Monday, December 7, 2009

The Life of a Freelance Writer

Hello, dear, long-lost blog! It has been so long since I visited you! Please forgive me. How have you been?

I have been really, really busy. (Hence, our sad lack of communication.)

This year marks my first year of NaNoWriMo. I wouldn't say it was successful, exactly, if successful means reaching that 50,000 mark. I was already behind at about 17,000 words, with about two weeks to go. That's when I was suddenly assigned a blitz of articles that I am still in the midst of. Nevertheless, I would not call this first NaNo unsuccessful. NaNo definitely encouraged me to write more than I normally would have. I look forward to trying again next year.

Two of the articles from that article blitz were published in last Friday's Westside Courier. It was a double cover story on the USI Madrigal and Christmas in New Harmony. The articles were supposed to start going online again on the Courier site. Unfortunately, they have not, so I can not post a link.

I am getting ready to work on another Westside article, this one about a couple of west side families with someone serving overseas through Christmas. It will be out on Christmas Day, so that will be neat. Meanwhile, I have been doing an article every day for a client who needs several online articles on probiotics. For those who don't know probiotics, they are the good bacteria that live in the body and help in all sorts of ways. They have actually been super-interesting to research, and I have learned so much.

Tomorrow--more of the same! I look forward to getting back to fiction, but I am very glad to have so much writing work to do. It's so great to be able to make (a tiny) living as a writer!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Midsouth SCBWI Conference

I was looking SO forward to last weekend's Midsouth SCBWI Conference, and it did not disappoint! It boasted a stellar list of faculty headlined by author Caroline Cooney, who was delightful. As a big fan, I was super-excited to meet her. She was a wonderful speaker and so personable one-on-one. I was lucky enough to have one of my paid critiques assigned to her, and she took such care and went into such detail. The fact that she was really complimentary of my writing didn't hurt either :), but it really was one of the most in-depth critiques I've ever had.

The rest of the faculty, like editors Cheryl Klein and Kaylan Adair, were also great, and the Midsouth "staff" was incredible. Genetta, Sharon, and Susan were all so helpful and really put together a smoothly-run event.

Personally, it was great to see "old" friends like my critique group who all met at this conference last year. We have stayed together ever since, doing monthly critiques and offering advice. That's us in the top picture--David, Beth, Maria, Joyce, Ruta, Grace, and me.

The pictures below feature my roomie, Kristi Valiant. She won the illustrators contest for the second year in a row and was the star of the conference! Her amazing talent is impossible to overlook, and on top of that, she is always willing to spend her time helping out new illustrators, just as she did again this year.

What a great weekend! I can't wait to see what they new next year to try to top this one!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Revision Woes and the Possible Solution

Wow, I am long overdue for a blog post. Why the delay? Good question. Yet, no good answer. I guess I sort of feel like I'm in limbo. I have a completed novel that I really need to revise, and I think that's holding me up. Not that I haven't written anything in the meantime. I finished a short story and it's going in the mail this week. I'm actually really excited about it and proud of it. I also started a brand new story that had been wandering around in my head for a while. Actually, two ideas had been wandering around, and I realized out of the blue last week that they were part of the same story. That was a really fun epiphany, and I got the beginnings on paper right away.

But there I go again, off the subject I should be on--revision. Luckily, I now have a plan, and her name is Darcy Pattison. I had been hearing about Darcy and her novel revision workshops for a while. Then, this past Saturday I attended an SCBWI conference in Indy where Sara Grant was the speaker. Sara works for Working Partners, a book packager in the UK. She was a fabulous speaker with some great advice. Much of her presentation was on revision! Yay! She offered so many great tips, and I was soaking up the ideas. At the end, she held up Darcy Pattison's Novel Metamorphosis and said it was the one revision book we had to have. Well, if that's not a sign, I don't know what is. I'm getting it. I tried to buy it at Barnes and Noble yesterday, but they have to order it. I chose to wait because I'm attending the big Midsouth SCBWI conference this weekend (Yay!) and thought they might have it for sale there. If not, I'm ordering it next week. Finally, the help I need.

As to the Midsouth Conference, I can't wait, of course! Kristi Valiant and I will be taking off early Friday to head south. I'm looking forward to a weekend of writing, fun, old friends, new friends, and inspiration. I'm sure I'll have more to report next week!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reading and Writing--the Staples of Life

My latest reading list has been made up exclusively of Rick Riordan's Olympians series. I have read 1 through 5 straight through, though I'm not done with #5 yet. I believe The Last Olympian is the conclusion of the series, though I read Riordan is working on a new Camp Halfblood series. These books have been great fun to read. I have really, really enjoyed them, and have added Riordan to my Twitter list. My son is a huge fan of these books too, so if Riodan is ever at a book signing within a reasonable driving distance, we'd love to hop in the car and go meet him.

On the writing side, I am waiting for the last of the critiques for The Doorway short story from my online group. Next week I hope to edit the story and get it ready to send out!

I have been staying busy writing online articles to supplement my regular and paltry writing income. These are no masterpieces, and I don't receive writing credits, but they do pay...and that's pretty important too!

Yesterday I submitted my latest article for the Westside Courier. This one was on teenager Kortney Fuller, who has had a pacemaker since she was six months old! She and her family were very nice to interview.

I have also been getting ready for this weekend's Evansville SCBWI event with Margaret McMullan. I anticipate that Margaret will be a great speaker. Kristi Valiant, Elsa Marston, and Marlis day will also be there to sign and sell their own books!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pancit and Popcorn!!

Kristi Valiant had a wonderful turnout on Saturday, July 25th during her book signing for Cora Cooks Pancit, the beautiful picture book she illustrated for Shen's Books. The crowd at Barnes and Noble in Evansville, Indiana got to sample homemade pancit, which Kristi's husband made using the recipe from the book. It was an exciting first signing; no doubt Kristi will have many more!

As for my own publishing update, I received slightly less exciting but still fun news! After entering a poetry contest a few weeks ago at the Stories for Children Magazine blog, I received an email Friday from a friend who saw the results. I won 3rd place and some free popcorn!

Please visit to read the poem. The editors also had some very kind editorial words. "As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of humankind on the moon, your idea of aliens coming to earth and smelling popcorn and wanting it so badly, combined with your awesome title, made your poem very funny and a kid-pleaser, Christi. WOHOOOOO FOR YOU, CHRISTI!"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Everyone Should Be Reading Caroline B. Cooney

As of two weeks ago, I had never read a book by Caroline B. Cooney, which is amazing considering she has 45 or more! Since she is a featured speaker at the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference, I thought I should read a couple so that I could speak intelligently about them and her writing.

Wow! It's hard to say more than that, but I'm sure I'll manage.

I started with Enter Three Witches, based on MacBeth. As I'm not a huge Shakespeare fan, I was skeptical, but the title drew me in. It was great! Really, super interesting. I almost want to read Macbeth. Almost.

Okay, so one book down, and it was really good, so no problem reading more. Next, I chose A Friend at Midnight. It's hard to say why because I don't read the back of books; sometimes they give things away! Anyway, it turned out to be a GREAT pick. This book is stunning! There were so, so many instances where I thought, oh, I wish I'd written that; I wish I could write like this; I wish my characters were so full and wonderful. I can not do the writing justice by my descriptions, but this is a must-read for YA authors--or anyone. The book is poignant, funny, heart-breaking, and hopeful. I sobbed through at least the last ten pages, but it was a good kind of crying, not the horrible crying of a kidnapped, murdered child or a canine best friend getting killed after saving the main character from a dire fate. No, this was the kind of crying I love to do when reading a wonderful book. You know the kind--tears flowing with each new sentence from every character. Thank goodness I was at home instead of my usual Starbucks because I wouldn't have been able to prevent those tears. I would have been bawling like a baby, and I'm sure the baristas and my fellow customers would have felt compelled to check on me. And that would have only irritated me--because it would have interrupted those crucial ending pages and the flow of my emotions!

After that, I'm happily onto my next Cooney book, Goddess of Yesterday, and I anticipate many, many more before the conference. I went from thinking I should read of couple to becoming a die-hard fan. It will be such a pleasure to meet Ms. Cooney and such a thrill to have her sign books for me. Until then, I have lots of happy reading ahead!

Monday, July 6, 2009

When Procrastination Sets In...

My son is at camp for the whole week. It’s 2:00 on Monday afternoon. I’ve been looking forward to all the writing that would occur this week. I mean, I’ll be by myself during the day. Hours and hours to do nothing but write. I have a short story that is only a couple of thousand words from complete. I have critique group stuff to critique. I have manuscripts to get ready to send in to for the SCBWI Mid-South Fall Conference. I need to send out emails for the August SCBWI Evansville event with Margaret McMullen.
Instead, I am checking out Twitter and Facebook and the camp website. (They post new pics every day, and my son might be in one of them!) I did write a new poem to post on Twitter—a Fib about not getting writing done.

Put off
They call it
Like this Fib; instead of writing.

Does that count as “writing?” Hmmm…technically, yes.
Now I’m even updating my blog! Wow, I’m really grasping at straws to put off the writing, huh?
The question is, why? I love to write. The last several weeks, I have been thinking, I’ll miss my son, but I can’t wait to work on my story. I wonder how many thousand words I’ll get written? Well, one day is almost down and the grand total is 14—from the Fib!
Maybe it’s because the sun is shining right outside the library window. Or maybe I expected to get so much done, that I am afraid I won’t meet my expectations. Maybe it’s because I have a new (used) car, and it’s so much fun to drive that I really just want to keep zooming around town running errands (something I normally hate to do).
Well, in the immortal words of every procrastinator…maybe tomorrow…
In the meantime, I would love to hear from other writers out there. What causes you to put off writing—the very thing you supposedly love to do? More importantly, what do you do about it? Post your best tips and stories to help us all get to work!
Thanks…and get busy!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Writers' Retreat Weekend!

I returned home yesterday from Stanford, Kentucky, where my online Mid-South SCBWI critique group met for a weekend of writing. We had not seen each other since last year's Mid-South Conference in September, which is where most of us met for the first time!

Beth arranged for us to stay in the Bishop House, a lovely 3-story home, so there was plenty of room for the five attendees to get away for some quiet writing time. We were often gathered around the dining room table, all with our laptops whirring! I also did a fair bit of writing on the front porch, where I am pictured at the left with Grace. For myself, I started a story from scratch this weekend and wrote 6,500 words. That felt pretty productive. It is a short story that I hope to continue on into a book, and I'm very excited about it. We also had nightly critique sessions where we read each other's work out loud then discussed. What a talented group.

Thanks to Beth, we spent a fair amount of time eating delicious food and walking around the small town of Stanford. I look forward to seeing all (I hope) of the Original Seven at this year's Mid-South Conference.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Articles for the Westside and BorderLines

Whew! Just finished my latest article for the Westside this afternoon, and I feel drained. Maybe it's because I put it off too long and had to suddenly get it all finished in the last two days. But finish it I did, another deadline successfully met. This article, which is a cover story scheduled for June 12th, was an article I suggested. It is about Bob of Bob's Gym, an Evansville business that has turned into an Evansville icon. Since I am at the west side location pretty faithfully, it was really cool to learn how Bob and his parents started the business 18 years ago in a much smaller west side building. Bob and his dad were a lot of fun to talk to, and everyone was very helpful. Since I am at the gym almost every day, I sure hope Bob and everyone there likes it!

The article was finished and submitted early this afternoon, but then the pictures had to be sent, always a lengthy process. But assuming I get no questions from my editor, I'm all done for now!

I have also posted a link to my latest non-Westside article. This one is in BorderLines, the newsletter for Mid-South SCBWI. I was pleased with it and hope everyone will take a look. Maybe now that article-writing is done (for now), I can do a little creative writing over the next couple of weeks...

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Story That Has to be Told

I've been reading Alan Gratz's Twitter comments about how many chapters/words he's gotten done on recent days, and it made me yearn for those days! I miss that. It was so exciting when I was working on my novel, adding word count. What a sense of accomplishment when I'd had a good day or a good week. There's nothing more tangible than that word count building and that feeling of building a story towards a culmination.

Now, though I need to do a lot on that same story, I yearn for that feeling of working towards something like word count. I've had several different story ideas, but I can't decided which one to work on, or even if I want to work on one of them. When I had the Everett on Everest idea, there was no doubt. I knew that would be a story that I would follow through till the end. I long for another of those ideas. I have never felt such accomplishment as when I was working on that book. That makes me think it will be someday be a big success. I have never worked so hard on something that I have written. There's a lot of work still do, and I have to get into that 'editing' mode, but I think it will be a really good book someday. Meanwhile, I'll be on the lookout for another one of those stories, one of those you just can't say no to, one of those that just has to be told.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Poem!

I just wrote a new poem that I'm really pleased with. I guess it's a simplified form of a cadae. A cadae is based on the first five numbers in pi (3.1415). I think in a real cadae of five stanzas, the first stanza has 3 lines, the second 1 line, etc. Then they also have a set amount of syllables per line. Mine is simpler--five stanzas of five lines each with a syllable count per line of 3,1,4,1,5. I might have to submit this one--somewhere!


Leaves beckon.
Into the breeze.
Deep this summer sun.

Blocked by time
This window pane.
Instead cycled air.

Those leaves dance.
They undulate.
Do they call or mock?

Yes, of course!
Want to join you!
Yearn and dream and need.

Or so I think,
More there to hear it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Some more Fibs

A Day in the Life

How can I
Make them start again?
Repeat scene over and over.

How You Know You're Really a Writer

Or readers.
No publication.
Would you still have to write it down?

Friday, May 15, 2009

My latest article came out last Friday in the Westside Courier, but I can't post the link because the new editor hasn't had a chance to learn how to put the articles online yet! Hopefully soon. I did get some great feedback on it, though. Kristi Scott, the subject, emailed me to say how thrilled she was with it, and several people stopped me at the gym to say how nice it was. That's always pleasant.

Last Saturday, I attended the Indiana SCBWI event in Carmel, Coffee Talk with Lara Anderson. Lara, who sent several years at Curtis Brown, was full of great information. In a relaxed and informal setting, Lara answered questions from the group of attendees. Her mother and successful author Rebecca Kai Dotlich also added her experience on some of the subjects. I received a paid critique from Lara on the first 50 pages of my YA book, and it was well-worth the $40 cost. I did not receive the glowing feedback that I had hoped, but what I did receive was a very detailed critique. She pointed out specific problems and offered suggestions and examples on what to do about them. I feel like she closely read my manuscript and definitely got my money's worth. It's the best critique I've ever received as far as content. Thank you, Lara!! It was also great to meet and see so many of the other IN-SCBWI members!

I sent out a new query this week (to Cricket) but have mostly been doing research on book packagers. It sounds like freelancing for a packager could have some benefits--experience and credentials, not to mention a little bit of money.

I also finished another of Margaret McMullan's Ya books, When I Crossed No-Bob. Just as in Cashay, I really cared for the main character, Addy in this case, and many of the supporting characters. Though a completely different story than Cashay, it was also similar in that she took another story which could have been so depressing and made it heart-warming and not at all depressing. I would recommend to anyone!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Feeling Piggy--or Poetic

After adding author Alan Gratz as someone I am following on Twitter, I was inspired by his posts. He posts a morning haiku, always something clever or funny, which I thought was a cool idea. I didn't want to be a total copycat, so I researched other short forms of poetry and found the Fib, a Western form of poetry that has 6 lines, with 20 syllables, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8--each line has the amount of syllables of the two previous lines added together. (It's based on a math principal called the Fibronacci sequence.)

Anyway, I decided to give it a try. I was inspired by my recent bout of illness, which my husband kept joking was the swine flu. (He would call and snort instead of saying hello, etc.!)

Feeling Piggy

No wonder
Everyone thinks
They have the symptoms of swine flu.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Meeting Margaret McMullan

This past Saturday I met Margaret McMullan at her book signing, where I picked up a copy of her latest YA novel, Cashay. Margaret was charming, and the book, which I have recently finished, was wonderful. As it is not the type of book I normally read, I wasn't sure what I would think, but it was great. She really captured Cashay's voice and pain, yet the book was never depressing and blah. It was very hopeful, and I really enjoyed it.

I also flew through Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and am currently reading Jonathon Stroud's Heroes of the Valley.

I have also been busy getting a few poems and queries ready to send out this week, and I wrote a new poem, which I haven't done in a while! That was fun.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Congrats to Kristi Valiant!

Congratulations to Kristi Valiant, whose first trade picture book is due in stores this month!! Kristi beautifully illustrated Cora Cooks Pancit, as everyone will soon see! I can't wait to show it off to everyone.

I am working on final edits for an article on USI grad student Kristi Scott and will be sending that to the editor later this week. Kristi was very sweet to interview. Though she was full of cutting-edge thoughts on technology and society, she was very down-to-earth and easy to talk to.

I am also working on editing my book's first 50 pages to get sent off this week for an Indiana SCBWI conference critique.

During my moments of relaxation, I am rapidly devouring the fourth book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. Unfortunately, that will mean I'm caught up and anxiously-awaiting publication of the fifth!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Update

I will soon be busy writing (for a living) again. After a self-imposed hiatus from article-writing, I have an interview to do this week and an article due next week. I'm also ready to get to some serious editing on my book. Now that I have let it sit without looking at it for a few weeks, I should be able to go over it a little more objectively. With an SCBWI conference coming up in May, I need to get the first 50 pages in great shape for the paid critique that is due in April. I am also spending the first part of this week editing a manuscript for one of my online critique group members. Due tomorrow--back to work!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Finished Book!!

I can't believe I have not updated my blog to celebrate the fact that I finished my book!! I actually finished a couple of weeks ago. I guess I was too busy spending a week in San Antonio and just relaxing to do any more writing--even blog writing!

I have begun to receive comments from my online critique group. I will spend the next few days going over their comments and responding. I hope to choose one agent to go ahead and submit to later this week. Then I will set the book aside for a few weeks before going back to really edit. That will give me a little perspective.

I know there is work that needs to be done on it, but overall, I am very happy with it and excited about it's future--and mine!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

January Update

With the holidays I'm a little late, but I have just posted links to my three latest articles--two for the Westside and one for January's Evansville Parent. Amazingly, I have no article assignments at the moment, which is wonderful. I did nothing on my book through the holidays, but am happily back to working on it this week. I hope to devote most of January to that welcome task. I'm also busy reading manuscripts from both my online and Evansville critique groups, but that's a lot of fun.

Let's see, I'm at 28,000 words today. Hopefully, that number will change dramatically over the next couple of weeks!