Friday, November 6, 2009

Reading Now:

What I'm reading right now:

Callie's Rules by Naomi F. Zucker (Egmont 2009).

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaNoWriMo etc.

I write this from the wonderful Tempurpedic in our Nest's spare room. The heating pad is on, the muscle relaxers are in, and wonderful Nestmate is downstairs, having taken the day off, looking after Chickling who, we've just discovered, has H1N1. This Momma Bird is not a worrier by nature, but it's been a tweetin' crazy week, let me tell ya.

Lots of time for catching up on the blogs however. I love this one. Great suggestions and it's got me wondering. Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

I'm not, but not because I wouldn't like to. Perhaps next year. If you are doing it, I'm interested to hear what tools you're using to find time, write, focus, become inspired, and so forth.

Have you discovered this wonderful writing tool called Write or Die? After using it for one day, I paid the $10 for the desktop version. It's just what I needed. I've written more in three 20 minute sessions (and not all of it complete guff!) than I have in weeks.

One of the first things I teach in my writing classes at *Art School of Note* is using different triggers for Stream of Consciousness writing. I think it may make for an interesting post at a later date.

Music works well for me. I like the Atonement soundtrack (and others by composer Dario Marianelli), Radiohead (and instrumental versions of their songs such as pianist Christopher O'Reilly's moody and glorious tributes), and a piece by New Age musician Deuter called Alchemy which I put on repeat and write to for hours.

What about you? Is it music (and what kind)? Do you use positive affirmations? Do you do morning pages? Have a safe zone? Other triggers, tricks, or treats?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Only three months now until my new three book MG series is out. Yay!

Haven't been here much lately due to a car accident (blah, youch) and week long visit from wonderful YA Fantasy Author, Isobelle Carmody. How heavenly it was to walk along the beach together talking books, writing, and publishing day after day.

I'm inspired to finish my current MG novel... just as soon as I get this whiplash seen to...

Back soon.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Note to Self

Write the book that's asking to be written.

I wrote that on a piece of paper and stuck it on my pinboard long months ago for a reason. Sometimes I just need to remind myself.


I’m the first to admit that, on some days, a writer can feel a bit self-pitying. I think we probably all really understand that without me going into it too deeply. And besides, I see little point in dwelling on the bad bits of this journey:

• A certain rejection that, even though (like everyone) you’ve had hundreds of them, really does sting because you admired that editor’s work so much and would have loved to work with her.

• The gut-wrenching sickness when, after reading your first three chapters and requesting your full MS, she then sent you an unsigned form rejection.

• The genuine joy and lingering envy (not jealousy) when someone you know gets that agent, that real publishing deal.

• The spiraling frustration that you’re not even close to achieving the level of art and craft you aspire to, let alone commercial success or a decent paycheck.

What is the point in wallowing?

There’s none. There’s no point in even feeling frustrated about all the ideas pilling up, or the complete lack of them, about a lack of time, or a churning black hole lack of plot. ALL grown-ups with responsibilities lack time. And ALL grown-ups get blocked in some area of their lives.

So, I’m taking the advice I always drum into my writing class at Art School of Distinction. I have slipped away to the coffee shop, right now, and I’m going to write. Because I feel like it right now, that’s why. Even though the sink is full of dishes and the email overflowing. Because I’m fairly confident that ten minutes from now, I’ll have no doubt I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to do. I’ll be flying—maybe in fits and starts—but I’ll be flying.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This just in...

I've read two great blogs posts in the wee small hours:

Editor Alvina Ling discusses what her different kinds of rejection letters really mean here.

And Edittorrent lists some more of the things that scream “Amateur!” to an editor.


I’m snowed under with manuscripts at the moment, but I’ll be back.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bad Seeds: Looking and Turning

I never cease to be truly grateful for what I’ve learned about writing from editing other people’s work. But when one reads other people’s manuscripts all day, every day, one starts to notice the same sorts of things over and over and over… and after a time (usually a fairly short time), these things go from being notable and interesting to being downright annoying. Now don’t think I’m becoming complaining and snarky—it is my my job and I love every day of it. If I didn’t love it, I’d hardly be taking the time to share this with you, would I?

But I do believe these are just the kinds of things that don’t belong in a MS. Wordy Bird calls them Bad Seeds. I thought you might find it helpful if I share some Bad Seeds with you every now and then. Because once you’ve really tasted a Bad Seed, rolled it around in your beak and spat out the husk, you may not want to try one again.

Bad Seed #1: Turning and Looking

Imagine Nestmate and I are having a conversation. I might write about it like this:

Wordy Bird kissed Chickling goodnight and flew down the stairs to tidy up the living room. She turned to Nestmate. “Matey,” she said, looking at him, “I note you haven’t done the dishes.”

Nestmate turned and looked at her. “I rinsed them for you,” he said. “Geez, I thought you’d think that was helpful.”

Wordy Bird looked at him. “Nestmate, rinsing the dishes and lining them up so I can wash them, is the kind of help one gives when one wants to appear as if one’s being helpful, but when one’s real intention is to watch the Patriots.”

Don’t you think all this turning and looking is implied? When we have a conversation, we usually face the person and look at them when we speak to them. In regular dialogue, turning and looking is implied. It’s when a character DOESNT turn and look at someone during conversation that it becomes interesting and therefore noteworthy.

For example:

Nestmate watched Tom Brady score another touchdown. “You’re always nagging me,” he muttered.

Wordy Bird studied her toes. “Not always,” she said quietly. She turned and looked at the teetering pile of dishes. “Now are you going to help me, or what?”

The bottom line is this, and it’s about much more than looking and turning: readers, even readers who happen to be small people, do not need to have everything spelled out for them. Not only can it be boring and tedious, it doesn’t leave room for the reader to read between the lines, to fill in the gaps, to imagine.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pacing the Nest

I can’t sleep.

This is not unusual. Nestmate snorts while sleeping. Also, Nestmate habitually sounds as if he has a craw full of marbles and is rattling them inside beak. I don’t know how Nestmate makes this noise. Sometimes as I’ve lain awake at night, I have tried.

And as I'm lying awake, trying not to descend into Worrying, then come the words… you know how it is. Rather than letting them float away in the night, I have stopped kidding myself that I’ll actually remember them in the morning. So here I am, cheeping what I was thinking:

A few short years ago Nestmate, Chickling, and I lived in boathouse. I’ll spare you the particulars of how we came to be living a boathouse when we had a perfectly nice Nest of our own, but live there we did, several times, each time for months at a stretch. The boathouse was very… boaty. Despite its myriad awful-nesses: the smell of boat fluids, occasional vermin (including a cricket infestation), and the feeling the thing might blow down, it had its charms: the heady smell of boat fluids, the all night chirping of crickets, and the mournful song of wind warbling around the old rattler. But one of the best things was the mornings sitting on the step with a mug, watching cormorants dip below the water, a watchful eye and ear on Chickling playing, my journal on my lap. I churned out pages daily. There was no discipline required. It was lifeblood. It was survival. I was a writer and I allowed myself to vomit everything onto the page, and then leap off into flights of fantasy, trusting that that no one would read it.

I no longer live in a boathouse. I am busier and I am much happier, and I find time for journaling is a rare luxury. But I miss it and that recording of myself.

So part of what I’m attempting to do here is to gain some of that focus. I guess this is part online diary, part exploration of the writing and/or editing processes, and part forced discipline—because I know it’s going to require that for sure. As a freelance editor who makes her own hours and work patterns, responsible for bringing home my share of the worms and seed, I do know something about self-discipline. I've had to find time (around mothering Chickling, making sure the Nest is free of fluff and mites, keeping feathers somewhat preened and healthy, and relationship with Nestmate alive and flapping) to create a few kids’ books someone wanted to publish. There must have been discipline. But I need more.

So I’m up in the darkness, pacing the rim of the Nest, and putting those words down before they fly away. I’m beginning to rationalize away those thoughts that this is a glaring and unforgivable waste of time. I’m starting to internalize this process of blogging, hoping I can sustain it, and realizing that it may well be lifeblood—and I’m willing away the terror of exposure.

After all, that’s what writers do.

Monday, October 5, 2009


So it turns out the time has come. Critical mass must just have been reached. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be typing out my first blog post. I’m starting a blog because I am an author. Because it seems to be what published authors do.

It’s all to do with, you know, building an audience, creating a followership. It’s about branding, and Internet presence, and being available to your readership. It’s about being current and savvy… and it’s a bloody massive headache, an ongoing responsibility, and a cringe-inducing, red-faced waste of time when I should be working on my novel—a ridiculously self-conscious act. After all, authors can be very shy, reclusive—we may have a lot to say, but we tend to create characters to deal with our foibles, rather than airing them to the neighbors them like so many sagging-elastic, graying underpants (—that’s what critique group is for after all).

So, for right now, I’m choosing to remain anonymous—perhaps until I attain some fabulous famous-ity and embarrassing wealth.

Because as yet, despite years of dedication, rumination on the imminence of my success, and blowing my nose on rejection letters, I’M NOT FAMOUS OR EMBARESSINGLY WEALTHY. Not yet. I’ve been in this business far too long, however, to be even semi-delusional (at least not on a daily basis). But I’m hopeful, and passionate, even after all these years, and I’m increasingly hard-working. And that’s paid off: thirteen years into it, I’m several times published.

But starting a blog is—in truth, for me at least—much more than an attempt to gain some notoriety. For me it’s about preempting a festering case of writer’s block before it has the chance to erupt.

Why would you want to read it?

  • If you’re a fellow writer, I’ve been round the traps and I might share something useful.
  • And if you’re a writer, I’m an experienced editor with a highly reputable editing network. I took the Editing Tests of Torture. I know my stuff. You can even ask me questions.
  • Who knows, maybe you’ll just like me. I need to cheep, and Twitter—for all its bird-iness— just doesn’t do it for me.

So here goes,