouldn't be overwhelmed - I'd just keep going in stride. All writers know that, while writing is exhilarating, it is hard. As in wickedly hard. But we write because we love it - even the hard parts.

In short...as I said in my Apocalypsies bio...there are a lot of hard parts.

#2 Making a parody video and putting it up on youtube apparently works while trying to land an agent. Video debuted on July 5th, right here on this very blog. And I got "the call" on August 2nd. That is a mere 27 days from one event to the next. 27 days, people. Now, I know Agent Sarah saw the video AFTER she offered representation - I don't want you to think making the video caused her to offer - it's 100% about the writing. What I'm saying is...I put it out there in the Universe...and the Universe answered. : ) Click HERE to watch the video & for a bit o'fun.

In short, when you are close to giving up...change your mindset and have some fun. It worked for me.

#1 The online community of writers = INCREDIBLE. I don't know if other professions have such strong and genuine online bonds, but we writers pretty much rock. We are quite a supportive bunch, eh? This past year has afforded me opportunity after opportunity to get to know some amazing fellow writers and even meet some in person.

In short, the beauty of the internet is that you can meet them too:

Crit Partners Extraordinaire: Christina Lee & Susan Mills

The Apocalypsies - a talented group of fellow YA/MG writers all with books coming out in 2012

The Dear Teen Me Project - a talented group of fellow YA writers who each write a letter to their teen self all in the hopes of showing today's teenagers that you can indeed survive being a teenager.

The YALitChat community is filled with so many resources it'll blow your mind.

Fellow YA authors I had the pleasure of meeting in person at the best indie bookstore in the nation - Chester County Book and Music Company - A.S. King and Josh Berk

And scroll to the bottom of this blog to see a list of every fine writer and industry professional that I follow.

2011...here we come...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

8 Days Left of 2010 - My Top 5 Songs of the Year

Have a listen to my top 5 songs of the year...
*I know the player is cut off - but I can't get it to go any smaller. Have no fear though, just click on the Pop-Out Player button below and the whole player comes up in a separate window. All is well.


Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Monday, December 20, 2010

10 Days Left of 2010...and my Top 5 Books of the Year

Since this is primarily a book about writing and writers I thought it fitting to start out my TOPS posts with my favorite 5 books of 2010.

*all 5 titles were released in 2010*

I read a ridiculous amount of books this year, and it felt so good. Just to give you an idea, I read close to 30 this summer alone. I was a bona fide reading machine.

The following books impacted me during and after reading. Lingered, if you will. Each would pass Libba Bray's "Is it true yet?" test with flying colors.

#5 Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsWHY: This book was intense with killer chapter endings and in my opinion, a well done ending to the series.


#4 The Magicians by Lev Grossman
WHY: I have already gushed about this book HERE. But let me add - if you are either a writer or a fan of spectacular writing, then this book is a must read. Regardless if you're a fantasy fan or not. It's that good.


#3 Room by Emma Donoghue
WHY: I have already gushed about this book HERE. But let me add - if you have a beating heart and you are a fan of incredible storytelling and character development then this book is a must read. It is simply amazing.


#2 Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
WHY: Gushed HERE. And I'd like to add that I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ms. A.S. King at two book store events; she is simply put, one cool chick. So if you like spot on (and true) dialogue, then Vera Dietz is your girl. This book is just so damn good.


And...drum roll please...my #1 book of 2010 is...




wait for it...





wait...





still wait...





#1 THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson
WHY: Review HERE with much gushing. This book was stuffed with countless, "I wish I could write like that's" and "Wow, this writer is amazing's" - absolutely filled with glorious writing. It's so good I believe I may read it again.

Hope you enjoyed my Top 5 Books of 2010. Keep reading out there!!!!

*I also read an ARC of James Howe's ADDIE ON THE INSIDE - review coming after the New Year. I know it will make my 2011 top five because of both the writing and the impact it had on me. It releases in July of 2011.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Brief Hello


Hello, blog friends; I've missed you. I know this is a harried time of year for all, regardless of what holiday you celebrate at home. I feel your pain.

So I'll keep this brief.

I have plans to do what I did last year and have a blog countdown of my top things from 2010.

Top Books

Top Songs

Top Writery Moments

Top Movies

Top Things I Learned

Top Spectacular Moments (duh, like ya'll can't figure out my top moment)

I know some of you may be thinking - yeah, so who cares? I hear you, you snarky little monkeys. And to you I say, whatever, I like recaps. They make me giddy. I suspect it's why I also adore lists and notes and such. Consider my upcoming posts pure, fluffy fun in recap form. Fabulous.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Across the Universe - Epic Contest


Just in case you haven't heard of Beth Revis' upcoming YA novel, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, I'm here to help spread the word.

It has a release date of 1.1.11 and it is one of the books I am highly anticipating getting my hands on.

Beth is having an Epic Contest over on her blog and you can win all sorts of awesome book related swag and you don't have to jump through any hoops to qualify.

Go on over and check it out...enter even.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm Taking a Blog Break...for a really good reason


Click HERE first. It'll only take a second to read but it is crucial for the rest of this post to make any sense whatsoever.

You're back? Great.

Okay, so first of all, how cool is Susan Mills? If you have a chance, read through her blog - she is witty and oh so clever with those shoes, and she gives tons of well thought out writing advice - things to consider - tips, etc... Her dedication to her writing craft is astounding and whoever snaps her up as a client will have one of the hardest working writers around. She puts everything into her writing.

I seriously hope my break from blogging - which comes at the perfect time actually - I have Federal Jury Duty for the next three days (I know, right?) - attracts exactly what Susan deserves.

A agent.

p.s. she doesn't know I'm doing this : )

p.s.s. I'm thinking I'll be back Monday...maybe

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dear Teen Me Project

I'd like to introduce you to a really cool project called Dear Teen Me. I learned about it over on fellow Apocalypsie & YA author, Gretchen McNeil's blog.

Here's a blurb from the site:

About Dear Teen Me Project

Teenagers of the world, Dear Teen Me is for you.

For everyone who wishes they were on the football team. For everyone who would rather be in the glee club than ever run another lap. For the teens who dream of being far, far away from the small town or big city where they go to school. The prom queens, the theater kids, the band geeks, the bad boys, the good girls, the loners, the stoners, the class presidents, the juvenile delinquents, the jocks and the nerds.

The teens who have good days and bad days and sometimes really really really bad days.

This is for you.

Signed,
A group of authors. some famous – some up-and-comers, who care about you.

---------------------------------------------------

After checking out the site and oohing and ahhhing over the idea I emailed the organizer and asked if there was still space - and to my surprise, she said yes. My letter will appear in March; I'm pretty excited. Actually, that doesn't even matter.

What matters is that this site has the potential to reach teenagers across the globe who might need to read that everything will be okay...from adults who are living proof. Adults who made it through being a teenager. Adults who are willing to share personal stories and heartfelt advice.

If you have a blog or facebook or twitter, it would be really cool for you to spread the word about this. If you happen to know any high school teachers or high school kids, let them know too.

Thanks & check out the site for yourself too : )

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pretty Much the Coolest Thing


Remember waaaaaaaay back when the wicked cool, Mercedes and I challenged each other to a NaNo write-off? Click HERE to refresh your memory. I'll wait, honest.

Okay, so now we're on the same page and back to the coolest thing ever. And FYI I totally won that challenge. My prize? The wicked cool Mercedes had to compose and sing a song about the winner...aka...ME. Being the good sport and good friend that she is, her song was great and she posted it on her blog. She is a brave woman.

Well, there's more to the coolest thing ever. Meet Mason Bundschuh - he's Mercedes' good friend. Any friend of hers is a friend of mine (she's that wicked cool, trust me). He's in a band called Atlas Takes Aim with his wife - how awesome is that? And he's a writer.

Here comes pretty much the coolest thing ever part. Well, it'll be easier if you just click HERE. Trust me. It's cool.

Thanks, Mason!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ROOM by Emma Donoghue


I'm home sick today and feel pretty sickish. That's something like Jack would say from ROOM. And I have fallen in love with Jack.

He's a five year old boy who has lived his entire short life in an 11 X 11 converted storage shed with his mother...Ma. Room is all he's ever known.

The circumstances that land his mother in Room are harrowing and heartbreaking. But Ma, like any mother worth her salt, has made a life for her little boy inside Room. Jack is happy. Ma is not. She knows she has to get out...get him out...get him away from Old Nick.

ROOM is unlike any book I've ever read because of a few things. The way Ms. Donoghue uses the language is very unique - like Jack. She masterfully has climbed inside of a five year old's head and tells the story through his eyes...not hers. She is a genius.

I read the book in one day. One short day is all it took for me to get lost inside of Jack's head. I felt his wonder, his love, and ultimately his fear. I think it was his innocence that will stay with me, even more than his fear (which is heartbreaking and had me unable to stop reading). Yeah, it was definitely his innocence.

Thank you Ms. Donoghue for creating this character and for writing this book. Your story will stay with me for a long, long time. And that's what writing is all about.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

25 Year High School Reunion


For reals.

Yep, I'm that old. Whatever. Get over it.

My 25 year high school reunion was this past Saturday night. It was...hmmm...how do I put it into words? Umm. Yeah, struggling here - and I'm rather good with words, honest. Let me say this, I think I could get an essay out of the night, maybe even a chapter in a yet-to-be-written-memoir. The evening obviously took a tremendous amount of work and planning (*waves at Kris G.*) and I really did enjoy seeing the people I went to grade school with - we all traveled onto high school together.

Two events stand out in my memory:

1. I'm walking through the room with the one person I've actually kept in touch with from high school - as in we get together once or twice a year and it is like no time has escaped (hi Carol Q.) and a woman stops her. I look at her face and recognize her as "one of the popular" girls from high school. She looks at me, ignores me completely and says to Carol, "Yay, Carol's here, now all the popular girls are here!"

Uh-huh. I swear. I literally shook my head at her and said, "Wow." And then went on my merry way. As I reapplied my lipstick in the bathroom I laughed out loud at that moment. I felt sorry for her because she is clearly stuck. Stuck in the past. Stuck in labels. Stuck in crap that just doesn't matter after high school.

Now that I write books for high school aged readers I also realized something else. Drama, labels, popular girls/boys and crap are what make up good YA. So I am thankful for all of those things.

2. The music at reunions suck. Now, I know I may be alone in this opinion, but I don't want to hear music from 1985. Why? Because it is twenty-freaking-five years old, and I'm sort of over it. Give me some Rhianna or LCD Soundsystem or even Usher. Something I really want to dance to. Cuz I can dance.

Okay so the words I'll use to describe last nights' experience:
Uncomfortable (at times)
Interesting (people watching)
Final (as in, never attending another HS reunion)

See...the makings of some good writing...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Got Nothing


I have been sitting here for like ten minutes staring at the screen and here's what my brain came up with to blog about:

- Being thankful (Can't do it because I just blogged about Gratitude. Good timing on my part, eh?)

- Revising (My brain hurts, whine, whine, whine. So not interesting for anyone to read about.)

- The Harry Potter movie (It was great. I loved it. That's all I've got there.)

And that, my friends, is my pathetic list of nothing.

Oh, wait, remind me to tell you all my jump drive HORROR story some time. It's still too close to me to even write about, but know this, I cried and cried and cried. My husband and kids were seriously worried about me. It was that bad.

*shudder*

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Harry Potter Day

I read my first three Harry Potter book in two days when I was thirty years old and I've never looked back. Those books hooked me more than any other books I've ever read. People that don't "get" Harry Potter (I know...who ARE these people?) have either never read the books or read the books but failed to put themselves into Harry's shoes from book 1.

I mean, seriously, how amazing would it be to find out your are actually a wizard and are headed off (and away from the psychotic Dursley's) to WIZARDING school? Spectacularly mind-blowingly amazing...that's how amazing it would be.

Those of you who know me, know that I used to be a Language Arts teacher and I took a workshop with this brilliant woman named Ellin Keene - she wrote an equally brilliant book called Mosaic of Thought. When I listened to her presentation she made the distinct point that the highest form of reading comprehension is empathy...putting yourself into the character's shoes and feeling things with them...as them.

Hello?!

That's exactly what I did with Harry. That first read linked me to him so deeply because I put myself right in his ill fitting clothes and taped up glasses and then slid into a Hogwarts robe too. Ahhh, magical.

But let me say this, there are COUNTLESS books I read where I try my damndest to connect with the MC...feel what they're feeling...be empathetic. And I just can't. Why? Because the writing is hollow. Empty. Or just plain awful. All hail the unbelievable world-builder and character-creator JK Rowling. Her writing snagged me in book 1 and never let go. Incredible.

I see the movie tonight at 7:00 - in the IMAX theater - with my boys and hubbie. But to be quite honest I am by far the most excited.

I will leave you with a short clip of the three main stars trying on American accents. Just try not to love them all even more. I dare you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On Gratitude

Does anyone out there remember the gratitude craze generated by Oprah back in 1995? In particular...by this book:I bought that book. I kept a gratitude journal. I learned the value in being thankful for the small things in life like holding hands and the way fallen leaves sound when you crunch them with your feet.

Recently I was going through my humongous pile of journals - one goes back to 8th grade and would make you pee your pants if I ever read it to you - some are travel journals - two are the journals I kept for each of my boys...from the day I found out I was pregnant all the way until they were two years old - some are just stream of consciousness journals. But I put my hands on my gratitude journal and read every entry.

At first, like all thing I'm excited about, I wrote in that journal every single day. That lasted for a few months and then my dad died. El sucko. Some time past and I started journaling my thanks again, but not consistently. I always kept it to five things per entry I was thankful for, no matter if there were days, months or even years in between my entries.

You may be wondering - why am I babbling on about gratitude? I guess because I still think it's a crucial part of living and working towards your dreams. I can distinctly remember the days when a heart-gouging rejection would come through on a full request (heck, that was only a few months ago, right?) and I would cry and my assorted cast of loved ones would say everything possible to pull me up from the mud and get me believing again. But you know what? You know what also helped to keep me going?

Gratitude.

Isolating and concentrating on whatever good I could find, either in the rejection email (sometimes an agent would compliment my writing or my story idea but then follow it up with a rejection) or the encouraging words from people I love or the fact I even had a completed novel to query...those small yet gratitude-worthy things were the padding my heart needed to keep beating.

Here's my latest gratitude journal entry:
I am thankful...
1. That my boys are such kind human beings
2. That I still (even after 23 years of being a couple) am in love with my husband
3. For the way the dark chocolate/sea salt/almond candy bar squares taste. Pure awesome.
4. That I have Sarah (my lovely agent) and Annette (my lovely editor) in my life now.
5. That I already have my IMAX tickets for opening night of Harry Potter.

What are you thankful for????

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mumbo Jumbo

Hey, remember me? I'm your online blog friend. I used to blog two or three times a week. Remember?

I'm baaaaaack.

I was away, literally, in this fine, fine place, aka Vail, Colorado:


I've never been out West and my mouth hung open wide many a time. Five of my college girlfriends met me out there and we laughed and danced and talked and laughed and reminisced and shopped and laughed and spa'ed and laughed some more. Great fun.

Before I left I was wading around in fresh agent revision notes for my MG trilogy (and loving it). And when I came back I received...drum roll please...revision notes from my editor and I've been adding and deepening and submersing myself back into that book.

Exciting times all around. Hard work, but exciting nonetheless.

So, what's going on in your world? I've missed everyone!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wait? Am I Dreaming?



On a random Tuesday afternoon I got home from work, did some kid related stuff, sat down at my beloved laptop to check my blog, go through tweets, see what's doing on facebook, you know, the regular old stuff. While at my desk, the phone rang and of course there IS NEVER A FLIPPING PHONE NEAR ME WHEN IT STARTS RINGING. As in never ever. My boys were in the basement xboxing their brains into mush, so they weren't answering it. I mumbled a few choice words and stomped through to the kitchen.

I missed the call.

I picked up the phone and saw on my phone's display that Curtis Brown Ltd. had just called me.

I said, "Huh?" And then I had a mini-inner-freak-out because why would my agent be calling me unless it was with news of some kind. My one contemporary YA book had gone out on submission a little over a month before...so...in the five seconds it took me to call the number back, about 8,765 scenarios ran through my mind.

The very nice woman answered the phone and I think I said, "HiI'mKateWaltonandIThinkSarahLaPollaJustCalledMeButIMissedTheCallBecauseThereAreNeverAnyPhonesNearMe WhenTheyRing." And then I took a breath. She took pity on me and only said, "Hold on please," and didn't make me do any more talking. I'm sure she was either smiling or shaking her head.

Anywho.

Sarah answered and said, "This is Sarah."

I said, "Sarah, it's Kate, what's up?" I'm almost sure I babbled something else after this but I have absolutely no recollection as to what I may or may not have said. I am a spaz, what can I say?

She said, "Well, we got an offer." (and let me say this here - Sarah has the best voice - she is so calm and so confident and she is the anti-me on the phone. I'm a rambler and can be a wee bit loud when I'm excited.)

I yelled out, "No way!" at the top of my lungs. (sorry about that Sarah)

"Yes, we did. And are you sitting down?"

"I'm sitting now. Oh my God, Sarah, I'm completely freaking out. But you keep talking because if you don't I'll just keep blubbering on and on. So go."

"Okay, well it's from Simon and Schuster."

"No way!" I yell again. I am nothing if not consistent with my reactions.

And then we got into the deets and I smiled and yelped and paced around the first floor of my house like a pinball. When I hung up the phone I stood at the top of my basement stairs and screamed down to my boys, "Guys, my book is going to be published!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

They flew up the stairs like three at a time and I was wrapped in a son sandwich. We did some jumping and hooting and high-fiving. It was a great moment. Then I called my husband and we cried together on the phone. Those tears represented years and years of writing, revising, querying, highs and disappointments, patience, lenience, understanding, respect and love.

Most of all love.

My husband and sons have loved me through my writing journey from word-one (you three make me happy to be alive). So have my mother (you and your never ending belief in me is nothing short of amazing) and my sisters (the 3 coolest and most supportive chicks on the planet) and my cousins (every single one of you are THE best), my in-laws (letting me finish writing my very first book in your pool house finally paid off, eh?!) friends (I'm talking to YOU Margie!), former co-workers (ETR forever!!!) -- so many people have cheered me on (Ron, Mercedes, Jewel, Marissa & Martina, Paul, Michelle, Buffy, Jill, Sarah, Elise, Jared, Nancy C, Arleen, The Australian Contingency & Dorothy) pushed me to continue (or start...Rina), read/critiqued my work (Susan, Weronika, Alex, Sandra & Christina), encouraged me through the dark spots with kind words and actions (Patty, Allison G, Jimmy), given me stellar advice (Ray, Carrie, Lisa & Laura, Authoress & her minions, Casey, Elana, Mary Kate, Evil Editor, Absolute Write peeps,YALitchat members & Georgia, Kim W & Jim).

I would be nothing without all of your love, support and encouragement. And I certainly wouldn't be announcing this news today, that's for sure.

It's always about the love in the end, right? Love makes the world go 'round. I love, love. We were put on this earth to love and love well. And I love this book and my characters. I love how incredible Sarah LaPolla has been to me (a HUGE TY to you). I love this online writing community that I am privileged to be a part of - you people all rock AND roll. I love how this is the beginning of it all...

I can't wait to see this book as a real book. I can't wait to get to know Annette from Simon Pulse. I can't wait for the whole freaking thing - start to finish.

Oh and here's the Publishers Marketplace announcement that came out on Friday:
October 29, 2010 Children's:Young Adult K.M. Walton's debut EVERYTHING'S NOT LOST, about two boys, a bully and his victim, whose very different circumstances at home have led them to become roommates in the same psych ward, to Annette Pollert at Simon Pulse, in a nice deal, by Sarah LaPolla at Curtis Brown.

WHOO-FREAKING-HOO. Put your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care. Oh you fancy huh? Hell yeah, today I am!!!!!!

And I will leave you with the poetic words of one, Lil Wayne, "Life's a beach and I'm just playing in the sand."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Met A. S. King -- one cool human


Why take a gander at that everyone! You know how I gushed and oohed and ahhed at PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ a mere four days ago? Well I went all fangirl at the Exton Mall on Saturday when I got to meet A.S. King.

Let me say this - she's as cool as I thought she would be. If you haven't read her book, would you please, so then you'll know what I'm talking about. No one uncool would be able to write Vera D - it would be a scientific impossibility. Sort of like Slash being a nerd - you know - not possible.

She was genuine and funny, laid back and kind. It was really, really a great experience.

Now go buy her book. Go on. You'll thank me.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ
BY: A. S. KING


Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?


-----------------------------------------------------

Remember when I gushed on and on about THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE? No? Then click HERE to refresh your memory.

Well I just finished the book above and I loved it -- but for completely different reasons. A. S. King absolutely nails what I like to call -- the real American teenager. Never once, and I honestly mean never, did I do an eye roll and say, "Oh please...that is soooo the author talking." If you follow my blog, you already know how I feel about that -- how I like my authors to be quiet and let their characters do the talking. And talking about talking, this book had rich and authentic dialogue. No hollow dialogue there, only brilliant and witty writing.

I finished the book in two days. It's that good. Get your hands on a copy and meet Vera (you're going to absolutely love her personality - her depth - her vulnerability...her). Meet Charlie (oh wait until you meet Charlie - he is Jordan Catalano from My So Called Life - at least that's how I pictured him - hot, messy and tortured). Meet the Pagoda. Uh huh. The Reading Pagoda has a few chapters written in first person. Genius. Absolute genius.

King also is wicked with her plotting -- she weaves in and out of past and present with absolute ease on the reader and the mystery of Charlie's death is slowly and meticulously revealed one deliciously painful layer at a time.

Yeah, I cried at the end. Cried for Charlie. Cried that it was over.

This book is right up there with THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE STORY OF A PART TIME INDIAN and LOOKING FOR ALASKA and THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE -- which are all spot on contemporary YA -- which equals honest and extremely well written.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

# Kindness is ContagEous

On October 7th I warned of my unleashing. Click HERE to read.

Then, on October 8th I Tweeted over 50 tweets, in a row, on the subjects of tolerance, kindness and compassion with the hashtag: #kindnessiscontageous

After I tweeted my last tweet I noticed my flagrant misspelling of the word contagious. E instead of I...over and over again. Whatev. That's just how I am - spelling sometimes escapes me in very public ways.

Anyway, a few nights ago, Beyonce's sister, Solange Knowles tweeted her thoughts on bullying and I tried to lead her to the #kindnessiscontageous tweet stream...AND THEY WERE ALL GONE! Apparently I don't know how to keep a hashtag going. Which sucks.

I had an idea. I could post the tweets here, for public reading.

Please look past the E as you read. You'll get used to it.

Please share this post with anyone you think may benefit. Please.

Oh and evidently I am SOOOOOOOO on the money about kindness being contagious. Read all about it HERE.

----------------------------------------------------

#kindnessiscontageous So it begins. Can you stay with me, Twitter? Every 30 seconds…until I’m spent.

#kindnessiscontageous So, I promised last night that I was going to unleash today…

#kindnessiscontageous So, I’ve read a ton of hideous things in the news about bullying and the even more hideous consequences…

#kindnessiscontageous So, cruelty is real and has YOUNG human faces. And I have a lot to say about it.

#kindnessiscontageous So, I’ve read a fantastic opinion post on the subject from author Jay Asher: http://tiny.cc/3p2j6

#kindnessiscontageous So, I feel compelled to share my thoughts.I have a lot of them.They are from a former teacher & Camp Kindness owner.

#kindnessiscontageous So, who am I? I taught for 10ys in a public middle school & taught second grade for 2ys.Bullying was apparent each yr.

#kindnessiscontageous So, I made teaching kindness and compassion JOB #1 in my former middle school classroom. Job #1.

#kindnessiscontageous So teaching children kindness & compassion was the foundation of my classroom. Without it we were all just existing.

#kindnessiscontageous Some kids came to me every yr as jerks, full of rage, bullies, turds, out of control, heartless, racist, homophobic.

#kindnessiscontageous And I knew (and believed) it was my duty–as an “adult of influence” in their lives–I had to teach them ALL to be kind.

#kindnessiscontageous I KNOW I am not alone in this thinking.

#kindnessiscontageous When “Alex” called “Sam” a fag I had to put the chalk down & address the human beings in my presence. How could I NOT?

#kindnessiscontageous When “Ashley” called “Kell” an elephant I had to shine the light on it...so everyone could learn kindness.

#kindnessiscontageous When “Ted” called “Chris” the N-word there was NO WAY I was turning away from that…not when minds could be changed.

#kindnessiscontageous When the autistic kid got snickered at behind his back I had to have a meaningful conversation with the snicker’ers.

#kindnessiscontageous Teachers: We are with our students almost every weekday for nine months...

#kindnessiscontageous Teachers: We are presented with countless opportunities to revolutionize our student’s minds. To INSPIRE them.

#kindnessiscontageous Teachers: It IS the teacher’s job to remove the obstacles of cruelty &hatred in a way that lessons are learned by all.

#kindnessiscontageous Teachers:Without a safe environment, learning feels like a monumental task, that hill you just can’t get your bike up.

#kindnessiscontageous Teachers: The power isn’t in the time it takes but in the feelings the conversation/discussion evokes.

#kindnessiscontageous Teachers: Imagine the power that lies in healthy discussion coupled with an impressionable child.

#kindnessiscontageous We Adults have to open our eyes…open our ears. We can NOT turn away and think someone else will address it.

#kindnessiscontageous See…children have to be taught how to be kind and compassionate. It doesn’t come naturally to many.

#kindnessiscontageous Taught by the adults in their life. Parents. Teachers. Coaches. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents.

#kindnessiscontageous When ADULTS show kindness through example…that leaves a lasting impression upon children. By example, everyone.

#kindnessiscontageous Bullies must understand potential consequences of their bullying behavior. How, you ask?

#kindnessiscontageous …by thoughtfully crafted, age appropriate experiences/discussions allowing them feel or understand the victim’s pain.

#kindnessiscontageous The adults in children’s lives have the RESPONSIBILITY to discuss potential consequences of bullying behavior.

#kindnessiscontageous By adults I mean parents–teachers–coaches–principals–aunts–uncles–gparents. How can you not teach about compassion?

#kindnessiscontageous I don’t want to hear the excuse: it isn’t “my” responsibility. I dismiss that 100%. Whose responsibility is it then?

#kindnessiscontageous Everyday statements, moments & interactions arise when human beings are together; moments that need addressing.

#kindnessiscontageous Adults must make time to explicitly teach kindness and compassion. No excuses, because there aren’t any good enough.

#kindnessiscontageous Adults: Take the risk and talk about kindness with the children in your life. Be uncomfortable. Force yourself.

#kindnessiscontageous Christina Lee: When I was a teacher, there were hundreds of "teachable moments" in a day. Most of all, I taught not to hate or judge!

#kindnessiscontageous Adults: If YOU were a bully…now is the time to make it right. Talk to the children in your life about compassion.

#kindnessiscontageous Adults: Buck the system. Go out on a limb. Abandon your fears. Shut your inner voice up & go save/influence a life.

#kindnessiscontageous Adults: TALK TO THE CHILDREN IN YOUR LIFE about how bullying affects the other human being.

#kindnessiscontageous Adults: SHOW THE CHILDREN IN YOUR LIFE what kindness looks like.

#kindnessiscontageous Adults: SHOW THE CHILDREN IN YOUR LIFE what kindness sounds like.

#kindnessiscontageous Christina Lee: With my child, we talk about all of the prejudice he's already witnessing: race, sexual orientation, weight and age.

#kindnessiscontageous Adults: SHOW THE CHILDREN IN YOUR LIFE what kindness feels like.

#kindnessiscontageous Adults: The next tweets will be discussion questions to ask the children in your life. Get the discussion started…

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – what do I really get from making another human being feel awful? Is it really worth it?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – would I want to feel the way my victim is feeling right now? No? Then why do I do it?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – why can’t I accept people who are different from me?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – what makes me intentionally rip people’s hearts out with my words and actions? Why do I do it?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – why do I feel the need to say hurtful/degrading/evil things to a fellow human being?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself –do I make nasty faces at other people? Do I snicker? Point and laugh? Guess what? That hurts too.

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – why am I so angry?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – what would make me stop bullying?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – how can I make things right with the human beings I’ve bullied?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – how would I feel if someone I bullied decided to end their life…because of me?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – do I need to talk to an adult about what I’ve done/said to other human beings?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – have I ever just let bullying happen in my presence? Why didn’t I stop it?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Ask yourself – if I see bullying happen in my presence and I want to stop it…HOW can I actually do that?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS:Ask yourself–have I ever tried to put myself in the victim’s shoes? Feel their pain, humiliation, embarrassment?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Think About – You can’t be good friends with everyone. But you CAN treat everyone with dignity & respect.

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Think About – What would the world be like if we humans were all completely identical? Would you like it?

#kindnessiscontageous KIDS: Think About -You can't be a good person if you don't think of other people and their feelings; plain and simple.

#kindnessiscontageous And that is all for today.

Too bad I spelled contagious wrong all morning on my #kindnessiscontagEous tweet fest. That is so me.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

SCBWI Magazine...mangled

Picture this if you will. I pull up to the mailbox at the end of my driveway after a long, arduous day at work, pop it open, shuffle through the usual bills and pizza deals and what to my wondering eyes does appear but the beloved five letters...

S C B W I

Be still my heart. It was their magazine. Which I love to read cover to cover snuggled underneath my blankets. And this reading was going to have special/significant meaning to me, for it would've been my first reading as an agented writer. My heart fluttered. I smiled.
And then I pulled it out from underneath the catalog and this is what I found...
I quickly got over the mangled'ness of it and thought, oh well, I can still read the good stuff inside. At least it still had the inside -- even though it was completely removable. No biggie. I brought it into the house and put it on the stairs -- which is my own private resting place for things I plan to read that night. Night came and went and I grabbed my crinkled and decrepit magazine and headed up. I got all settled and comfy and read the outside back cover first. I smiled again. This was going to be good.

I opened it and found this:
And this!!!!The whole entire inside of the magazine was ripped out and stuffed with a cruel, cruel joke...an impostor...a fake, phony, a nothing!!! A Microsoft mailing.

Ugh.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Interview Over on Jared Larson's blog

Fellow writer, Jared Larson, kindly asked for a blog interview.

Check it out HERE!

Thanks again for the cool questions, Jared.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Power of Crtique


In my last post I equaled your writing to your child -- it is that personal, an extension of you, if you will. To anyone reading that actually has children (or someone you love deeply and unequivocally)...you know when someone goes after your kid with an insult or taunt or some form of wrong doing? And you know how any parent worth their salt goes into,"Oh no you didn't just wrong my child" mode? And there just may be claws that come out to protect our young?

Well.

Sometimes a critique feels like that. "Oh no you didn't just rip my book/baby apart!"

But wait, didn't I title this post The Power of Critique???? Oh yes I did.

You know that saying, "With age comes wisdom" ?? I'd like to tweak it, for today's purposes, to: "With time spent as a writer, with eyes and ears wide open...comes wisdom."

I remember getting so defensive after my first go on Miss Snark's First Victim...like, I got angry. And I got into it with one or two critique'rs. They were "attacking" my baby.

The thing is, there was power in that critique. I had to step aside and open my eyes and open my ears. See. Listen. There is power in every critique. Do the snarky/bitchy ones hurt? Why yes they do. But if you pull back the snark and get to the heart of what is actually being said, 9 times out of 10 you will find something of value. Something that just might make your writing/scene/dialogue/character stronger...better...

Will you agree with every word of every critique. Hell no. And that is okay too. It's okay for you to stand strong with parts of your writing because you believe in them. However, if you repeatedly hear the same bit of critique, then, maybe it's time you...see...listen.

No matter where you are in your journey, I can not tell you how crucial it is to align yourself with fellow writers that you trust and respect. Form an online crit group. Ask for people to beta. Get people to read your work...industry people. Go to conferences. Put your work out there again and again and again and again. Enter contests.

Take the heat.

Roll your sleeves up and get knee deep with the world/characters you created.

A good critique isn't nice sometimes but never rude. A good critique pushes your characters to be true to themselves. A good critique wants scenes to flow better and pacing to be tighter and tension built up more in places. A good critique shows you when you've nailed it, or you've given the reader chills...made them cry...made them feel for your characters. A good critique wants your manuscript to be the best it can possibly be.

There is power in that.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

First Novel = First Child


My good friend and coaching colleague made the best analogy after hearing me kvetch about how mind-taxing my latest round of revisions have been. Like my brain literally hurt. But I do love a challenge.

She said, "That book is like your child."

And I said, "Yeah, and my "child" is in its rebellious teenage years."

She smiled and said, "And sometimes, you just want to quit on them don't you? But you can't and you won't because they're your kid. And you have to just love them through it."

She's one smart cookie.

The book of which I type is my very first novel, written in April of 2008. And then tweaked a grand total of 28 times -- you know, consistency issues, typos, small lines added/removed. And then seriously revised a grand total of 7 times on top of that -- you know entire scenes added, dialogue rewritten, entire scenes removed, brand new beginning.

I love this book. I love my MC and her best friend. I love my story.

Well, as I said in my last post -- you know the one from a week ago -- I've been thick in agent suggested revisions. And I "finished" a readable draft last night at 9:17 p.m. My two uber-kind beta readers will have a polished book to read by tonight...hopefully.

So, my adolescent novel was unruly at first, testing me, wouldn't mind me, punishment didn't even have an affect. I tried "calm cool reasoning" and even a raised voice. But you know what soothed the teenage beast? Consistency.

I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote until I was "done".

What an adventure this writing thing has been...from word one.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Twitter Blow Out...Tomorrow


I am fired up about a certain topic and I plan to EXPLODE all over Twitter tomorrow. I've already typed up my many, many tweets in preparation for the unloading.

I've even created a new hashtag. You'll see.

This topic has been near and dear to my heart since, oh I don't know, since forever.
This topic has the potential to fire me up to the point of action and it always has.
This topic has gotten me to write plays, organize fundraisers, generate discussions, plan lessons, piss people off, write books, sing songs, write songs, write poems. And other stuff.

This topic is all over the news.

This topic will be all over my Twitter page. Tomorrow.

Check it out here: http://twitter.com/KMWalton1

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Revolutionary...BOOK

A teacher from where I coach sent me this link yesterday and I thought it so clever I had to share.



A tiny blog disclaimer:
The reason for my lack o' blogging? I am thick, like double dark chocolate icing thick, in revisions on book 1 of my MG sci-fi trilogy. The best kind of revisions...agent suggested revisions. The woman, quite frankly, is a genius.

That is all.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

SCBWI Winter Conference

Anybody out there planning on going to the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC this year? Registration opens up on October 6th.

I've attended the past two years and absolutely loved each time.

I'm definitely in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Post on Adventures in Children's Publishing

Marissa and Martina over on Adventures in Children's Publishing...you know the site that is so freaking full of awesome blog linkage and advice and contests that my head explodes each time they share THIS -- well, they asked me to write a guest post and I was honored to do so.

Those two are an incredible resource for writers!

Click HERE for my guest post. Hope you like it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Epic Query Fail


Since I haven't posted all week I thought I'd end on a funny note. Here's how this came to be...I do quite a bit of thinking just as I'm drifting off to sleep and then I quick grab my pack of post-its and write my ideas down in the dark. I do this nearly every night. I realize it's sort of crazy.

Last night I had a particularly interesting post-it moment. I thought, hey, why not try and make my readers laugh tomorrow? And then the three words Epic Query Fail popped in my mind.

Behold a completely fictitious and completely ridiculous query letter which breaks just about every query rule there is...and then some...ALL for your entertainment.

Happy end of the week!!!!!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hi!

I met you at a conference back in 98; I was the one who said you look just like a movie star. Remember me? Well, I’ve written fourteen novels since then and I’ve been working like a dog to get one of these suckers in print. I’ve been rejected by everyone at least once. Ha!

I’ve done a lot in those twelve years. I got married, had a few rugrats – my oldest is a real piece of work, bought a house…then tried to sell it but it wouldn’t sell because of the cat pee smell in our basement and then finally it sold and I bought a new house back in 2001, I lost Sandy – my pet turtle …that was a real tear jerker let me tell you and twelve of my novels are about that spectacular turtle, I put on some weight – got real chubby if you want to know the truth– but then lost it and then dangit put it back again…but that’s a whole novel in and of itself, I visited my Uncle Walter a few times…the man’s a hermit – a weird old hermit who eats French onion dip with a spoon, I came down with the worst cast of the Swine Flu my county hospital ever saw – you should’ve seen me – all sweaty and gray – I even made it on the news for that one – you probably saw it, I lost my job back in 99 – real tough times we had then – ate mac and cheese every damn night – but I’m back to work now so it’s all chicken and steak around here, and like I said, I wrote a whole bunch of novels. No one’s read them but me though. I figured I’d wait for someone who knew what the heck they were doing to read them all. Someone like you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ha!

If you’re wondering, that’s what’s in the box – it’s all fourteen manuscripts and some pictures of me so you can get reacquainted with me some. There’s one of me and the rugrats, and me and Sandy, then me in front of our first house and my favorite one – me in the hospital. I know you agents are busy so I did the right thing and just made you a copy of each book. You’re welcome. When you’re done reading them all would you mind mailing them back to me? I think it’ll only cost you like $10 and I know you wouldn’t mind because you make a heck of a lot more money than I do. Ha!

I’m sure you’re dying to hear about all of my books. I know you probably want me to explain all fourteen in detail ,but listen, I don’t have time today because our new pet, Fluffernutter, has a pedicure appointment in about an hour. And you know how much raccoons like their nails cut! You’ll have to settle for hearing about just one book. You can call me and I’ll give you the details on the other thirteen – my home number is (511-511-5111) and my cell number is (311-311-3111) and in case you can’t reach me on those two numbers here’s my wife’s cell (312-312-3122) and my oldest son’s (313-131-3123). I think you’ll definitely be able to reach me!

So my one book is about this turtle named Sandy (you know why) and she isn’t like any other turtle in the whole entire world. She’s a runner. So she’s got a mom who is really slow and a dad who is really fast. That’s where she got her fastness from. And she has four brothers who are really slow and four sisters who are really fast. They fight all the time over how fast and slow they all are. Sometimes the fights end up with them having a race. Those are the really page turning parts – the races. One race the brothers win and then another race the sisters win. It’s really, really, really exciting, trust me! Then at the end Sandy dies.

I know the Sandy books would make a blockbuster movie series. I’m pretty sure they would be bigger than Harry Potter and Twilight combined, because who doesn’t like turtles? I’m sure you have a million contacts in Hollywood so I’m going to let you take over what I’ve already started. I’ve written to every Hollywood studio probably fifty or sixty times – I did get a response from Universal. Well, it wasn’t actually from them, it was from the police department asking me to stop writing. I figured it was because they had already started writing the script and they didn’t need any more letters. So I stopped, but I haven’t heard from them in a while. I’m going to give you a little bit of advice on the movie deal stuff. We’ll be a team soon, right?! After I sign with you I think you should reach out to Universal first to see what progress they’ve made. I already have my outfit picked out for the movie premier – you’ll see!! Ha!

Oh, I forgot to tell you that I’ve also written thirty seven picture books because we all know how easy they are to write. Thirty of them are about Sandy the turtle. They’re in the box too so you can read them all. I know you’ll love them because who doesn’t love picture books about turtles? Ha!

I can’t wait to talk to you. Call me. Oh and I was thinking I’d take a drive to the big city and stop by your office for a visit. I got your address online and already have the directions printed out. Who am I kidding, I’m already packed! I’ll bring more pictures of me and Fluffernutter – you’ve never seen a cuter raccoon in your life, trust me. And I’ll bring my Aunt Florence’s fruit cake and we can have iced coffee with whipped cream and straws like all the fancy people do.

Your favorite new client,
Cluey Less

p.s. I was thinking I could just crash at your house while I visit because money’s been a bit tight, what with my younger son’s arrest and all. I guess he’s a piece of work too. I’ll tell you his story when I see you. Kids! Ha!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Music & Writing = A Happy Marriage

I'm the type of writer that needs complete quiet while creating the brilliance (ha ha), or when the desperate moment arises when husband/children can't seem to tip toe quietly enough for me...I'll play classical music as loudly as my earphones allow.

That is not the music of which I type about now.

This post is about the songs we hear on the radio or on our iPod that create a rapid heart beat and cause a ridiculous ear-to-ear grin to form because we know, with the identical certainty that the sun will rise in the morning...we know that the song playing would be perfect in the movie version of our, as of yet, unsold manuscript (or sold - for the lucky ones).

Don't lie. You know you've done it.

However, I believe I may have taken it to a new level of kookieness. See...I have the entire soundtrack planned according to key scenes -- all written down, tucked safely in my idea folder. I've always dreamed big.

But there is a song popular right now that when I hear it, I swear to you, I hear my MC's boyfriend's voice singing it to her. Maybe not singing it -- he would never do that -- but definitely dedicating it to her or asking her to listen to it because it's exactly how he feels. And I do that goofy smile thing in my car.

There are a select few of you out there who have read the book of which I speak. It's called OUT OF ORDER.

Have a listen. And if you know who Trick and Ruby are you will smile. I promise.


**Sorry some of it is chopped off. If you find it annoying, you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjhCEhWiKXk&feature=fvst

And I ask the rest of you fine, fine people...what songs remind you of your characters? What songs do you know would be perfect in your movie version?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tension


Your stomach clenches. You gnaw at your fingernails. A cool sweat covers your skin. You blink, like a maniac. Maybe even pant a little bit. Who knows?

Tension.

We all know what it feels like in real life. Heck, we wouldn't be human if we didn't experience tension. Some of us are even pretty boss at creating tension. Don't drop your eyes, you know who you are ; )

I'm probably not alone when I say I hate tension. I hate arguing and feeling uncomfortable. I hate yelling and anything resembling anxiety...stress...worry. But in a book, well now, I say bring it. And since the undercurrent of my blog is writing that's where my focus will shift.

I ask you this...can a book have too much tension? So much that you end up doing a few eye rolls and say aloud, "Oh please!" How much is too much? How do you know? Don't you wish I had a clear cut answer to those two key questions? I wish. But I have some good news and it involves my gut. Nice eh?

See, my gut is telling me that the answers lie in industry readers (BETA, agent, editor, etc...). Allow them to gauge, critique and comment. When I hear or read professional feedback indicating too much tension, my first reaction is to question...myself...not the reader. I question my initial motivation for including the tension. I question the effect it had on the character. I question if I really do need it or if it was just there for a bit of cheap drama.

When I peel back the top layer of my writing and look inside, reflecting upon my (and my characters') motivation, it really helps me to either justify the tension or chop it the hell out. It is actually quite refreshing, sort of like a crisp fall breeze blowing my hair back as I frolic in a pile of leaves. I kid. I would never frolic in a pile of leaves because it would increase my chances of coming face to face with a spider. And I hate spiders. See my sidebar list of Things I Hate...

Oh, tension and spiders...why do you taunt me so?

I'd love to read your thoughts on tension...too much tension...comment away...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pacing and Stuff


I'm 3/4 of the way through a book. I'm liking it...I'm actually liking the main character. He is snarky and brilliant and endearing and really funny. But I am not ripping through the book in my normal fashion, as a matter of fact it's been over a week since I started and for me that's unheard of. It got me thinking. Why wasn't I finishing this book?

I loved the MC.

I loved everything about him.

As I read another loooooooong inner dialogue part from this MC...that I love...it hit me. The pacing was off. There were expansive amounts of nothing-really-going-on stuff in between the exciting or emotional parts (and those parts WERE exciting and emotional and well written). The expansive nothing-really-going-on parts made me put the book down way before my eyes typically betrayed me and closed on their own. I was kind of awake when I put the book down. Again, unheard of.

Now, I'm not saying I like books riddled with over the top drama either. That can get old. But pacing is definitely something I allow into my psyche while writing...I always have an undercurrent running behind the scenes asking, what is propelling my story forward? What will keep the reader hooked 100% to my characters? Do I need an "event" or "moment" soon?

I do NOT want readers to be able to put my books down.

Thoughts? What do you think?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never Forget


I was on a plane on 9-11. I was heading to England with my husband. We landed, headed to our hotel and took a nap, completely unaware our country was under attack. My husband went into the office and called the hotel room about an hour later and said, "Kate, turn on the television right now."

We all know what I saw.

Today on MSNBC, in real time, I watched for the first time, the original Today show coverage of the entire events. Being in England we only got the international news -- so today, to watch the U.S. coverage with hosts I know and to experience each horrific event as it happened was...well, I have no words to adequately describe it. Does anyone?

God bless our nation today. God bless the fallen citizens. God bless us all.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

MORE on Revising


I think some readers found the last post on revising to be helpful. So, here goes some more.

This is a before and after excerpt from that same novel. Book 2 of my planned 3 book series. As before, I'll put my thinking in red.

This particular bit of writing (the before bit) definitely didn't read true to the twelve year old character, Sebbie. I used the language of an adult...me. I also had things out of order.

You'll see...

THE BEFORE excerpt:

Movement came from behind the shed and a teenage girl slowly, apprehensively emerged - shoulders down, head down and dressed in all black. Black pants and a thigh-length black coat covered her five-foot-five slim frame. She looked to be in high school and had pearly white skin. Sebbie thought she looked completely emo or goth.

He couldn’t tell what her face looked like yet because her long, straight, black hair hung down blocking his view. Inside, he really hoped she didn’t have a scary face; he was already freaked-out enough.

She now stood a mere five feet from him and she raised her head as if she had something to say but instead she simply stared at him. There was no malice in her stare or he’d of probably run all the way home. She had very dark, very sad eyes, eyes that looked as if they’d seen their share of heartbreak. Thankfully her face wasn’t monster-like it was rather attractive with small, almost dainty features. Sebbie decided to break the stare.

“Did you hear me? I said I know she’s really a…”

The girl with the sad face interrupted in an oh-so-soft voice, “I heard you.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Sebbie didn’t know a single person who talked as softly as she just did. “I didn’t hear you.”

She repeated herself in the same exact volume, “I heard you.”

Both times, when she spoke, she broke her stare and looked down at her feet, as if she were embarrassed to communicate with him.

MY OBSERVATIONS:
- A 6th grade boy wouldn't use the word 'apprehensively' or 'emerged' or describe someone using 'slim frame' or 'dainty features' - nope - no way.
- How would he know she had white skin when he hadn't seen her face yet?
- How would a twelve year old kid know when a person's eyes showed 'their share of heartbreak'?????

- I broke POV when I wrote: She repeated herself in the same exact volume, "I hear you." - Sebbie would never use the word 'malice' either. Too sophisticated for him.
- The words emo and goth aren't even used now with kids.

THE AFTER excerpt:

Movement came from behind the shed and a teenage girl slowly came out. She looked scared and kept looking from side to side. Her head and shoulders were hunched down like she was afraid to stand up straight or something. He couldn’t tell what her face looked like yet because her long, straight, black hair hung down blocking his view. Inside, he really hoped she didn’t have a scary face; he was already freaked out.

She wore all black – black pants, black coat, black gloves, black boots. Sebbie liked her combat boots. She definitely looked like a high school kid.

She now stood a mere five feet from him, and she raised her head and just stared at him. His stomach flipped as he exhaled. There was no wickedness in her stare or he’d of probably bolted. She had pearly white skin and big dark eyes. She had very dark, very sad eyes. He thought she was pretty though. Sebbie decided to break the stare.

“Did you hear me? I said I know she’s really a -”

She interrupted him in a really soft voice, “I heard you.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Sebbie didn’t know anyone who talked as softly as she just did. It wasn’t a whisper or anything, it was just the tiniest little voice. “I didn’t hear you.”

She repeated in the same exact volume, “I heard you.”

Both times, when she talked, she broke her stare and looked down at her feet. It was like she was embarrassed to talk to him.

MY OBSERVATIONS:- Now the moment comes from Sebbie's POV.
- And more importantly, the scene now comes from Sebbie's VOICE. Can you tell?

- I fixed the timing of him seeing her face.
- Overall, it's shorter and tighter writing. IMHO.

What you you think? Was this helpful?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On Revising


Since I have spent long, delicious hours revising lately I felt it timely to post on the subject. But, rather than me just telling you about my countless word-related epiphanies how about this?

I'll show you.

The excerpts I'm sharing come from the second book in my MG sci-fi trilogy. My lovely agent has yet to read this one. She's read the first book and gave me her invaluable feedback.

Quick history of this book:
- It was the second novel I've ever written. It was pre-blogging...pre SCBWI conferencing...pre-online researching...pre just about everything that makes a writer a good writer. I'm simply giving you my excuses...to make myself feel better.

- It was only read by friends and family. No BETA's - no industry professionals.

- After devouring the FIRST book in the series...each in one night...my mother and sister practically ripped my Staples printed and bound copies out of my hand...And my own mother said after finishing book 2, "Honey, I wanted to put this book down." Ouch X infinity.

- I went back in and tried to revise this 71,000 word middle grade novel. Oh no, that's not a typo, people. And you know what I did? I added 5,000 words. Holy hell.

...You know I like time jumps, so jump ahead with me. I learned Mt. Everest amounts of technique and style since summer of 2008. Wrote 3 more novels -- each much better out of the gate than poor, over-stuffed book 2.

So, may I present, one example (and commentary in red) of my revision journey as of late...

Opening Paragraph of ORIGINAL DRAFT
*I advise grabbing a tissue or some sort of device to dry your tears...of laughter. Don't worry, I can take it. And I've already laughed myself silly. *

Sebbie waited for the bus alone. He watched his breath cloud and dissipate, and he wished it was still cool to bundle up in winter. Gloves, scarves and proper winter coats lined with fabrics designed to keep him warm had all been packed away since the end of fifth grade. West Chester Middle School started in sixth grade as did his complete immersion in all things cool. He discovered skateboarding, snowboarding and the skate shop in town. His skull covered Volcom hoodie just wasn’t cutting it against this Pennsylvania winter morning. Thick blonde hair escaped his Element wool cap by nearly two or three inches; he hadn’t had a real haircut since last August. He looked like your typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed skateboard punk.


MY OBSERVATIONS AND THOUGHTS:
I am not inside this character's head. Clearly. I mean, what 6th grade boy uses the word proper?!? And I have him "thinking" that word in the third sentence. Also, he wouldn't describe himself! At least not in such a lame...adult-language way. This whole paragraph SCREAMS author's voice. Can you hear it? I know I can. And I hate it.

Authentic character voice is buried under layers and layers of AUTHOR voice. So I excavated...

Opening Paragraph of SHINY NEWLY-REVISED DRAFT:
Sebbie waited for the bus alone. He watched his breath cloud and disappear and wished it was still okay to bundle up in winter. Gloves, scarves and what his mother called, ‘proper winter attire’ had all been packed away since the end of fifth grade. Nobody cool at West Chester Middle wore that junk. His skull covered Volcom hoodie just wasn’t cutting it against this winter Pennsylvania morning. His hair escaped his Element wool cap by nearly two or three inches; he hadn’t had a real haircut since last August. He knew he looked like a typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed skateboard punk, and he liked it that way.

MY OBSERVATIONS AND THOUGHTS:
I feel like Sebbie is present in the revised paragraph...present in every sentence...the way it should be if this chapter is from his point of view.

Can you feel him now?

Some Final Thoughts:
In my revision travels throughout this manuscript I blew my own mind with how many times I either head-jumped or suddenly changed POV. Like a ton. I also kept hearing my adult voice on the page...not the character's voice. Something else I apparently "hearted" was back story. Mama-mia did I slather it on, thick as cream cheese.

In this, my first serious-I-sort-of-know-what-I'm-doing revision, I slashed this sucker bloody and raw...16,000 words removed.

I wish it were pounds. Oh how I wish it were pounds.

(Depending on the response to this, you know, if anyone out there finds it to be remotely helpful, I have loads more where it came from. And I would share again. I'm brave.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sleep, Summer, Sleep


As I drove to the grocery store today three words rolled around inside my head: Sleep, Summer, sleep

I grabbed my pack of post-its and pen at a red light and jotted them down. Navigating through the kitty litter and deodorant, a poem began to coagulate.

Goodbye, Summer. I will miss you so. May I present a small token of my deep and unbridled love for you...

My poem.

SLEEP, SUMMER, SLEEP


Sleep, Summer, sleep
You have earned slumber
Bringing back the withered
Pushing nighttime
Warming souls

Sleep, Summer, sleep
Rest and restore
We need you...
when we need you
But you know that

Sleep, Summer, sleep
Dream of delicious smoke
and sand
and sweating drinks, people...
everything

Sleep, Summer, sleep

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Piling on the Drama

A few weeks ago I had a total "escape from my day moment" that lasted two hours. I intentionally got lost in a movie...in the middle of the day. The movie? Nights in Rodanthe.



I never read the book by Nicholas Sparks so I had no idea what to expect. The house where the film was shot was unique...the characters fairly well developed and interesting...the chemistry believable...but then...

****DISCLAIMER...MOVIE SPOILER ALERT...STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS MOVIE AND YOU REALLY WANT TO...BUT BELIEVE ME...IT ISN'T WORTH WATCHING.****

Let your eyes lift to the title of this post. Read it. I called it "Piling on the Drama" and good, sweet mama does Mr. Sparks pile on the drama. He had me going for a while with the characters finding each other and then finding themselves. All compelling and romantic. But then...

****THIS IS YOUR SECOND SPOILER WARNING...SO DON'T GET MAD AT ME.****

...but then he freaking kills the main dude...Richard Gere. Now, I'm not opposed to a good cry in a movie or read. Believe me. But I swear to you that I said, out loud, "Oh, come on!" when Diane Lane's character found out he was dead. It REALLY felt like Mr. Sparks was simply piling on the drama for the sake of piling on the drama. The movie (and book, I suspect) would've been so much stronger if the characters reunited at the end and continued growing and falling in love. It was the dumbest thing ever that he died. Drama for the sake of drama.

After the credits rolled and I silenced myself from shouting obscenities at the TV, something dawned on me. An ah-ha moment if you will. I needed to do a read through of my one manuscript to be sure I wasn't piling on the drama for the sake of piling it on...thinking it would resonate and make my readers feel. Was the drama real and authentic and not ridiculous overkill? I never want my books to come off as sappy. Or have anyone say, "Oh come on!" while reading them. Or shout obscenities.

I want my drama real and necessary. Perfect example...when Dumbledore was killed in the 6th HP book. Did I want the man to die? Hell no. I loved him. But it was real and necessary drama. Harry had to face Voldemort completely alone in book 7. He had to.

Having the Richard Gere character die while she sat waiting for him at a candlelight dinner she made. Clee-freaking-shay. Ohh, it made me so mad.

Thoughts? Feelings? Opinions?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Courageous Writing


A few weeks ago I finished reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD -- and I'm embarrassed to say it was for the first time. I can't remember what prompted me to pick the book up and then buy it, but I did.

After closing the book for the last time I laid in bed staring at the ceiling. Two thoughts competed for top billing:

1. I will never understand the hatred and racism black Americans faced (and face). Never.

2. How bold and courageous of the female author, Harper Lee, must've been to write that book.


I know she was white, which gave her immediate privileges. But she was also a woman, a white woman, writing a book which shined a bright light onto deeply evil thinking and attitudes...and actions. And she didn't hold back. Her beautiful writing read true and honest.

She boldly created the forward thinking character Atticus Finch, who I'm guessing served as an outlet for to share her own thinking...but that's just speculation.

Oh how I would love to have lunch with Ms. Lee. Tell her that we're raising our two boys to respect all human beings regardless of color (or sexual orientation or religious affiliation or any other damn thing) -- that all human beings deserve to be treated with kindness and dignity. Tell her that I admire her bravery...as a woman...as a writer.

Can you imagine?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stay on the Path


Dorothy Dryer asked if I would write a guest post over on We Do Write.

So I did.

Click HERE to have a read...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere


Very few times in my life has a book left me breathless...breathless to the point of clutching it to my chest after reading the last word, sick to my stomach that the read was over.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE was one of those books.

I learned about this book from Christine over at Write Brained. Thank you, Christine!!!!!!!

The writing can be summed up in one word...exquisite. Jandy Nelson is my new hero. I want to be her when I grow up. She is a brilliant word weaver and her poetic talents shine through every sentence. Every sentence.

I don't know how this book didn't win the Printz Award (I'm not saying GOING BOVINE didn't deserve it...but this work-of-wonder deserved, at the VERY least, an honorable mention). This book is a masterpiece in original character voice. The MC is...honest...true...deliciously clever ...heartbreaking...smart...witty...

Lenny is the seventeen-year-old MC who has recently -- and very suddenly -- lost her older sister, who she idolized. She's lost in every way possible, and it takes two different boys to help her re-group and start living again...and one of them is her dead sister's boyfriend.

Yeah.

One of the 10,000 things I marveled at from Ms. Nelson's writing style was how she rarely used "like" in her clever comparisons. Which I know is called a metaphor in fancy writer-speak. See, I'm a simile gal and I didn't realize the power of removing the "like" until I read THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. Let me demonstrate using a sample from the book:

From the book:
Maria's stirring a vat of sauce beside me, a witch at her cauldron, as I try to cover the fact that I've broken yet another pastry shell.

How I probably would've written that sentence:
Maria's stirring a vat of sauce beside me, like a witch at her cauldron, as I try to cover the fact that I've broken yet another pastry shell.

Jandy Nelson's sentence is SO MUCH STRONGER and the only word difference is the absence of the word "like."

Some of you may not find this as revolutionary as I, but I remain blown away. I can't wait to try it out in the next book I write.

A final word, if you haven't had the pleasure (and I do mean pleasure) of reading this book, treat yourself. And tell me what you think when you've finished reading!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Voice...shouldn't every human (and character) have one?


It was back in the summer of 1997, in a Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project (PAWLP) class, when I first heard the term "voice" used in connection with writing. Teacher as Writer, that was the class, and it was also the first time I viewed myself as an actual writer. I remember the ten-or-so teachers in the class with me discussing and struggling to define what voice is and how to explain it to our students.

It's quite elusive.

In true PAWLP style, the teacher suggested we turn to mentor text -- or in non-teacher talk -- examples in essays, poems, memoirs or novels, in other words...real writing, to find where the writer shows a strong voice.

It's easier than it sounds, and it took me ten years in my middle school classroom to amass enough examples to feel like I was doing an adequate job explaining voice. And some kids still didn't get it.

Ralph Fletcher wrote this great book for kids on how to start and fill a Writer's Notebook. It was one of the many tools I used to teach my sixth graders how to write and write from the inside. I think that's where voice comes from, whether it be the actual writer's voice or the voices of the characters the writer creates. Ralph tells kids its easy to write about yourself and your experiences because you know you the best. Simple, yet so true.

Each year I would watch student after student shed layers of doubt and fear...and find their voice...on paper.

I'd like you to try a small experiment with me. Let's call it A Voice Finder. Come on...don't stare at me...it will be fun. Ready?

Grab a sheet of paper and your favorite pen. Press play when you're ready.


video

Now that your back, read through what you wrote and I want you to highlight sentences and phrases that strike a chord with you...make you feel something. Or you just like how they resonate in your head as you read.

I beg that you take your time with this, roll around in your writing a bit, hold hands and snuggle. Get to know how you put words together. And only pay attention to what you like -- silence the critic, stuff a sock in its mouth good and tight. Now is not the time. Put on your rose colored reading glasses and have a sunshiny go with your word-filled paper.

What you highlight...what you connect with, my fine blog friends, is voice. The essence of you. It''s what makes you...you, and you captured it on paper.

So I ask you Mr. and Mrs. Writer, don't your characters deserve the same TLC? Don't they deserve to fill the pages of your manuscript with their essence...their soul? Let them out. Let them romp and feel and fail and soar -- let them do these things in their own voice. Make it real. Always make it real.