Thursday, May 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Lindy!

Once upon a time there were two adorable little girls named Haley and Jasie.  They were sweet, playful, funny, and never got into trouble of any kind.  They frolicked in the fields with puppies, read books, told stories and were very happy. 

Then, one fateful May morning Lindy was born. 

And life was never the same.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Golden Age for Women Writers?

"So, if we may prophesy, women in time to come will write fewer novels, but better novels; and not novels only, but poetry and criticism and history.  But in this, to be sure, one is looking ahead to that golden, that perhaps fabulous, age when women will have what has so long been denied them--leisure, and money, and a room to themselves" Virginia Woolf, "Women and Literature," 1929.

I am currently sitting in my own room (in Bloomsbury, I'd like to add), with the entire day ahead of me and devoted solely to writing.  It's true I borrowed money to be here, but it's all in my own name and it's government subsidized, and when I go back to the US in a couple of months I'll have a fellowship waiting for me.  No amount or degree of education has been out of my reach.  I am currently working on a project that unites literary criticism and history, and all of the major scholars in my field are women.  I just spent an afternoon with a  woman who is so dedicated and intelligent, and who has leisure time, her own space and her own money, that she will quickly rise to the top her field.  My sister and countless other women I know write for a living.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This is About Your WIP (you know the one I mean)

There’s a file on my hard drive called fivemurder. It was created in 2006. Three apartments ago and at least four computers. But this file hangs on, showing up in later permutations as Gone and GoneDraft2. Both of those were last modified about 15 months ago. Unlike other WIPS on my computer, I haven’t forgotten a single detail of this story. I still remember exactly where I was when the story first occurred to me, I still remember why I named the characters what I did, and how excited I was to write it, and even what I planned to write. Right now, it’s about 33,000 words. It’s been about 33,000 words since early 2007.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Writing With Fear

I think you have to be a little bit crazy to be a writer. Jasie, Lindy, and my husband Jaime have all told me at various times that they’d love to write something, but they’re afraid for some reason. Maybe they fear whatever they write will suck. Maybe they fear that they’ll only waste everybody’s time with the attempt. Maybe they fear whoever reads it will mock them. Maybe they don’t want to put too much of themselves on paper for anybody to read--and worse, anybody to understand. Maybe they don’t know how to begin, don’t know where it should start, don’t even know what their ultimate purpose is. They think I don’t understand their fears because I write all of the time. Every day. And when I’m done writing, I send it out to the world, either through publication or my private journal.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"There's a Skirmish of Wit Between Them": A Review of Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant and Catherine Tate

Last week I went and saw Hamlet, one of my favorite plays and one I have seen countless times, at the Globe in London.  As we were standing there in the yard I read in the program (over someone's shoulder) that the episode of Doctor Who where they meet Shakespeare was partially filmed there.  That was a little too much for me and I got a bit swoony.   Yes, that is precisely the kind of geek I am.   When a friend mentioned she had bought tickets to see David Tennant and Catherine Tate in Much Ado About Nothing I knew I would have to go.  I found a ticket, but it was £75.  That's about $115.  My hesitation didn't last very long and I bought the ticket for last night's performance at the Wyndham Theatre in the West End.  I might not be able to eat lunch for the next couple of weeks, but it was definitely worth it.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Finding Your Writing Process

It’s tricky blogging advice for writers. I never realized how tricky until I actually started keeping this blog and thinking about what I know and what I can share, and further realizing that what works well for me might be just that. Something that works well for me. Nothing drives this fear home more than thinking about the Writing Process (when I use caps like that imagine discordant chords on the piano).

What is the Writing Process? Do you have one? How do you find one? Is it working or is it hindering you? Should it be something natural or should you impose a structure onto the process? What’s the point of it? What’s the point of any of this?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Bit (More) PEP To Get Over Writer's Block

Welcome to a new week! I know we're a little slow on the uptake, but that's Monday for ya. Here's a bit of PEP (that's Productivity Ego Procrastination) from Sam, our lovely guestblogger, to get your writing week started off right. 


I tend to find that when I’m writing, no matter what it is, I start getting inspiration for other projects. This was a problem when trying to finish essays for class, but has proved to be quite helpful with my creative pieces. When I come to a block on one, I simply open a new document and write bits and chunks of something else to help get the ideas flowing again. There are two different ways that I do this; one is more character driven and the other is all about descriptions.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Travel Journal: A Canterbury Tale

Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
  Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
  And smale foweles maken melodye,
  That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
  So priketh hem Nature in hir corages-

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
  And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
  And specially, from every shires ende

Of Engelond, to Caunturbury they wende,

The hooly blisful martir for the seke

That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke

Cathedral and St. Augustine Abbey ruins
If you don't know already, those are the first lines from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. I had to memorize these first lines in Middle English and recite them in a class I took on the 14th Century, and it was actually really fun. (If you've never heard anyone read these lines in the Middle English before, I've included the youtube video at the bottom of the page.) For the few of you who don't speak Middle English, here's the gist: Once spring comes along in April, and the weather starts getting really nice, people grow a little antsy and start thinking about leaving the house and going on a pilgrimage. A lot of those people, from all over England, head out to Canterbury to visit the cathedral where St. Thomas a Beckett was martyred. And there you have it.

Today I joined in that very long tradition of pilgrims to the shrine in the Canterbury Cathedral.  Just like Chaucer explains, once the weather turns nice and the warm breezes blow I get antsy and feel compelled to leave the city, enjoy the clean country air, and visit some cathedrals.  Today was the loveliest day I could have chosen for such a pilgrimage.  My journey was actually quite short. Since I took the fast train from London, it was only a 50 minute, rather comfortable and boring, pilgrimage.  There certainly wasn't enough time to tell any tales (and I was alone anyway), but I did enjoy the beautiful countryside.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

PEP Rally: Fleshing Out the Plot

It's time for another PEP Rally by our guestblogger Sam. That's Productivity Ego Procrastination, and it's three suggestions to help start your writing week off right.  Last week Sam posted a successful post about getting to know your characters through a character interview.  This week we're working on plot development! Have fun!


This week for Productivity, it’s all about fleshing out your plotline, and it’s a bit of an arts and crafts moment, too. Grab an old binder, get a cheap one at the dollar store, or one of the single binder rings you can sometimes get at office supply stores. If none of those things are handy, a bit of string or old shoe lace will do just fine. Find yourself a nice stack of index cards (or cut a bunch of paper into uniform-ish rectangles) and punch a hole in the upper left corner of every one so that you can put them on the binder or piece of string like flashcards. Use these cards to write out the different plot points that you want to hit over the course of your story; just a few keywords to keep your ideas in line.

I like to treat these things as a sort of writing diary, keeping several blank cards by my bed and in my bag. They fold up pretty nicely for a pocket as well, just flatten them under a few of your most massive books. Don’t worry about not knowing exactly where you want to go, the binder ring allows you to add and remove things as you please. If you’re using string, do remember to tie with a bow instead of a knot! You might not find divine inspiration through this but it will put everything up in plain sight. Hopefully this new perspective of organization, moving away from a traditional outline in word, will smooth your way from beginning to middle and end.

Friday, May 6, 2011

CW White Trash: Depictions of Class

I’ve been thinking about class structure in America a lot lately. It started at the PCA/ACA conference two weeks ago when I inadvertently angered Supernatural scholars. When the Q&A began at a panel about Supernatural, someone asked the panel what they thought about Dean and Sam’s class position. The exact question was, "Are they white trash?"
Personally, I'd never thought about Dean and Sam’s class position. One panelist responded said she viewed Dean and Sam as "blue collar workers rather than white trash." I asked the panel if they see Dean and Sam as working class rather than white trash because Jensen Ackles and Jared Padelecki are attractive, they have a nice car and they dress well.
The ladies on the panel did not look pleased with me.

Oh dear.

One said that while Dean and Sam do not get paid for their work as hunters, they work full time and aren’t "welfare sponges and trailer trash". (She's right, they don't have welfare. They live off of pool hustling and credit card scams). I didn't debate the point, though I disagreed with her assumptions about the lower class. Much like when you think of a good comeback to an insult hours later, I feel like an idiot for not calling them out on their class privilege.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Write Now!

We'd like to welcome as a guest blogger a good friend a great writer, Amanda Von Der Lohe.  Amanda is finishing up her MFA in Creative Writing at Hollins University in Virginia and teaches English and Drama in Draper, Utah.  She is currently working on a YA novel. 
So you want to be a writer and/or improve your writing skills. Excellent! You have come to this site looking for advice and I would love to pass on some of the best writing advice I have received. Here it is, plain and simple: If you want to be a writer...
Musicians compose, artists create, athletes train. Professionals become good at their craft because they practice. If you are serious about becoming a writer, writing has to be more than a “one day I’ll get around to it” thing. Start writing now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

POV Pros and Cons

POV, or point of view, is the perspective from a which a story is told.  Sometimes there's a specific narrator and sometimes the story is seen through many different eyes.  It is important to be aware of POV while self-editing , especially in order to watch out for inconsistencies, which often do slip in unnoticed.  Also, you may start by writing in first person only to discover that third person is  a more appropriate approach for the story.   Either way, it's helpful to consider and evaluate your options for POV.  Today we'll briefly examine each of the three major POVs and discuss their individual strengths and weaknesses.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Writing a Synopsis? The Information You Need Before You Begin

I'm now editing for Breathless Press and Silver Publishing and I couldn't be more thrilled. I've been following both presses for awhile now, researching possible submissions, and I'm excited to be a part of two very awesome companies. I'll be evaluating manuscripts as well, so I wanted to talk about what editors look for. What makes a perfect submission? It begins with a pretty damned good manuscript, but a kick ass query and a thorough but engaging synopsis doesn't hurt.

Nathan Bransford's How to Write a Synopsis is required reading, the thrust of which is Everyone has a different idea of what a synopsis should entail, how long it should be, whether it should be single- or double-spaced, whether it should include all of the plot or just the really important stuff... I mean, how I can even begin to summarize this and offer any advice is frankly beyond me.

PEP Rally: 50 Questions to Ask Your Characters

It's time for another PEP rally by our guestblogger Sam.  Just as a reminder, PEP stands for Productivity, Ego, and Procrastination, the three most important things to a writer after their computer or favorite pen. Even though the Rally was created to start a week off right, it can help combat the dreaded writers block any day of the week. These tips and activities will get you moving towards that word count in no time. Well, maybe not the last one, but who said you have to be all work?


One of my most difficult challenges when writing is trying to get into the mindset of my characters. Would they really say this, do that, wear that hat? Sometimes I find that I can really get into their heads and understand everything about them down to the most finite of details for their existence. For example, I know exactly what one of my original characters is going to name all of her children and how far apart they are going to be born. But it’s taken me several years now to fully understand her in that way. Some of you might not have the luxury of not actually having to finish anything and are under more of a time crunch when it comes to learning things about the character you’ve created. Even though they are in your head, there are most likely several things that you don’t actually realize about them yet. 

Today’s productivity task is an interview to help you get a better grasp of your characterization.

Name and age?

Nickname? Who gave it?

What is most noticeable about your character’s appearance/physical presence? How does he or she feel about it?