Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oregon Book Award Finalist!

Me: Guess what! Guess what!

Aerin: Something’s wrong.

Me: No! Nothing’s wrong.

Aerin: There’s definitely something wrong. You’re using too many exclamation points.

Me: Academy 7 is an Oregon Book Award finalist!

Aerin: A finalist?

Me: Yep!

Aerin: You mean we didn’t really win before?

Me: Yes, you won the Spirit of Oregon Award by the Oregon Council of Teachers of English. This is the Oregon Book Award by the Oregon Institute of Literary Arts. And you and Dane are nominated for this one as well!

(Dane mutters something from a distance).

Me: What?!

Aerin: He says he thought we were cut from the list of nominees last fall. Didn’t you see the list of finalists on the Literary Arts table at Wordstock? And we were not on it?

Me: Apparently that was last year’s list of finalists.

Aerin: Our book came out in May 2009.

Me: I know, but the Oregon Institute of Literary Arts had this weird delay in their schedule last year.

Aerin: So you’re saying we are really finalists?

Me: Yes, along with Scott William Carter for The Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys.

Aerin: Nice title.

Me: And Kerry Cohen Hoffman for It’s Not You, It’s Me. And L.K. Madigan for Flash Burnout.

Aerin: She’s the one you presented with at Wordstock. She’s very nice.

Me: Yes! And Emily Whitman, who I presented with at the YA Extravaganza last spring, was also nominated for Radiant Darkness.

Aerin: That’s the book you read last fall, the one where the three-headed dog guarding the river Styx bounds like a giant puppy?

Me: Yes. I enjoyed that a lot!

(More distant muttering).

Me: What?!

Aerin: Dane’s concerned.

Me: About what? This is awesome!

Aerin: About the number of exclamation points.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The SOURCE (aka My Favorite Form of Research)

Me: Ring. Ring.

The SOURCE answers, “Hello.”

Me: Hi, I need some help with . . . (Insert research topic here that yours truly knows nothing about).

The SOURCE laughs. “OK, what do you want to know?

Me: Well . . . (Insert inane question and uneducated plan for what I want to write about). Can I do this?

The SOURCE wavers, attempting to be polite, then says . . . (Insert reason here why my idea is not particularly likely. Or believable).

Me: OK, what about this . . .

The SOURCE says, “Why don’t you just do it this way . . .? (He/she suggests a perfectly logical idea that interferes with something absolutely essential to the plot of whatever book I am writing).

Me: No, that’s not going to work. (I try to explain).

“OK,” says the SOURCE. “Well, what about this . . .” (Provides another suggestion, less common, but for some reason more suited to my story).

Me: I don’t know. Possibly. Though it doesn’t sound as good as my original idea. What about this . . .? (I make another suggestion).

“I guess maybe that could work,” the SOURCE replies, “if you . . .” (He/she mentions a technical term that the author was heretofore unaware of).

Me: Oh, what’s that?

The SOURCE explains.

Me: That’s cool. Could you tell me a little more about that?

The SOURCE explains some more.

This pattern continues while I ask three million more questions, ending with the following:
Me: OK so how about this? (I provide a new plot idea).

"Yes," says the SOURCE.

Me: (Jumping up and down inside because I think I’ve finally found a viable solution). And this would be correct?

“Yes,” replies the SOURCE, “Well, you realize this . . .” (A new problem arises).

Me: No, I didn’t, what is . . .

The SOURCE explains some more.

We haggle.

Me: OK, I can work with that. Now, let me read over my notes, and you tell me if all this is right.

The SOURCE says, “You realize my lunch break is over, and I really wasn’t planning on spending it all on the phone discussing . . . (whatever inane topic I have called about).

I read through the notes.

The SOURCE picks apart said notes, corrects said notes, and fixes stupid assumptions within said notes.
Then eventually gives me the magic words. “Yes, that’s right.”

Me: Thank you!

“Is that all?” asks the SOURCE who can’t wait to return to reality.

Me: “Yes, I think that’s it!”

I can hear the SOURCE’s sigh of relief.

Me: I might call you tonight if I have any follow-up questions.

“I know,” replies the SOURCE.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Five Star Review: Romance, Espionage, and an Awesome Heroine

Me: Time for another favorite book of all time!

Aurelia: Entitled?

Me: Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.

Aurelia: Which is?

Me: My favorite historical fiction novel.

Aurelia: Why haven’t I ever heard of it?

Me: I have no idea. It’s fabulous!

Mara is a slave girl in Ancient Egypt. Determined to change her fortune and be free no matter what it takes. When a messenger from the queen makes Mara an offer to act as spy in the role of a royal interpreter, she accepts the challenge.

And when Sheftu, the scribe who is not a scribe, makes her the same offer on behalf of the queen’s enemy, Mara chooses to hold her tongue and walk the double-edged sword of political chance.

But too many chances add up to death, and the more Mara learns, the more she wishes she did not know.

Of course she could always sell out Sheftu. To save her own hide.

But what will happen to Egypt if she does?

Mara, Daughter of the Nile has EVERYTHING, in my opinion, that makes great historical fiction: a heroine with enough guts to put her entire world on the line. Enough detail to make you feel like you’re living in the time period. A romance composed almost entirely of impossibility. And plenty of political drama to keep you turning pages well into the night and beyond.

Aurelia: Let me get this straight. This is a royal drama with danger, romance, and intrigue? Are you’re sure this isn’t one of my books?

Me: It’s set in Ancient Egypt.

Aurelia: Right. Now where’s your copy?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Art of the First Draft

Word Count. Speed. Trash.

Get it all down on the computer. Drag your characters across a continent or half a world or even the universe.

Pick them up. Dump them down.

Skip the transitions.

Oops! You forgot the horse. Just make a note to stick him in there and keep on traveling.

10,000 words. Doesn’t matter how bad they are.

Moving on to 20,000.

Starting to wonder why your main characters haven’t had a one-on-one conversation yet? Going to have to fix that. Later.


Just typed a battle scene with a long drawn-out dialogue by a captain you’ve decided to kill off even before your main character gets there? No problem. Just poach the captain’s dialogue and hand it over to the lieutenant.


Because here’s the thing. Every time you type a chapter, you figure out what’s wrong with it.

The images start spinning. The characters start talking.

They yell at you, “Hey, this is stupid!” or “I would never say that!” or “When are you going to let me get a word in edgewise?”

And you file away their complaints.


Or scribble them in your notebook or stick them in parenthesis beside the scene you mis-wrote.

And move on. Because . . .

60,000! Yay! Done!

It’s the beauty of the first draft.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


My To-Do List for Christmas Break:

1. Revise Salvation

2. Plan for 2 School Visits

3. Answer 300 e-mails

4. Make math vocab cards

5. Plan Shakespeare Unit

6. Update Oregon Teaching License

7. Revise book proposal

8. Write up to three chapters for book proposal

9. Outline two books which are not sequels for possible other book proposals

10. E-mail agent & find out what the heck I need for those book proposals

11. Write said book proposals

12. Grade algebra tests

13. Blog

14. Make 2 weeks worth of lesson plans

15. Re-plan math units for rest of the school year

16. Watch the new Narnia movie

17. Celebrate Christmas with family

18. Make first 2 weeks worth of assignments for Shakespeare unit

19. Keep house from becoming a disaster area

20. Walk

21. E-mail Emily Whitman & tell her how awesome Radiant Darkness was.

22. E-mail Fishtrap & resend inquiry letter I sent last summer.

23. Pester former 4-6th grade student about the chapters she’s supposed to be sending me for her senior project.

24. Revise & provide feedback on said chapters.

25. Make list of possible people to send ARCS of Exile.

26. Complete four online interviews.

27. Read the entire Maximum Ride series

Time Left: 24 hours.

Progress: Dismal.

Conclusion: It’s hopeless. Will be staying after school until midnight on Monday.

Plan for tomorrow: Spending it all with Robert and Aurelia because I WANT to!