Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Don't Miss the Ian Sands Art Exhibits this December and January!

My good friend, local Triangle NC Children's Author/Illustrator Ian Sands has his Pop Expressionist art on display (and for sale for collectors too!!) all over the inside of the Wake Forest Coffee Company this December.

It’ll be there until the end of 2008. So if you haven’t gotten there yet, there are just two more days left for you! Location: Wake Forest Coffee Company, 156 South White Street, Wake Forest, NC. 27587.

But don't worry. If your next 2 days are too jam packed, there's another Raleigh Exhibition in January 2009!

Ian’s paint brush and pen see the world a little differently than the rest of us. And it's great! Here are a few more samples of his colorful, lively, and sometimes lifesize ART!

Take your family and friends and pop on by.

It all starts with a random piece of white paper...

The next Ian Sands Pop Expressionist exhibit is scheduled for January 2009 at Vintage 21, 117 S. West St, Raleigh, NC.

Go Ian, Go! So proud to know you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas to All...

...and to all

See you in January! Happy Holidays!

- Janelle

Friday, December 5, 2008


I've gotten a number of emails from folks AFTER our 40,000 WORD CONTEST closed, stating "Oh no, I missed it!"

Apparently December is a bad time for a contest with all of the Christmas business beginning!
Lesson learned. : ) I'll do our future contests in Spring, Fall or Summer.

But for the two of you who did get your names and info in on time I've put the names in a hat and pulled out a winner.


I will be sending Chris Baty's tiny bedtime story book, and a borders gift certificate your way! Enjoy them this Christmas!

And thanks to all of you who got your names in on time -- and also to all those who emailed after the fact. Keep you eyes open for future contests here on Writermorphosis!

See you in a week for another post (on Mondays). - Janelle

Monday, December 1, 2008


Nano is over! Thousands of us wrote more in November than usual, as a result of it, including me. Hooray! I finished my 50, 000 yesteday afternoon in the nick of time.
But here at Writermorphosis we're celebrating EVERYONE who completed 40,000 WORDS OR MORE in November 2008, with a CONTEST!

Though 50,000 is the required amount to "win" Nano, 40,000 is enough for a novel too (at least if you're writing for Middle Graders).

So, whether you participated in Nano or not, if you wrote 40,000 words or more in November 2008:


I'll draw a name out of the hat and will mail the winner a copy of Chris Baty's little book of "bedtime stories for wrimos," and another writerly surprise gift! Check back on 12/5/05 to see if you won!


Monday, November 24, 2008

ENDING WELL : Inspiration Station # 4 (and Contest!)

Today I sat at the library and finished the draft of my current novel -- by hand!

Yes, I know my word count on the Nano site doesn’t show that I’ve been making progress, but I’ll update it as soon as I type a few more words into the computer. Hooray!

Finishing this novel was my goal for the month. So I was exhuberant today to put that final sentence down on paper.

For those who haven’t yet had that “finishing” experience, it is really hard to describe!
Suffice to say, I had a great desire to go dancing around the library stacks. But that sort of behavior is just not appropriate in a library, alas! So, I took myself out for a Cinnabon cinnamon roll with a friend. It was glorious!

The whole “wrapping up the novel”process that so many nano-ers have already completed, and many others will be completing over this last week of November, involves a lot of tying things together. Here are some questions that I tried to keep in mind when wrapping up my novel. Perhaps they will be helpful to you as well.

Novel Wrap-Up Questions:

1.) Are all of the major characters who I started with at the beginning (and who are still alive now) accounted for in the end of the book? And has each of their individual stories come to a close?

2.) Have the sub-plots and the main plot all melded together in the final pages, in a way that makes sense and creates a high-interest climax, then resolution?

3.) Have I answered all of the questions that readers will ask at the end of the book? Like: What happened to the bad guys? What does the hero feel in the ending of this book? Was the hero successful? What will come after the final page of this book, for these characters who we love and hate – ie. Is there a future life for the hero, the other main characters, the nemesis…and do they have plans for how they hope that life will go?

I tried to make sure I answered the first two questions for myself, and the final one for the readers, in the last chapter of my book. Did I do it well? The critiquers that I am sending it to will have to answer that one for me, I’m sure. :)

But how are things going with your ending? Is everything pulling together like it should?

And whether you win Nano this year or not,

Submit your 40,000 word count or higher, along with your name, here on the site on December 1st, and you’ll be entered in the contest for Chris Baty’s new book, and another very helpful writerly surprise! You don’t have to win at Nano to win in this competition. Here, 40,000 words worth of sweat and sleeplessness IS enough. See you on the 1st!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Think Outside the Book: Inspiration Station # 3

Is your plot getting boring; your character unispired?

Sometimes a great way to spice up a story is by sticking in something unexpected or unplanned.

Here are some photos to get you thinking. What would happen if you threw one of these types of places into your story right now?

Or how about an item that can have unexpected great meaning to someone in your story? Here are a few to get you thinking:

1.) A ringing phone
2.) A necklace
3.) A dagger
4.) Mushrooms (whether it's the 60s or a fantasy novel in the woods!)

5.) A map
6.) A cake for a special occassion
7.) A bag full of...

Or situations
1.) An unexpected gift
2.) A fall
3.) An unplanned or unwanted meeting
4.) A death
5.) A gathering
6.) A landslide
7.) A hunt or chase
I love the adventure of an airport...

Sometimes it's the random stuff that gets us thinking.
Let your muse take you...
Write on!"

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Hurt the Bunnies"- Inspiration Station 2

So here we are, almost half-way through Nano! And some of us are half-way through our nano novels too! Hooray!

But one thing that happens around this half-way point in any novel is that the author hits that nebulous place called "the middle."

The middle is what happens between the beginning and the end of a book.

And the middle is where we authors often get stuck. Our characters begin to flounder. They may start having lots of unimportant conversations, or wandering around doing lots of activities that may seem important when we write them, but that aren't always moving our characters forward toward where we want them to be in the end. It can be very frustrating!

So, for inspiration this week, here are some suggestions shared by speaker Pam Zollman at the recent SCBWI Carolina's Conference.

Pam said:

1.) When you get stuck in the middle, it may be because you have used up all of the information you know about your character. It's important to know what makes them tick.

2.) Readers don't want to read about cute little bunnies that are doing just fine. We want to read about bunnies that have problems. "So, hurt the bunnies."

3.) Know what your character is afraid of, and throw it at him.

4.) Don't make the ending simple. Make it hard for your characters to get there. Make them struggle hard throughout the middle.

5.) Getting bored? Something not working? Try a change of scenery - time, location or character attributes.

And last but not least...

6. Just keep writing. The only reason you're stuck is because you stopped writing.

Thanks Pam!

Best of luck to all as we press on throughout the second half of Nano 2008!

See you next Monday for another "Inspiration Station" post.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Competition and Cameraderie: Inspiration Station # 1

Last night I sent an e-mail. It’s an email I’ve sent repeatedly to a certain group of people every month, and in November, every week, for the past 4 years. It says something to the effect of “Hey guys, are we all still planning to meet for our regular gathering tomorrow – same bat time, same bat cave?”

And the responses came in this morning. “I’ll be there…. I’ll be there… Yep, count me in…”

It's my nano crit group – now in it’s approximately 37th month -- assembling again.

You see, many of us out here in blogland have taken on the challenge of Nanowrimo this year. We’ve signed on to write 50,000 words in 30 days. We know that Nano will get our inspiration flowing, our novels written, those words in our heads onto paper… and we’re excited. But nano success (and success in writing in general) hinges greatly on perseverance and not quitting half-way through.

Writing a novel is a daunting task.

So where do we find the courage to keep going? We find it in each other.

The writing community provides the encouragement to make progress in our novels.
Other writers offer the two things that prevent us from giving up: Cameraderie AND Competition.

For all novelers, and especially for those writing a novel draft in 30 days, it’s important to have other writers egging you on and providing encouragement. This is why critique groups are so essential to every author. And why I am now encouraging YOU to set up your own little group to provide Cameraderie and Competition this nano season.

This is now my 4th year participating in NANO, and I have a group of friends who I met the first year at Nano, who formed a little group. During November we meet every Monday online (for ½-1 hour), and send e-mails thoughout the week providing:

Cameraderie: “You know, my children have forgotten that they have a mother because I’ve been noveling so much.” “Aw, they still know you love them… but I personally love that clip from chapter 6 that you posted. I really want to hear what happens next!”

Competition: “Woo Hoo! I’m 2000 words ahead of you! You’ll NEVER catch me! I dare you to try…”

My little group also meets monthly throughout the year, discussing our progress on revisions, submissions to editors and agents, conferences we’ve attended (because we live all over the country), and even critiquing each other’s writing via e-mail and mail. And so I suggest a similar strategy to you.
Find people who will provide both Cameraderie and Competition for you this Nano season and all year round. And let that competition and cameraderie work its magic!

How to do it?
1.) Groups can meet online at Meepo.com or Skype.com -- for those who don’t live near each other. Or, you can reply to each other here on writermorphosis.
2.) Crit groups that already exist and live near each other (like my Goalies’ crit group, where at least 5 of us are nanoing,) can communicate more locally.
3.) You can also attend the local nano write-ins, or find 5 or 6 “friends” on the nano site itself, link to them as your “buddies” on the site, and try to beat each other’s word counts. That’s really the best place to start.

Cameraderie and Competition are essential for all novelers, I think.

So for my crit group buddies out there, and for all others reading this blog. Let’s get a move on; let’s win this nano! I DARE YOU!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Happy November 1st to all!
Good luck to all on our NANO Novels!

New "Inspiration Station" posts will go up every Monday night here during NANOWRIMO
to keep us all motivated and writing large quantities of great fiction.
See you Monday. Until then...happy typing!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's Writing Time: Nano Tip # 3

So, last night I had planned to write a blog post on ways to set aside writing time for your novel during NANO. I had the time allotted in my schedule (9-10pm) – Then I got unexpectedly called in to work.

(Yep – the day job triumphs again!)

It’s an excellent example of how “real life” can affect our writing plans on any given day.

So, how do we write our way through a novel – especially one being written in the span of 30 days?

1.) Consistency
2.) Creativity
3.) Caffeine : )

In order to complete 50,000 words in 30 days some people just divide up 50,000 by 30 days. They write 1670 words daily, no matter what happens in their lives that day, and they get to 50,000 words – tired, but happy. (For those interested in how full-time writers do this, Steven King shares in his “non-autobiography” that he gets up in the morning and writes 10 pages every day. He stays at his desk until those 10 pages are done, whether that’s 11am or 2pm on that particular day.)

For others of us, some days allow for lots of writing and other days of our week just don’t. For me, last year, I did 3000 words/day on my 2 “days off” per week, and tried to sneak just 500 in on my work days. This is where the creativity comes in. Can you jot notes, planning out your next chapter’s plot in a notebook, when you’re ten minutes early to work, or on your lunch break, or at your son’s after school soccer game? Of course you can! Nano-novelers need to use any scrap of time available if we want to get to 50,000 by November 30th!

It’s important to know what is your best writing time too, and to try to use that to your advantage. I do best late at night (10pm-1am) or early in the morning when I first get up. Afternoons make me want to take a nap. SO, it’s important to write when your energy and creativity are at their peak if possible. And if your peak hours are after the kids are tucked in and the last of the dishes are done, then a tall latte can really come in handy to keep you typing!

Whatever your system is, stick to it. Setting aside time for writing is important to every writer. The more consistency AND creativity you can use, the more likely you are to get through your novel writing endeavor successfully.

So, what time is your best time for writing? And do you have a system worked out that you believe will get you through 50,000 words in one month? If so, you’re way ahead of the game already!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Raleigh Book Signing This Saturday!

This week's NANO-Noveling Post will go up on Monday evening (as it will every week in November) here on Writermorphosis.

But first I wanted to take a moment today to give a quick shout-out to a very creative Middle Grade & Picture Book Author/Illustrator coming to Raleigh this Saturday, NOV 1st, 2008, for a book signing at Quail Ridge Books.

ADAM REX is coming to Raleigh! We celebrated Adam’s GREAT 2007 Cybils Award Winning middle grade novel The True Meaning of Smekday here on Writermorphosis earlier this year. Adam very sweetly stopped by this blog to say hello. Now he’ll be at Quail Ridge, at 3pm, Saturday, November 1st, to sign his newest picture book: Frankenstein Takes the Cake.

If his book signings are as fun as his cool and wacky books (ack – no pressure, Adam!) than this will be an event you’re sure to want to bring your children to! Barring interference from the "day job" I hope to be there myself. Come on out to support and meet this great children’s author.

Also, check out the Quail Ridge Website for two other children’s book signings: November 2nd, 2008 (Tomie De Paola) and November 3rd (Jan Brett). Like the Quail Ridge Website says, this weekend may just be a great time for those who love children’s books to camp out at Quail Ridge!

Back to Adam Rex again: if you are trying to figure out how to create an interactive website for the fans of the children’s books that YOU write – or if you just want to see a great sample of how cool such websites can be -- check out Adam's website. It's an example we can all drool over!

And hey, while you’re at it, check out the interactive children’s website orchestrated by my friend and fellow SCBWI NC writer Ian Sands - Also VERY cool.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Know Your Characters: Nano Tip # 2

There are many famous characters in the world: There's the red-haired orphan girl who'd rather take a foolish dare than look like a wimp -- even if it means walking the ridgepole of a barn in dress shoes; The boy with the lightening-shaped scar on his forhead who often feels alone in the world even though his two best friends are standing firmly right beside him; the thin, pathetic shell of a creature who stole a magic ring from a sorcerer and had it eat up his soul and now has no hope, no care, no motivation in the world other than getting that ring back from the poor little hobbit who took it from him...
Yes, these are characters we all know. Whether it's Anne of Green Gables (or Pipi Longstocking -- she had similar character traits,) Harry Potter, or Gollum from the Lord of the Rings... A strong character will act like him or herself at all times. That character will lead the author like a guide, through the pages of a book.
If the author throws a problem at that character, both the author and the reader know how that character will most likley react.

But great characters don't create themselves. First the author must invent them-- in basic form. Then he or she must sit with the characters awhile, and ask them some questions to really get to know them. What are their likes and dislikes? Who are their best friends (and why)? What are they most afraid of? What is their biggest goal in life? Do they have hobbies?
If you want to avoid the problem that I had with my first novel-- a problem of having one of my characters fall completely flat -- it's important to get to know your characters (main and secondary) in some approximation BEFORE you begin writing your novel. : )

That task may seem daunting -- but there are lots of fun ways to do this.
Here are some tips.

1.) Know the answers to the questions (listed 2 paragraphs above) about each of your main /secondary characters.

2.) Know enough about Your characters' appearances so that you can picture them in your head. Some authors actually peruse magazine photos to find their characters.

3.) Know the basics about your characters' socio-economic and educational status, their favorite type of clothing (personal style), and what type of people drive them crazy.

4.) If you have time, fill out a meme for your main characters. This will show you how well you actually know them! Meme's are also great exercises for getting your right-brain working again if you run out of steam in the middle of your novel!

5.) Here are some other great Character Building resources on the web:

a.) "Inspiration For Writers" has a GREAT, very detailed Character Traits form you can fill in. It's the perfect place to start!

b.) "Personality Page for Writers" allows you to find your character's myers-briggs type and all kinds of other fun ways to peg who your character really is.

c.) Montgomery Schools' provides a helpful List of character traits

d.) Fiction Factor has a moderately helpful article on Characters' Physical Traits: What to include in your story and what to, maybe, leave out.

Now, of course, you may not have time to do all of these "character building" activities. Pick and choose what works for you.

The main thing when writing a character is to know enough about their inner wants and needs, and their outer appearance, actions, and relationships, to make them appear real on the page.

We want our characters to be so real that readers around the world will know exactly who others are talking about when they say "what's that kid's name? You know, not that wizard kid with the scar whose parents were murdered, but his friend, the blonde girl who they all thought was stuck up, and who is almost too smart for her own good?"

Yep -- the whole world knows Hermione... and Ron, Harry, Anne, Pippi, Gollum, Gandalf, Hamlet, Clark Kent, Charlotte the Spider -- and many of us also know silly little Clover sitting on Levin Thump's shoulder, above.

So let's all have fun learning about our own characters and making them similarly unique and engaging!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Basics of Plotting: Nano Tip # 1

Yes, despite Nano-Creator Chris Baty’s delightful book, “No Plot, No Problem,” the facts of novel-writing outweigh the "no plot needed" philosophy. (Of course, I'm still a huge fan of Chris Baty - he's witty, and I've just ordered his newest book!)

But nevertheless, creating at least a brief plot outline in October is essential for any successful Nano noveler! (Trust me -- I’ve done this 3 times!) With no plot, you’ll get stuck in the middle of your novel around November 12th, and flounder, losing valuable forward-motion on your word-count. Any successful noveler must be able to answer these three questions from day one:

1.) Where are your character(s) starting from?
2.) Where are they are going to end up (at least in some approximation)
3.) What types of problems are they going to have to get themselves through in order to arrive at the end in one piece?

For some people, that’s all they need: A 3-STEP PLOT
Here's one for the Lord of the Rings:

1.) Hobbit Frodo Baggins has just inherited a magic ring that will destroy the world if not destroyed itself. The ring’s evil creator is looking for the ring.
2.) Frodo will, in the end, destroy the ring in a volcano where it was created, destroying the evil ring-creator, and thus saving the world.
3.) But to get there he must travel across many lands with a group of international folks (elves, dwarves, human sons of kings,) who don’t get along with each other due to long-term ethnic enmity; He must avoid the evil ring-creator’s minions who are trying to capture him and the ring, and must also avoid various wars that are taking place in the lands through which he travels. Above all, he must have the courage to continue on the journey despite the fact that the ring’s power over him grows continuously, causing him to have low energy, emotional problems, and difficulty trusting friends who are trying to help him.

SO – there you go. A nano plot! (Or a plot for any novel at any time of the year). You know where you’re coming from, where you’re going, and what the character has to get through and survive in order to get to the end of the book successfully.

Now, if you’re as bad at plotting as I am, you might want to also do a ‘chapter outline.” This helps you, (the writer) know exactly where you (and your characters) are going, every step of the way.

Ex: Chapter Outline

1.) Bilbo’s Birthday party. Bilbo disappears. Frodo inherits dangerous ring.
2.) At Wizard Gandalf’s direction Frodo and Sam leave home to begin the journey to keep the ring away from the enemy. They encounter Pippin and Merry and flee the black riders.
3.) At the Inn at Bree the hobbits meet Aragorn. The inn is attacked by the evil black riders who attempt, but fail, to kill Frodo.
4.) Chapter 4...ETC.

This is the option I usually use. I need a lot of direction, you see...
But brief or intricate, as long as you have a plot ready to go before November 1st, your Nano (or your noveling experience during any other time of year, for that matter,) will go much more smoothly!
So how do you do your plotting?
And have you already sketched out your basic plot for Nano 2008?

Saturday, October 11, 2008


The leaves are changing, the weather's getting cooler, and thousands of people around the world are gearing up to write 50,000 word novels during National Novel Writing Month this November.

I've participated in Nanowrimo for the past 3 years and I highly recommend it to both professional and first time writers. I'm thrilled to report that quite a few nano books have been published, and at least one has become a New York Times Best Seller! Two of my own nano novels -- even -- were awarded "honorable mentions" in the 2007 Writer's Digest Annual Fiction Awards. So Nano is for serious writers. Check out http://www.nanowrimo.org/ and sign up today!
I'm "tolk" on the nano site, so feel free to let me know who you are at nano too!

Over the next 2 months THIS BLOG will discuss HOW TO PREPARE FOR AND SURVIVE NANOWRIMO.

We'll discuss NANO PLOTTING on 10/14/2008
and we'll continue with the pep rallies and tips after that!

But first...


We're having a Nano give-away here at writermorphosis!

When people write 50,000 words during Nanowrimo they WIN a cool certificate from the Nano site. It's an amazing and exhilarating feeling -- you've accomplished the impossible! But it took me 3 years of trying before I finally reached that all important 50,000 in the 30 days of November. So sad...

So for those of you who, like me during my first 2 years, write strenuously, get no sleep, drink much coffee, leave your children standing at the the bus stop because you're noveling...but due to unexpected circumstances don't QUITE make it to 50,000 this year, DON'T BE SAD!

If you reach 40,000 words in November that's still enough for a MG novel, and you deserve an award too!

So, I'll enter your name in our "40,000 word" give-away for Chris Baty's fun book: The Nanoland Chronicles: Bedtime Stories for Wrimos!

Anyone who writes 40,000 words or more in November can stop by here and post your name and your w0rd-count over 40,000, on 12/1/08, to be entered in the random drawing. The book (and another writerly surprise) will be awarded here and mailed to the winner on 12/5/08. Hooray! Let me know if you're jumping in!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Writing Life: Solitary or Solidarity?

There were many great presentations at the SCBWI Carolinas 15th Annual Fall Conference, on Sept 19-21st. But the thing that struck me most during the conference was the way that being a part of the writing and illustrating community strengthens each individual writer/illustrator.

Many people perceive literary artisans as solitary types who write alone for hours at coffee shops, (which of course, is what I’m doing right now). And certainly the quiet, working time is an important part of the writing life. (Ah, it’s a labor-intensive, and yet wonderful life!) But, without the writing community I doubt that many writers would succeed. We need each other. This was clear from the small groups of writers chatting earnestly about plot, structure, queries, and characters during every down-time moment at our great September event. And when we filed into workshops with notebooks and pens in hand, we stopped to hug friends who we hadn’t seen since last year's conference, but who had read our blogs, and critiqued our work via the internet, and called to say “I wish I could take you out for coffee” when we reached a writing or personal slump.

There are so many things that the writing community gives to writers, and I’ll list a few that I observed at this year’s conference. (If you noticed others, I’d love to hear about them!)

1.) Encouragement and Support:

2.) Kindred Spirits and Camaraderie:
Here, no one thinks writing a novel is “crazy,” and everyone will tell you “you can do it!

Martha Mihalick signs Ian Sands' Goal Stick.

If there had been a prize for the most creative way to remember the many writer/illustrator-friends, editors and speakers joining him on this publishing journey, it would go to Ian!

3.) Education, Feedback and Resources:
Our speakers were great! What wonderful tips!
Thanks: Anita Silvey, Alyssa Henkin, Martha Mihalick, Karen Lee, Leslie Staub, Pam Zollman, Mark Johnson, Carol Baldwin, Bonnie Adamson, Samantha Bell, Stephanie Greene, John Claude Bemis, Eleanora Tate, Alan Gratz, Teresa Fannin and Jo Hackl!

So, here's a salute to a great conference of networking, support, education, revision and affirmation. And here are kudos to all the writers and illustrators of SCBWI Carolinas. I’m so thrilled to be part of such great group of writers/illustrators – such a great group of Friends! May our solidarity keep us writing, resourced and refreshed. Onward and Upward. We will lift each other over the publishing hump! Many hands, hearts and minds make the work an inspiration.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

He Said What?? (A Characterization Exercise)

Here in NC I've just come home from the weekend-long SCBWI NC/SC Annual Fall Conference. It was a great time of learning, networking, and practicing (pitches and first pages, among other things)!
Many people from this region will be sharing news and insights gained at the conference on their blogs over the next few weeks. Hooray!
I will too. But not today.
Today I'm posting an exercise to help us keep the momentum and enthusiasm that we gained at the conference, by doing something hands-on to move our stories forward at home.

Here's how it works.
I received a "meme" from my friend and fellow blogger Chrisy Evers last week. It was a list of questions that I was supposed to answer about myself. I was to post the answers on my blog. It was a fun idea. (Thanks Christy!) But I decided to do it a bit differently than asked. I let one of my characters answer the questions in my place. This allowed me to see how well I really knew him, and let me get a better feel for his thoughts, his voice, and the way that he might feel about internet quizes such as this. : )
I typed the questions, then filled them out from my character's mindset. It was great fun -- and I recommend it to all of you as a characterization exercise to try! Don't think too hard while doing it. Just let the answers flow. BE your character.
And you'll be reminded of the answers to many questions...
What words does your character use to form his/her responses (speech style/writing patterns/vocab); Which of these questions does he appreciate, and which ones, if any, does he think are stupid? Does she fill this out grudgingly and sparsely, or does she go on and on until someone has to tell her to shut up? What is her favorite fruit, anyway? And if it's cherries, doesn't it make you wonder why?

It's a fun exercise. And I'd love to hear if you learned anything about your character by doing it!

What would that girl do if she found $100.00, anyway? Do tell!

Meanwhile, without further adoo, here is the `meme' quiz as filled out by my teen protagonist, Nate. (Questions are in bold and answers not bolded.)
WHO ARE YOU? (A Character Meme -- By Nate)
1.) What are your nicknames?Wings Jr;” “Einstein;” “Sherlock;” Whatever Rufus decides to call me today…
2.) What game show and/or reality show would you like to be on? None. My life is crazy enough, thanks. The last thing I need is more press.
3.) What was the first movie you bought on VHS or DVD? DVD…? Do they even make those anymore?
4.) What is your favorite scent? Jet oil and metal. Ok, yeah -- it reminds me of Dad.
5.) If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it? Let me get through this current crisis first, and then I’ll get back to you.
6.) What one place have you visited that you can’t forget, and want to go back to? Well I haven’t been there yet -- and I’m not sure that I want to go anymore, honestly -- but I always believed we’d have a summer home on the moon.
(The school psychologist isn't getting a copy of this, is he?)
7.) Do you trust easily? I used to.
8.) Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think? I always think before I act. The only time I didn’t do that, I ended up sleeping in a graveyard.
9.) Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days? Seriously? Do you have to ask that question?
10.) Do you have a good body image? Uh…?
11.) What is your favorite fruit? Well, some days I like apples and some days I don’t. It depends how my girlfriend is acting.
12.) What websites do you visit daily? The only one I care about right now is restricted – so, none, really. Unless you count the FAA.
13.) What have you been seriously addicted to lately? Trissa.
14.) What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is? Well, I don’t really know her. (She’s Janelle’s friend, and we’ve never met.) But Janelle says she’s brilliant, and very funny, and she’s blonde. Rufus would want to go out with her.
15.) What’s the last song that got stuck in your head? Dust in the wind. Yeah, I know it’s ancient. But do I really have to explain this?
16.) What’s your favorite item of clothing? My last-year’s sweatshirt.
17.) Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy? Unless they're served in the school cafeteria.
18.) What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground? These days I’d think it was a trap laid down by Anderson to try to arrest me… but if it wasn’t, I guess I’m pretty pathetic, so I’d probably just turn it in to the school.
19.) What items could you not go without during the day? Plato. Plus access to my robotics supplies.
20.) What should you be doing right now? Stalking Reilly. But have you seen him? Yeah, crap… Neither have I.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hurricane Preparedness (for Writers)

We are now at the peak of hurricane season, as evidenced by Fay, Gustav, Hanna, Ike...

I appreciated the 4 or 5 inches of rain that Hanna sent Raleigh's way a few weeks ago. But, we all know that with the bigger storms, manuscripts that are lying around the house can be damaged. Water and paper are not exactly friends. Therefore, we writer's must be prepared! And so, I suggest this Hurricane Preparedness List:

Prior to any hurricane -- once the children, spouse, pets, and family photos have been wisely ferried to appropriate, steel-lined, cement buildings (preferably somewhere in Central Canada...or perhaps Kansas), gather these supplies:

Preparedness Packet for Writers:

1.) Large Inner Tube (with something in the middle to cover up the hole. I leave this to your own creativity).

2.) Large plastic trash bag (super hefty -- all the following items will go inside of it...)

3.) The key (to your bank lock-box in Kansas, or Central Canada, where you have already wisely stowed both digital and printed copies of all of your manuscripts in their most current possible state.) Note* If you have not done this and a hurricane is on your doorstep, email the manuscripts to the most responsible person you know who lives in Kansas or Central Canada, my friend, and hope that they recieve them and can save them to disk for you before a tornado comes through and knocks out their power. Yes, silly, DO IT RIGHT NOW!

4.) Your laptop (batteries fully charged, so that you will have at least 2.5 hours worth of writing that you can get done while you are waiting for the power to come back on at your inlaw's house -- or worst case scenario -- at the nearest shelter.)

5.) Six of the YA or children's books you've been most wanting to read. (Yes, go to the library to get these the day before the hurricane arrives. Libraries tend to close during hurricanes and you don't want to be without them!) You'll be a hero at the shelter, reading to all of those kids! And you'll be able to count the hours as "work time" when you file your taxes, because a writer MUST read other samples in their genre, afterall!

6.) A print- out of the most recent copy of your current work, in a 3-ring binder, triple-wrapped in plastic, with a pack of pens and a highlighter tightly attached. This will be invaluable for getting some revising done during all of the down-time you might experience if the governor announces: "We know you are anxious to get back to your homes, but PLEASE wait until we get the drinking water cleaned up, and the power back on -- we expect that this will take about a week..."

7.) Lantern-style Flashlight with extra batteries. You want to be able to SEE your manuscript, no matter where you are. So it's important to think of these details.

8.) Cell phone. Fully charged. If that editor from New York (where there is no hurricane, most likely,) calls to ask you to write a personal memoir on this current (actual) life crisis, do you want to miss that call? I THINK NOT!

9.) Rope. To attach all of this stuff to the inner tube, of course, silly! Make sure that everything's well encased in the plastic bag and secured to the tube before you head out of your front door with it. But also make sure that the bag has no air pockets causing it to stick UP in places. You don't want to increase the aerodynamic-potential of the tube, for God's sake! It will be windy out there, and this is a tricky endeaver.

10.) Second to last, but not least. Drug of Choice - chocolate, caffeinated beverage, herbal tea -- whatever most brings your muse to life. I recommend at least 3 days' worth. But remember, this has all got to fit on your inner tube, (looking, I suspect something like Yertle on top of his precarious stack of turtles.) So pack wisely. Twelve 40-oz cokes may be a bad idea in this case. They are heavy. Then again, those might keep the inner tube from lifting off, so, hmmm...

11.) Sense of humor. Without that, we'd all be lost. Best of luck to those drying their pens after Ike and Gustav.

May our writing continue -- whatever the weather.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Because of the Stories...

This is the week. Now is the time. Millions of us, the world over, are glued to our TV sets as the athletes of the world unite for the Olympics in Beijing.

And as I sit here watching the women’s gymnastics final with baited breath (Go Nastia! Go Alicia!) I am reminded that it’s not so much the sports we are watching, but rather the people – yep, it’ s the stories.

Oh sure, we say we watch the Olympics because of the sportsmanship; because we love diving, or gymnastics, or beach volleyball, or track and field. And probably we do. But it’s the stories behind the games that bring us to the edge of our seats.

We writer’s can learn a lot about characterization and plot conflicts from our own emotional experiences during the games!

So, who do we remember from the Olympics so far? And why?

We’ll of course there’s Michael Phelps, the swimmer from the U.S.A who has now succeeded in winning more Olympic medals than anyone else in history. But for many of the millions of people cheering him on, it was not just his swimming prowess that had us rooting for him – it was his story. Raised by a single mother, taken under the wing of a caring father-figure coach, and now here at the Olympics giving each bouquet of flowers he won at his gold medal ceremonies to his sisters or his mother who sat crying in the stands. Yep folks – we fell in love with Phelps because we’d learned a bit of his story.

Then there were those female swimmers with the soap opera lives – two girls from two countries who both fell in love with the same, dashing man. The second one stole the first one’s boyfriend after the first one left her country and her swim team to move closer to the boyfriend in a foreign land, no less. And here they were racing each other for gold in the grand Olympic pool. The story -- the rivalry -- had conflicts on so many fronts that in our hearts we all took sides. That’s what happens when there’s a powerful story.

Of course there were hundreds of these stories: There was the world champion beach volleyball star that lost her wedding ring on the court; The male and female U.S. gymnasts who trained all their lives, got hurt right before the competition, and had to cheer on their teammates while wrapped in bandages at home or on the sidelines. There was the white water kayaker who braved the rapids to win his country their first ever Olympic medal; the Chinese coach who told his country he’d jump off the tallest building in Beijing if his team didn’t win the gold (thank God, they did!) but … the list goes on and on.

Even people who weren’t athletes pulled at the hearts of the world: A little boy who survived the recent earthquake, smiling in the arms of a hero, as they carried the Chinese flag in the opening ceremony; A little girl who sang the anthem, but whose face her nation thought was too unattractive to put on TV. (There’s a sad story for you). And there were so many more.

So, hooray for the Olympics (both the inspiring and the sad stories)! Though we writers may sometimes fear that reading is a dying hobby, these games have shown again and again that stories still make the world go ‘round.
If there’s a heart-touching tale out there for the telling, the whole world will tune in to listen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Print Icon

The other day I finally got to click the print icon!

I sat entranced as page after page of my manuscript (182 pages in all) flowed out of the printer in beautiful, crisp succession.

I am one of those writers who never prints the story until it’s complete. It stays on the computer until the first, and often even the second draft is completed. So for me, printing is a sign of progress; of having written the words “the end.”

I finished the draft of my current novel (POCL). So, I printed it. And I sent part of it off to my critique group for review.

I must say that there’s nothing as great as that feeling of making progress; of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel; of getting to the next stage in the work.

And so, today, on Writermorphosis, we’re celebrating “progress.”

Sometimes progress is just getting to the end of your current chapter. Sometimes it’s sending out that manuscript that’s been loitering in your bottom drawer for years – wrapping it in a manila envelope, writing a publisher’s address on it, and lovingly scooting it into the mail slot, fingers crossed, nervous ball in your stomach…

I’m part of a wonderful, and talented critique group called the Goalies, and we’ve been enjoying a lot of progress too. We meet monthly to critique each other’s work, boost each other out of those occassional writing doldrums, and celebrate book sales and other good news with home-made cookies and fun.

And lately, we’ve all been making great progress! The beautiful thing about a critique group is that each member benefits from the success of the others. When one or two people achieve success in the group, it gives the whole group new energy and enthusiasm and a new desire to finish our current works. We stop lolly-gagging around and actually submit our manuscripts to the world.

Lately, I’m so thrilled to report, that the Goalies have had cookies coming out of our ears. We’ve each been lifted forward by the enthusiasm of the group. We’ve have at least 2 members with recent books out, and four or more of us who’ve, this month, clicked the print icon for our current YA and MG manuscripts as well. Over the past year we’ve had members win writing and illustrating awards and members receive positive feedback from publishers. Some of the most joyous days of all are the ones where we get an email from one of our groupies (like we did the other day) saying “I got a positive note from (such and such) editor and they’re wanting to see more of my manuscript!”

So congrats to everyone in my critique group as we move forward together. Let’s spread the cookies all around and maintain our enthusiasm for the future! And for those out there in the rest of the world, I hope you’ll keep your eyes peeled for the Goalies . This group of writers is on the move. (Hooray!) And I hope that your critique group is making progress too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Bookstore Toast: Quail Ridge Books & Music

It's time for another Bookstore Toast here on Writermorphosis.

And the Bookstore we're celebrating today is a very writer-friendly, lively place that some of you may already know and love. It's Quail Ridge Books and Music right here in Raleigh.

Quail Ridge is a very community oriented shop where many Raleighites find great books and more besides...

Here are some of the reasons why Quail Ridge has earned this toast:

They're friendly. Yesterday I walked into the store and I was greeted with a pleasant “hello” by not one, but rather FOUR friendly and knowledgeable staff members who were busily working at various spots throughout the store. A few moments later I received a smile and a “you look familiar” from Carol in the children’s section (something that rarely happens at Barnes and Nobles, alas). And not long after that I watched a staff member stop her work at the cash register to go find a band-aid for a screaming preschooler who’d sustained a “book related injury” (A.K.A knee scuff) in his mad dash to get to the children’s section ahead of his elementary aged big-sis. Suffice to say that the staff at Quail Ridge are knowledgeable, caring, and friendly.

The teen section of the store is also great, with some quite recently published selections. And it’s not unusual to stop by the children’s section and find tables listing “such and such book” as a Newbery or Horn Book award winner, or to find novels and picture books hand picked as “recommended” by the staff.

Of course, I must admit that my favorite room at Quail Ridge is not the children’s section, the travel section, the music section, or the southern writers’ section (all excellent spots). But no, it’s the bathroom. This writerly little room is decorated wall to wall with autographed, note-bearing photos from the many, many authors who have visited Quail Ridge to speak, share their wisdom with other writers and readers, and sign their books over the years. It’s a testament to my favorite thing about this bookstore. Quail Ridge supports authors, writer’s groups, book clubs, and other literary folks in a way that few other book stores do.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting various “big” names in the writing field at Quail Ridge - Margaret Maron, Jeffrey Deaver, and various other writers who have come to share their wisdom with us newer folks in the field. We've then hopped across the parking lot to Tripps restaurant, to eat together and chat.
Quail Ridge also welcomes SCBWI events (we've had a scmooze there each Spring for at least the past 3 years). And they encourage new writers by allowing the Raleigh Write to Publish group (an adult writing group) to bring in regular speakers (like Maron and Deaver) on the writing craft, so that they can teach and encourage the rest of us.
You’d be impressed to see the way that the staff at Quail Ridge enthusiastically arrange sound and video equipment, book signing tables, and circles of chairs for one group at 3pm, then break it all down and set it up completely differently for another group at 7 the same night.

Then there are the many, many authors -- some local, many internationally known, who Quail Ridge schedules to come read and sign their books for the readers. I'm personally looking forward to shaking Adam Rex's hand in November, getting his signature on my copy of his great book "The True Meaning of Smekday," (one of his many books), and thanking him for stopping by writermorphosis in the recent past.

Check out the Quail Ridge Website for upcoming author events, and opportunities to improve your own writing and book selling skills!

The reading, writing, and Raleigh communities all come together at Quail Ridge Books and Music. And thus we are celebrating Quail Ridge Books today as a bookstore that respects writers and receives our respect in return. Here's a TOAST to Quail Ridge Books and Music!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Writermorphosis Turns "One"

I just realized that it's been a year since I first set up this blog.

Being a techno-illiterate I had no clue what I was doing! And I was afraid that after the first 3 or 4 posts I'd have run out of things to say about the writing life. But now I realize that this was an irrational fear.
The more I hang out with all of you -- (my literary friends) at conferences, crit groups, and writerly events -- the more I learn from each of you, and the more experiences I've had. I've enjoyed getting to know some new folks through this blog and reading the comments of old friends.

I have been honored to have a number of writers who I've known only through their books stop by the blog - great writers like Kathleen Duey, Rick Yancey, Adam Rex, Jeffrey Deaver...

I've been delighted by my fellow writers who've shared their own work and thoughts here on the blog -- especially those brave souls who shared your page 123's a few weeks back.

And we've celebrated special events here - like the SCBWI conferences and schmoozes, the winning of awards, and the publication of books by various of my writing friends. We've had a contest - (The Harry Potter Dunk 21 Challenge). We've also highlighted special places like Powell's Books at the Portland airport, and discussed great YA/MG books - like the 2007 Cybils winners, and the "writermorphosis books of the month."

I also submitted my first novel to an agent over a year ago - celebrated that on this blog too. Alas, now I must celebrate that I got a form letter rejection from her 2 days ago -- just when I thought she'd forgotten all about me (and probably she had)! Ah well - one novel rejection down -- onward and upward. It's time to resubmit.

So thanks to all of you who continue to stop by from time to time to read this blog. It's been a fun ride, and I've been thrilled to have you all along on the journey with me.

Here's a toast to the upcoming year -- year number two on writermorphosis.