Friday, October 31, 2014

What Halloween Can Teach Us About Writing

Once again, it's that time of year. Leaves changing to orange from green. Scary movies on syndication rotation. And the dreaded five (OK, ten) pounds gained between now and New Year's.

So, what can Halloween actually teach us about writing? Read on, if you dare....muahahaha

Step into Someone Else's Shoes
The best part of Halloween (aside from eating all the dark chocolate I want with no judgement? bite-size has no calories, you know). Becoming someone else. Whether a superhero, slut or pop culture soundbite, prancing around in someone else's shoes is fun. And as a writer, for readers to connect to the page, you truly have to know your characters.

What's the backstory? Motivation? Inner demons? What does your character look like? Physical ticks, traits and nuances. Get fully into your character, so their choices and reactions within your plot flow without thought. Intimacy creates emotional connection...and the reason we read in the first place is to feel something.

Face Your Fear
Howls, heavy breathing, bumps in the night. Moving forward down dark
hallways. If scary movies have taught us anything, it's that at some point you'll have to face your fear. And despite the number of friends you start out with, you'll end up at some point going it alone.

Everyday a writer faces the blank page, there's a moment (or even days) of sheer terror. What do I write? What if it sucks? What if no one likes it? What if it never sells? What if? What if? What if?

The future is 100% unknown. And as a former control freak, that is the ultimate scare. But that shouldn't force you huddled in a corner, shivering, mumbling and stuck. You can't predict the outcome. But you can have fun playing with words, because you have total control over your actions and perspective. And who doesn't love kick-butt heroines (Go Buffy!) over the whiny "can't do it" personas?

Trick or Treat!
On the same night every year, you can knock on a stranger's door, hold out a bucket and demand candy. One of the many lessons we forget as writers is to ask for what we want. The worst that can happen is rejection (again and again and again), but you'll never hear yes if you don't ask.

Writing is predominately a solitary existence. But it takes a writing community to create a great story. You need critiquers and editors; publishers and distributors; cheerleaders, teachers, peers and readers. Communities are essential to producing your best work possible, but most importantly to stay sane (especially when facing that scary What if?).

Ask for what you just might get it.

Happy "Spooktacular" Writing!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stay Strong

PDX Street Art on NW 23rd and Quimby

After two hours of wrestling with my middle grade novel, the Universe sent me the message above.

Stay Strong...Create Create Create...just be patient...Breathe Breathe Breathe
Let work play...and play some more...

Stop, breathe and pay attention to the signs.

you are lovely,

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Kickstart Diversity in Kidlit

It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway), we need diversity in children's literature. Thankfully, here comes Dreaming Robot Press to help make a difference:

"Girls need to read stories where any number of possible roles are modeled for them. Just as importantly, boys need to read stories where girls are active participants in adventures. And children of all colors and backgrounds need to know the future includes them."

If you have a square -- I mean, dollar -- to spare, then please check out this Kickstarter page for the Young Explorer's Adventure Guide. 20 middle-grade sci-fi short stories. 80% with central female characters. Black, white, Asian, Latino. Human and robot. Everyone belongs.

I'm SO excited to be a part of this anthology (especially one that pays the pro rate. woo-hoo!). And as of October 17, a little over 50% of the goal has been pledged, but the project will only be funded if the full $3,500 is pledged by November 19thAny and all support is greatly appreciated. 

Please help spread the word!

Monday, October 13, 2014

We Need Diverse Everything

There's been a lot of talk in the children's publishing industry around diversity. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign started in a Twitter exchange on April 17, 2014 between authors Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo expressing their frustration with the lack of diversity in kidlit in response to the all-white, all-male panel of children's authors assembled for BookCon's reader event.

This need has been expressed many times over the years. From the 1965 article published in The Saturday Review titled "The All-White World of Children's Books" to the 2013 New York Times piece "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?"

The sad truth is that the need for diversity is critical in all forms of media, expression and entertainment. And it doesn't end with the color of skin. Whether it be female, sexual orientation, or differently abled, the world is more than your average white guy.

What makes reading such a unique collaboration between author and reader, is that the reader brings their individual perspective and world outlook to add to the story, truly bringing the story to life. I can only speak for myself, but the "visual" that goes on in my head while reading doesn't necessarily match the description on the page (or even the book cover jacket). Most times it's as if I'm in the main character's shoes, experiencing his adventure.

I don't want to be spoon-fed only physical characteristics or stereo-typical traits and situations in order to bring more diversity into the world of books. Books need diverse experiences where the reader connects emotionally to the story line. I'm not a white girl growing up in New Jersey, nor did I ever wear belted sanitary napkins. But I remember being fully in love with the book Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, because I connected with the 6th grader's authentic truth of exploring religion and dealing with preteen female issues (buying a first bra, getting her first period, liking boys, etc). matter if it's a song, movie, book or news segment...connect us with others by "living" through another's experience. I would love more than anything to see greater diversity, on the screen and on the page. The more we see and read other's struggles and triumphs, of people with different beliefs, status and race, the more we'll realize that we all experience the same emotions and desires, just in different ways.

diversify your world,

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Inspiration Station

Inspiration Station, DoubleTree by Hilton PDX, NE 9th & Multnomah

On my way to the Willamette Writer's Conference back in August, this "box on a pole" caught my eye. Turns out there are five Inspiration Stations in the Lloyd District based on the poetry post concept: a wooden pole, usually mounted on private property, facing pedestrians...a box on top with a a glass face and lid...inside a sheet of paper containing a poem or some other artwork.

What a wonderful reminder to pay attention to the world around us. From a bird's morning song, to the calming aroma of Stumptown coffee, to the smile of a stranger. Inspiration is everywhere.

be inspired!