Thursday, May 27, 2010

Experiment



Experiment

Trying to figure out how the retweet button works. Can't get it to say "retweet" - it only says "tweeted". I think I've brought over the wrong code. Anyone out there successfully use this button?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Looking for Alaska

Thanks to Nathan Bransford I discovered the writer John Green's work. First a well deserved high five to Mr. Bransford for leading me to Mr. Green.

I got myself to the book store and was told they'd have to order me a copy of Looking for Alaska by John Green. I remember feeling deeply bummed out. The nice lady guided me back to the shelf where the book should've been and picked up An Abundance of Katherines by the same John Green.

"This one is also pretty popular," she said.

"Oh," I said, "Thanks." But its not the book I wanted.

She walked away, and I spent a few minutes checking out "the replacement."

I not only bought the book, I read the book in 2 days, and I loved the book. My favorite thing: his masterful skill of writing authentic dialogue. He also knows how to craft deeply interesting characters.

Jump ahead with me to this past Saturday. I'm back in the same book store with my youngest and I b-line it to the "G" section of YA. They have five copies of Looking for Alaska. Immediately I think, hey, why didn't someone call me? Then, I do a small, excited yelp.

I read part of Saturday and part of Sunday and finished the book. John Green did it again for me.

1. Authentic dialogue
2. Deeply interesting characters

If you're curious, by authentic dialogue I mean the REAL way actual teenagers talk. Nothing is sugar coated. Nothing reads as if an adult is trying to voice a teenager. Nothing feels fake or corny. Nothing is held back - hence, authentic. As I read, I felt as if I were in the situations, just watching and listening - that's how good his writing is.

Check both books out. You will not regret the reads.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Critique - How Do You Take It?


I'm still reading Mindset by Carol Dweck and with each page I am enlightened; seriously. I am not ready to dedicate an entire post on her research and thinking just yet, but it's coming. However, what I've read absolutely correlates to critique and how it is taken.

The key is how it's taken. Dweck categorizes human beings into two mindsets:
- Growth Mindset
- Fixed Mindset

A growth mindset person would take critique and realize it wasn't critiquing them...personally. They would immediately try to pull nuggets of wisdom from the critique no matter what tone the critique took - again, because the critique was about the writing...not them. They would look at the critique ideas as a new challenge and make decisions on what they wanted to internalize and get to work on. The critique would excite them and possibly even inspire them to dig deeper into their craft.

Dweck says, "Even in a growth mindset failure can be a painful experience, but it doesn't define you. It's a problem to be faced, dealt with and learned from."

In the book, a growth mindsetter, Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg, a violin prodigy, says, "You have to work the hardest for the things you love most."

Wow, right?

A fixed mindset person would take critique and immediately dismiss it and get angry and offended...because it would feel like a critique of them...personally. They'd view the critique as a, "...direct measure of their competence and worth." They need to constantly prove they are smart and talented. Critique, especially a snarky or harsh one, would make this person feel attacked and worthless and a failure - and they would have the absolute need to respond and prove their brilliance...defend it.

Fascinating stuff, eh? I'm telling you, you have to read this book. She talks about parenting and sports and business and teaching - and it's all steeped in research. No, I'm not telling you it's a boring yawner, no way, this book is written in 100% conversational style. Trust me.

Okay, so, I am post #48 in the Secret Agent contest going on right now over at Miss Snark's First Victim. I know, I know, I vowed to never, under any circumstances, enter another critique contest.

I know.

But what's that saying? With age comes wisdom

Well, I'm older that's for sure, and dare I say, a wee bit wiser (especially after reading 3/4 of this book). Just imagine how smart I'll be after I finish reading?

I believe I WAS a solid 70/30 ratio of Growth and Fixed mindset - you can be both you know. But now, after reading this book, I am striving for the full 100% of growth mindset. I'll get there. Proof is post #48.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Writing Ideas


I always get asked from my family and friends...how did you come up with that? Or, where do you get your ideas from?

It's something that, since writing my first novel, fascinates me on every level. Prior to writing my MG novel back in the spring and summer of 2007, I honestly don't think I paid such close attention to life and conversations and people in general. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a self absorbed jerk or anything. I would wholeheartedly categorize myself in the "awesome listener" column.

But, seriously, after writing that first book it was like my brain awoke from a deep slumber, and it started hyper-listening, hyper-focusing, hyper-watching.

And I've written every interesting tidbit down. On my phone. On post-its. On notepads. I have a file of ideas. By ideas I mean snippets of real life I've either observed or overheard or experienced. Ideas I could use in a future or current writing project.

Jotting stuff down is how my YA novel about the two sixteen year old boys came about. Listening to someone talk about writing from two different main character, first person, perspectives...and wham-o, my brain jumped on the writing roller coaster at full speed, climbing and barreling and writing. And writing. I love that book.

Just a few weeks ago I was driving home from my sister Meg's house, lost in thought, when I noticed a repeated scene along the road side as it whizzed by me. The same scene over and over again the whole way home. It triggered an idea and my mind cooked up an entire MG fantasy book by the time I pulled in my driveway. I blabbed the whole book to my husband and lil'son, to which they stared back, mouths agape.

"Mom, did you read that somewhere?" lil'son asked.

"No, honey, I just thought of it."

Husband shook his head and said, "That's crazy, Kate. I mean, you're not crazy, but that's crazy."

I didn't want to admit to either of them that I honestly have like five+ novels tromping through my brain at any given moment. Each story working it's own thing out in the confines of my imagination, awaiting for its moment of release. I'm thinking they just wouldn't get it.

So, where do you get your ideas from? Do tell...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Page A Day Challenge 2010


Thanks to one, Weronika Janczuk, today I begin the Page a Day Challenge. If you are a writer or want to be a writer then this challenge is for YOU.

All you need to do is commit to writing one page a day. No more. No less. Just one page.

YOU can do that. It's the perfect answer to, "But I don't have time to write." Yes YOU do.

I'm 100% in and have been writing a page a day now for two weeks to get myself on a roll. It's working.

Come on, jump in with me. No excuses now. YOU can do it. Start a new book, work on one you're in the middle of and can't seem to finish, or start the book you've always dreamed of writing.

One.

Page.

A.

Day.

Own it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Fragments

This is my first ever Friday Fragments. The premise is simple. Blog some fragments (moments) from the past week on Friday and link back to Mrs.4444's blog. Click HERE for detailed instructions.

My Friday Fragments Debut:

- Got my current WIP up to page 113...a page or two a day.

- Got a full request for my MG novel, THE END OF NORMAL, this week - the novel that prompted me to start this very blog back in 2008. Quite the unexpected surprise. A few weeks ago, in relation to an earlier query on a different book, this agent sent me the nicest rejection letter I've received to date. He also ended the email by saying he'd be happy to see anything else I have ready. I emailed him back a query for my MG novel and I got the full request on Tuesday. We'll see...

- Got a full request for my YA novel, EVERYTHING'S NOT LOST, this week. It's been a bang up week for me writer wise. But again, we'll see...

- Came to the conclusion today after conducting a school-wide staff development on Differentiated Instruction that the most unlikely people have the power to amaze you (in a good way) on many, many levels.

- I am smack in the middle of the most extraordinary book called Mindset by Carol Dweck. It is so compelling and impactful that I plan to dedicate an entire post to it after I finish.

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's All In The Set Up

I've come to some pretty big conclusions this past year about life in general. However, since this is a blog primarily about writing I will weave writing into this post. You'll see.

The set up. That's what brings success. And easiness. And peace. And excitement. And respect. And.

And..

And...

The set up. What do I mean by that? Curious? Let me set some scenarios to show you what I mean:

1. You're a Parent: You have a child who is strong willed and oh so vocal in public. You want to go to the grocery store to pick up a few things. The past few times you've taken this child to the grocery story he's had an absolute fit because he couldn't get a candy bar. I'm talking a real good fit, as in, everyone looks and whispers. The kind of fit you want to put your hood up, grab your kid and slink out.
THE SET UP: In the car on the way to the store you say, "Now listen to me, you are not getting a candy bar today. I am only running in to grab a few things for the house. Do not ask for a candy bar. Not even once. Do you understand me? No candy bar today. If you ask me you will go directly to your room when we get home. Are we clear?"

Guess who won't ask for a candy bar?

2. You're a Teacher: You want your students to compliment each others writing with genuine and heartfelt compliments...something deeper than, "It was good. I liked it. I liked it because it was good."
THE SET UP: The day before the compliment activity you say, "Now listen up everyone, I'm going to put some statements up here on the board and I want you to talk at your tables...which statements are genuine and heartfelt compliments? Be prepared to share out why you think the statement is genuine and heartfelt and why another statement is NOT genuine and heartfelt."

Guess who won't put, "It was good. I liked it. I liked it because it was good."

3. You're a Writer: You want to get agent requests from your query letter. As in statistically impressive requests. (*note - I am not claiming to have said impressive requests)
THE SET UP: Before you send one query letter out you know, from the depths of your writer soul, that you have the tightest and most revised and solidly magnificent manuscript humanly possible. This of course requires ridiculous amounts of time writing, re-writing, revising, editing, revising again and again, then sending it out to be read by people other than your family...you know, people that have no problem telling you when it falls apart or makes no sense or the part that made them want to put it down.

The stuff that hurts badly.

THEN and only then are you ready for the next set up. Now you need to set yourself up. Mentally prepare yourself to spend a significant amount of time researching the art of writing an effective query letter. Hopefully you stop by Elana Johnson's site. Now you're ready to craft query letter version #1. Get feedback - you have to strap on a set and put it out there...online so it can be ripped to ever loving hell by fellow writers. This hurts so good, trust me.

Draft #2

Put it out there again for another lashing.

Draft #3

Repeat.

You may be ready to sent it out...depending on the feedback from fellow writers. If you keep getting negative feedback, do draft #4, 5, 6, etc...

When you have exhausted your set up by every means possible, and by exhausted I mean you have the energy to hit send...now comes more research.

Seriously.

DO NOT HIT SEND ON THAT QUERY YET.

Now you have to research who the hell you plan on sending your well crafted work of art to. Who are the agents that live in your fantasy world?
Who are the agents that rep what you write?
Who are the agents who seem like they'd be a good match for your personality?
Who are the agents who are open to queries at the moment?

Yep, you have some more setting up to do. Every waking moment you have "free time" (ha, as if any of us have such a nonsensical entity, but you know what I mean) you need to spend it researching agent and their blogs, their websites, their comments, their contests, their tweets, their thinking, their current literary wants, their personalities, their interviews...basically everything and anything you can read about them.

Once you've compiled your list, visit Query Tracker.net and get to work querying your little heart out. Query wide. Query smart. Query with the supreme confidence that you are ready because your manuscript is as kick-ass as it can be & your query letter is a kick-ass as it can be.

Query well my blogger friends. Query well. Query successfully.

Query with statistically impressive results. It's ALL in the set up.

p.s. if you wonder how I came to this thinking, well, I lived it...the HARD way, the wrong way, the I-wish-I-knew-what-I-know-now way.

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Very First Interview...I know, right?!?!?!

The magnificent Dorothy Dreyer and I "met" at an online query contest recently. She put a call out for interviewees to be interviewed for her blog and I said, "What the heck, why not." And I emailed her.

Click here to read the interview.

While I typed out my answers it made me feel like an author and not just someone dreaming about becoming a published author. I liked that feeling more than I anticipated. I mean, I'll admit I've dreamed about what it'll be like when I'm finally agented and published, but this time the feeling felt so...real (and awesome).

Thank you Dorothy for affording me the opportunity to feel like an author and not just a writer. I now can not wait for it to be really, really real.

One query at a time, right?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

First Kiss Scene


Over at Miss Snark's First Victim she has a very interesting series of posts up. 50 first kiss scenes just dangling out there, waiting for advice...critique...etc...

I'm entry #16 - click here to read - it's from my current WIP, a contemporary YA. I've gotten 6 comments and they aren't too hot, however, I absolutely still love this scene and these characters no matter what. Feel free to leave your 2 cents as well : )

Be prepared the scene is rather steamy - in an innocent YA kind of way. Yeah, I love this scene. To death. It reminds me of what it feels like to finally kiss the guy you've been madly crushing on. At least that's how I remember it. I'm an impossible romantic, I'll admit it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mantra vs. Goal

Back at the end of February I stumbled upon a PBS special. It had this guy on a huge stage with two or three humongous flat screen televisions scattered behind him -- each TV surrounded by a gigantic though bubble frame. The title of the program was, Excuses Be Gone. The guy? Dr. Wayne Dyer...motivational speaker.

The part that held me completely captivated? The part I've replayed in my mind hundreds of times?

He took a goal and flashed it on one of the TV's. I can't remember the specific goal so I am going to share mine: I want to become a published writer.

Then, on the other TV he transformed the goal into a mantra: It is my destiny to be a published writer.

He suggested writing this mantra everywhere you are: your car, next to your computer screen, your nightstand, the fridge, etc... See it often, say it often and believe it 100%.

He went on to say that each night before closing your eyes in bed, say your mantra and more importantly, let your body and mind feel what it will feel like when the goal is achieved. Literally allow your body to feel the excitement, the joy, the whole she-bang.

I've been waiting to blog about this because I wanted to test it out. On March 1, 2010 I woke up and wrote my mantras...two of them.

1. I am destined to be a published writer
2. I will land my dream agent.

The first week I didn't miss a single night of "feeling" the excitement right before I fell asleep. My heart raced, I clenched my fists and grinned like a looney bird, and I felt like I had just heard word I was going to be published. The following weeks had repeat performances.

On April 6, 2010 I got word that the research book I co-authored was offered a contract for publication. Click here for that exciting news if you missed it.

On April 16, 2010 I got word that my YA novel EVERYTHING'S NOT LOST was one of the winners in the Sourcebooks Fire #YALitChat fiction contest. Seriously. Click here to see the announcement for yourself. I click on that link a lot; I'll publicly admit that. Click here if you'd like to read a wee bit of the novel itself.

I've shortened my mantra to one...the one about landing the agent.

What would your mantra be?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Zee Winner

1. Thank you to every old and new follower for participating and spreading the word about my contest (and blog).
2. Instead of Random.org, which charges money to use its random sorter (booo), I found a free sorter called The Hat by Harmony Hollow Software. Free is good. Below is a screen shot of what the program looks like.



3. As stated in Zee Rules, each contestant was entered into The Hat according to the number of points gained. E.g. Lisa & Laura were entered 6 times into The Hat.


4. The Hat pulled out a winner. Oh yes it did...and the winner of the very first Spring-Fresh contest is........................
THE ONE. THE ONLY. HAYLEY.

She was sort of unbeatable, I mean the girl had 21 entries. 21!! Thank you to Hayley for spreading the word so earnestly over on her blog. She is a classy, intelligent, and charming young woman. If you've never stopped by The Writer's Hollow, go head and you'll see what I mean.

Congratulations, Hayley!!!!!!! I'll email you with prize details.

Thanks again, everyone. Hope to see you around here soon.