Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Prom Dates from Hell

With prom season just winding down, I read Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore this weekend. It's the fun, fast-paced story of a girl who has to track down something Evil and save her classmates from destruction--and possibly worse, go to the prom. One character says that the heroine, Maggie, lives and dies by wisecracks, and indeed, Maggie's narration is so full of witty comments and one-liners, it could be a stand-up comedy routine. It's funny, literate, and suspenseful, with memorable characters and more than one hint at romance. Maggie, who doesn't want to go to prom at all, ends up there with not one but two guys (pseudo-dates), both of whom are thankfully not from Hell. And while prom nights have a reputation of being this one all Hell breaks loose. Well, at least some of it.

This is another one I bought as a full-priced hardback, though in this case I do know the author. Not just online, but it turns out I knew her in person many years ago. I will now possibly embarrass her and definitely embarrass myself by sharing a pic of me and her as toga-clad pre-teens, dressed for a Musical Theatre production. She's the one who looks poised & confident; I'm the one who looks like a deer in the headlights!

I'm a little curious whether Prom Dates from Hell was set vaguely at my own high school, except for the natatorium--I'm not sure where Rosemary went to high school, but a few of the details of the school seemed familiar, especially the walkway where the opening action takes place. The college town enviroment rang true to my experience as well.

And since it fits in with the topic, I thought I'd share my own prom pic...though with my date's face blocked out! Note that my dress could have been a wedding dress now, but at the time strapless wedding dresses were pretty much unheard of. (It also turned out that the majority of girls at my prom showed up in white, including two at my table alone wearing the same dress as one another, but it was hard to find other colors that year! I looked for a black dress & couldn't even find one.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Recent reading

A week or two ago, I finally read An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. Although the math emphasis in it might have turned me off in the past, my own math & science-obsessed son has made me much more open to all things mathematical, and sympathetic in any case to brainy boys like Colin, the protagonist of this book. Although I did find it highly improbable, mathematically, that anyone could have even met 19 girls named Katherine between the ages of 7 and 18, much less gone out with that many of them, a lot of things in this book resonated with me, and a lot of things in it made me think. In fact, I think my husband would even enjoy it if I could get him to read it--he doesn't read much fiction and YA would be particularly unlikely for him, but I already shared a bunch from this book with him, accurately guessing that he would relate to things like Colin's long-standing desire to have a "Eureka!" moment like Archimedes. Loved the anagrammatic poem in the book dedication, too!

One thing that struck me in the book was the narrative voice. It's third person, not first, and while it's limited third in that it sticks with Colin's perspective instead of jumping into other character's heads, it's also kind of omniscient since it knows more about Colin than he knows himself. It's like--limited omniscient or something. I don't recall seeing that POV used much in recent books, but I rather liked it. I suspect something similar was probably used in some books I read growing up, but in a more invisible way, not as a means to comment on the character. I might experiment with a similar POV for one of my YA manuscripts. It's in first person right now and the voice has never worked for me, but my limited third person voice tends to be about the same as first with the pronouns switched, and that hasn't solved the problem. But a narrator who's slightly more distant from Dan, while still sticking with his POV, might work quite well.

I finished Going Nowhere Faster a few days ago. Still liked it. Though my recent reading has once again thrown me for a loop in regards to my own writing. My YA manuscript mentioned above is mainly about a guy struggling with what to do after high school. He finally decides, against his parents' wishes, not to apply for college (at that time, anyway), and goes in a different direction. It's a huge decision to make since his parents have placed a lot of expectations on him. When I first started writing it, (cough cough) seven years ago, dealing with college at all was a stretch for YA. He's a senior, and that seemed like the upper limit of YA, and there pretty much weren't YA books about people who were already out of high school. But now...I've read two YA books in the last two weeks about guys after high school, drifting around. And they both gave the impression that the college decision is not such a big deal. It's something to consider, but not the high-stakes decision it was for my character. So now my story seems misguided... I mean, it becomes a big deal for him because it's a huge deal to his parents, but my book is supposed to be humor, not some big family rebellion story, and it seems like my ending isn't as counter-intuitive as I'd thought it might be. Ah well.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Boys and girls and books

Earlier this week, I read Tanya Lee Stone's A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, which I'd heard a lot about. I admit I was a little uncomfortable with it at first. I assumed it was because of the subject matter (3 girls who get involved with the same jerky guy who's only after one thing), but I realized it was also because I didn't relate to it. I wasn't in a position where I needed to fight off the guys in high school, so I couldn't easily imagine being a high school girl attractive enough to get hit on by one of the most popular guys in school or to imagine I could wield any power over one, nor could I understand why any of the girls were interested in this guy at all, having never been attracted to that sort of jock for a moment of my life, and generally only liking guys I was friends with first. But I still read the whole thing through in about 45 minutes (it was a quick read because it's written in free verse), and had the realization, for the first time ever, that it might be a good thing not to be one of the more attractive girls in school. No, I wouldn't have liked a guy like this, but girls who have guys falling all over them must be faced with a lot of jerks, and must have to spend a lot of time sorting the jerks from the nice guys.

And speaking of boys, and girls, and books, I was suddenly slightly bummed last Saturday to find myself with a family of 3 boys and no girl, when we went to the public library together and it dawned on me that I had no daughters to share my interest in "girl" books or "feeling" books in general. Up to now, their interests in fiction have been pretty unisex. They've liked Magic Tree House, and mysteries like Cam Jansen or Nate the Great, and adventure stories like Narnia, or Time Warp Trio which is pretty boyish but also throws in a few girls (especially in the TV series). I've always been glad they haven't cared if the protagonists in their books were boys or girls. But last week I realized--they don't mind girl characters in adventure books. Or mystery books. But as they're getting older and there are more books for kids their ages that have emotional themes...they have no interest in those. Not with girl characters, not with boy characters. I tried to interest my nearly-9-year-old who has a baby brother in a book about a 9-year-old boy having to adjust to a baby brother while having wacky adventures with pets, and he wouldn't even vaguely consider it. He wanted Star Wars books. And maybe a Pokémon book, and he took a Time Warp Trio book mainly to make me happy (he likes them but was definitely in a Star Wars mindset), and threw in a series mystery, but he mainly only likes series books, and things about science fiction or time travel. Or heavy, hard non-fiction science books. And he only took Encyclopedia Brown under duress, even though I thought he would love it. My younger son likes some of those things, but also non-fiction about snakes or sharks or dinosaurs. In short, nothing at all like I read at their age or imagined sharing with my children.

Maybe I can eventually get them to read something like Running Out of Time (mystery/thriller), The City of Ember (same), or even Ella Enchanted (funny/fantasy), even though they aren't series books, but who will read something like Harriet the Spy or Because of Winn-Dixie with me? No one. A Wrinkle in Time? Sure. A Ring of Endless Light? No. Boo hoo. Maybe I'm wrong... maybe my second or third son will surprise me. So far my second isn't nearly as all-science-all-the-time as my first, and he's also more emotional and social. But he's also a lot more likely to say "That's a girl thing! Yuck!" (Then gain, at a school party this week when a mom gave little plastic maze things for boys or fairy princess wands for boys--he picked the wand!) I can see them reading these books as assigned school reading, and even enjoying them, but for leisure time reading I have a hard time getting them to read even boyish books if they're not exactly what they already had in mind.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Gold stars all around

I dreamed I got an A+ on a project. It was great to remember what that felt like! In recent years, I've been so worn down by writing rejections (and self-rejection, as I watch other writers soar past me and assume I could never compete) and various personal failures, that I'd forgotten, at least emotionally, that I used to do good work and get rewarded for it. I've focused on the times I slid by and got A's I didn't deserve (like when I wrote a paper the morning it was due and got an A on it), or the times I slacked off on the work completely and got bad grades, but it somehow slipped my mind that those were the exceptions. That most of the time, I did work I could be proud of, and teachers liked it. It was the shortest, simplest dream, but surprisingly it's made me feel more confident just having that reminder!

And a related mom brag: on the last day of school, everyone in my kids' classes got little awards. My kindergartener got the "Best Class Artist" award (he's got definite art talent), and my 2nd grader got the "Awesome Math Student" award (being the only 2nd grader in the school to ace all the 3rd grade math quizzes). Good grades, too--the 2nd grader even got an average of 100 for the whole 9 weeks in social studies!

Musings on parental guidance

Last night, on the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, we finally let our sons (ages 6 & 8) watch Episode III (Revenge of the Sith), which they'd been bugging us about for a while. We'd held off before because it's so dark & violent, & most reviews said kids shouldn't see it before 10 or 12 years old. But they are soooo familiar with the whole saga now, since they've been playing the two Lego Star Wars video games constantly, and reading Star Wars novels, blah blah blah. They did fine with it. I'm sure it was very different seeing it on just a TV screen, knowing some of the scariest things in advance (we'd warned them), than if they'd seen it on the big screen without being recently immersed in the characters & their worlds so much. As for myself, I didn't watch most of it (had seen it in the theater), but when I was watching, we had the closed captioning on to help the kids follow it, and most of the dialogue and line readings were so wooden, it sounded like an early cast read-through, or even a bad audition. I also found it amusing that the Darth Vader suit Anakin/Vader got at the end not only lowers his voice, but greatly improves his inflection. ;-) (I think if they can go back & insert Jabba the Hutt into the original Star Wars movie later, they should be able to go back & insert a different actor in Hayden Christiansen's place.)

That, plus a discussion I just saw on a writers' board about the appropriateness of certain books for young readers, has made me think about how differently I view the topic of appropriateness as a writer, as a reader, and as a mother! Actually, as a writer I always err on the side of clean & broadly "appropriate" material, because that's what I prefer. I can't imagine myself ever writing an R-rated book, and even as a reader and moviegoer, I'd rather not be bombarded with explicit language, sex, violence, or whatever. Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn didn't need to spout f-words for their movies to appeal to adults. But because I want to encounter good stories, I put up with that stuff, to a degree, as a reader and a movie watcher. If it's not too in-your-face, I look beyond it. (And I'm afraid that if it's really funny or clever, I may look beyond it even if it is in-your-face... though I would like it even better if it was really funny without all that.) But I only just realized now that I have no idea how to balance my own ability to filter out what I don't like with my maternal tendency to want to protect my children.

I mean... as a YA reader & writer, and as a former child reader myself, I tend to think that while some books may not be exactly beneficial for kids, or praiseworthy in their subject matter, kids are smart enough to read critically and make their own decisions. I don't think they mindlessly accept everything they read as being the norm or the way things should be. And frankly, I assume that they hear things in their lives every day that are worse than a lot of things they may read on the page. I sure did, and no one is filtering or editing what teens really say and experience. But I always think of these things in the abstract--about teenagers in general, or about me as a teen. I had never until today thought to extend it to my own children as teenagers! It hadn't seemed relevant yet. Of course, my kids are only 6, 8, and 4 months old. They still need a lot of parental guidance. They do seem to believe everything they hear for the most part--even that Bounty is the "best" paper towel and we must buy it now! They even believe the TV ads for Floam even though we already bought Floam and they were already horribly disappointed in it! They keep thinking next time it might be different... And naturally I don't want them exposed to things before they are ready.

But looking back on my own childhood & teen years, my parents had no idea what I knew, and no idea what I was reading, either. They looked down on YA fiction in general, but only because they thought it was brain candy & not substantial enough. They suggested other books I could read (which I never took them up on...), but I chose all my own books and no one ever bothered glancing at them, as far as I recall. But even as a fairly young kid, I knew what I liked and what I thought about stuff. My mother would have passed out if she'd known I read Forever at age 11 (had she known what it was about), but even at 11, with Judy Blume being my favorite author, I thought the girl made a stupid choice and I didn't want to emulate it. When I read books with lots of swear words, I often tossed them aside on my own if they started annoying me too much--but I would have been patently offended if my parents had presumed to tell me not to read them! So I wonder how often I underestimate my own children, or if I'm not now (and I haven't had much cause to worry about this stuff yet), how much I will. I can't imagine being quite as uninvolved in my own kids' reading choices as my family was--but it's not like I've been reading all the mystery and fantasy adventure books my 8-year-old brings home, either. I trust him to choose what he likes. I'd love to be able to discuss things like this with them in the future and help them to analyze things critically, but I also have to remember I would never have wanted to discuss some of this stuff with my parents & can't imagine I would ever have told them everything! (I recently read in a magazine that if your 12-year-old daughter tells you she's in love with a boy, you shouldn't scoff that she's too young, but ask what she likes about him. I thought, wow, when I was 12, I never would have told my parents I was in love with a boy!! And I did think I was.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Strange dreams are made of this

For my 2nd post of the day... I'm not prone to posting about my dreams, but I had the world's weirdest dreams last night. The weirdest image was of dead mutant dolphins hovering in the air! They were sort of like swordfish & mostly purple... There was something about a comedy horror movie, similar to Shaun of the Dead but eerier. At one point, I was in a hotel lobby and ran into a writer friend, Kay, who was wearing white mime-style make-up on her way to do a school author visit. I was wearing a loooong black t-shirt & black jeans & was horrified to note I was wearing really grungy pink pig socks. I ran to change either my pants or socks, & found myself in a place that was a combination homeless shelter, Goodwill store, and health club for people aged 50 and up. (?!) And all I could find was a pair of yarn shoes that turned into socks I had accidentally grabbed a whole handful of, all attached to each other, but which I couldn't wear unless I "hand-conditioned" the yarn by somehow unraveling and spinning every thread in the yarn with my fingers until it looked right. Yeah.

And then it got weirder. ;-) Because I've almost never dreamed I was anyone other than me. But suddenly, in this dream, I was a teenage boy! This may be because of all the YA fiction I've been reading & trying to write, often with male protagonists, but anyway, I was a teenage boy who was alternately the best friend, step-brother, and newly adopted brother of another guy who was the son and heir of a billionaire who was a combination of Bill Gates and a successful wacky inventor (the father in the book I'm reading is a wacky inventor, though not a successful one). In the dream, the rich guy was my step-dad for most of the dream, but somehow I had no share in his riches. I had this female friend and sidekick, the kind who's always coming up with crazy schemes, and suddenly she started coming on to me. I had thought she mainly hung around me to get closer to my rich friend/brother, and I told her so. She said that had crossed her mind, but she also thought he was a spoiled brat. So we were in one of those tense moments where she was hoping that I (being a teenage guy to her teenage girl) would feel the same, and all I could think were horrible things I felt guilty about thinking, like that her eyes and nose were too big and she wore way too much make-up, and that I could only see her as a friend. (This slightly echoes back to something in one of the books I was reading last night, but still, it was weird.) And then I woke up. So who knows, maybe I can tell Dan's story after all!

(P.S. Shortly before falling asleep for the night, I had murmured something about hoping the protagonist in this book I'm reading didn't end up being like the protagonist of the very strange, dream-oriented movie The Science of Sleep, so maybe I was asking for it. Could explain the sock yarn stuff, anyway, since fabric arts figure prominently in that movie.)

Book therapy

I've heard that when women get depressed, they may shop. Especially for shoes. I had a very bad day yesterday, and feeling very depressed in the evening, I escaped to go shop for...books! Who needs shoes when there are books?!

I didn't even know what I was going to do or why. I just had to get out of the house and found myself making my way, like a homing pigeon, to Barnes & Noble. It was one of those bad days with the baby where I felt the full weight of what I'd gotten myself into by having a baby at nearly 40 years old, not just an "oh no the baby's crying and I can't catch a break" day, but an "oh no my life was finally supposed to start now but this puts it off 5 more years and there's no way my dreams could entail waiting until I'm 45 to pursue them so they're all defunct" day. I think I instinctively went to where I feel most myself, where the things I care about are. I thought I'd look at magazines, but I couldn't get interested in them. (In a move that would shock & horrify my children, I even chose not to purchase the latest Neopets magazine....) I found myself going to the YA section, where I stood in amazement looking at all the pretty covers and all the enticing-looking books. They have made the YA section much bigger in the past year, and the books mostly looked fantastic! I looked through many of them with longing.

Finally, I treated myself by doing something I have probably not done in 20 years: I bought two full-priced books I'd never even heard of before! One even by an author I'd never heard of before! And a hardback, at that! I will occasionally buy a hardback by an author I know personally, though usually at Amazon prices. I pulled out all the stops this time. I bought a graphic novel, of all things (the first I've read), The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, and then Going Nowhere Faster by Sean Beaudoin. Further maximizing my retreat into comfort items, I found myself stopping on the way home for a Coke Slurpee and a Twix. Mmmm.

I read The Plain Janes as soon as I got home, which only took about 20 minutes. I enjoyed it, even if it did seem improbable that a town would react to something like bubbles in the town fountain as an act of terrorism or frightening criminal vandalism...but then, I guess comics are supposed to be a bit over the top (most real-life bad guys don't go to quite the lengths of, say, the Green Goblin). Still, it made me think of Footloose, with the town that banned dancing until the young people revolted, and the 80's song "99 Luftballons," with its idea that the sighting of some balloons by paranoid people could set off a nuclear war. I found the graphic novel format interesting and realized I could tell most of my stories in a lot fewer words. I also particularly liked the way the protagonist's eyes told the story a couple of times where her love interest was involved. There's an ad in the back for another graphic novel I'll definitely keep an eye out for (Good as Lily), about an 18-year-old girl who suddenly finds herself in the presence of versions of herself at 6, 29, and 70 years old. I'm fascinated already.

I'm halfway through Going Nowhere Faster, and loving it so far. I said before that I liked books with footnotes, but this one has something I relate to even more: parentheses. It's loaded with parenthetical remarks, and that's how I think. The character also reminds me a lot of my protagonist Dan, in my mostly unwritten book Can't Beet It, only funnier than Dan in ways that make me hit my head for not making Dan funnier. I'm beginning to think I can't do my story justice at all, when I see how much more other writers are doing with theirs than I'd even thought to do with mine. But no matter, the point is that I'm so glad (so far) I took a chance on this book. It has some things in common with An Abundance of Katherines (which I started to write a post about, which I haven't posted yet), in that the protagonist was a gifted child who has grown up without reaching his potential (something I have particular interest in, as a person who graduated high school at 16 and is still waiting for a book contract at nearly 40!), and it has those parentheses while the Katherines book has footnotes, but it's not too similar otherwise except that I like them both.

I have so much to post about, I'm breaking it into 2 or 3 posts, so that's all for that one.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Meet the Robinsons

Recently, we saw Meet the Robinsons in 3-D. Although the reviews I'd seen were mixed, and most parents I'd seen mention it online seemed to think it was just okay, I really liked the movie. The 3-D was a cool extra, and I'm sure we will buy the movie on DVD, 3-D or not. However, it's impossible to separate my feelings for it from the fact that I have a science nerd, inventor wanna-be son very much like the movie's main character, Lewis. Lewis's diagrams in the movie, which might look crazy to other viewers, reminded me a lot of my son's own diagrams! Also, even before my son existed, I had met William Joyce, whose book inspired the movie, and I'd been looking out for this movie for years.

About 10 years ago (yikes!), before I had children at all, I attended an SCBWI conference in the Dallas area. One of the speakers was William Joyce, and I bought a signed copy of his book A Day with WIlbur Robinson, and also a copy of George Shrinks. I found his work delightful, and at the time, he told us he was working with Disney to make a movie of the Wilbur Robinson book. A year went by, and I had a son, Ryan. Then I had another son, and somewhere in there William Joyce came out with an animated kids' show, Rolie Polie Olie, which Ryan chose as the theme for his 4th birthday party, even though there was almost nothing available for it. (I made Olie cupcakes for the occasion.) Later, there was a show based on George Shrinks, which also became a favorite of Ryan's. Ryan seemed to come out of the womb with an intuitive sense of math and a strong interest in science, so he's always wanted to be an inventor, and William Joyce's wacky, retro yet futuristic worlds, with quirky characters and lots of cool inventions, have always been right up his alley. But that first movie I'd heard about never showed up until finally, after I had yet a third son, Meet the Robinsons came out this year. I hadn't been thrilled with Robots, which William Joyce also had a hand in (though of course Ryan liked it), so I wasn't all that excited about this movie--the book is a short picture book that wouldn't support a movie as it was, so I felt pretty sure they would have ruined it. And the reviews were fairly lackluster. But when I found out it was showing in 3-D, we took the whole family out to see it, even taking the baby! (It was a weekday afternoon when it had been out a while, so there was only one other family in the theater--and the baby slept through the whole thing.)

I walked away from this movie with such a positive feeling. I know that not everyone would have the same opinion--many reviews mentioned it feeling too fast-paced or frenetic, and I didn't even notice that! But even though I had many reasons to like it, for us the best thing about it was the theme, "Keep moving forward." Both Ryan and his brother Kyle have SUCH a hard time with that. Ryan often panics and gives up very easily at the first difficulty, whereas Kyle stubbornly digs in his heels and refuses to change what he is trying to do even if it is very clear it isn't working and isn't going to work. Neither one moves forward easily. So we have probably repeated, "Keep moving forward!" about 10 times just since we've seen it, when difficulties have arisen, and it has proved very careful to have that catchphrase they can relate to. It helped them both to finally learn to ride their bikes without training wheels last week, learning that they could work through the frustration and failures and eventually succeed. And of course, it's a great lesson for me, too, especially as a writer!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

You know you're on the computer too much when... want your empty drink cup thrown away, so you ask your husband to please delete your cup. Yes, I said that, and no, I wasn't trying to be funny. That's really the first word that came into my head for that action. (Though since I also wanted him to bring me a new drink, he said I should have asked him to reboot my drink!)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Write like you meme it

From memegirls: Copy the questions into your blog and answer them. Then tag five other writers to do the same!

1. Do you outline? Not exactly. I usually just start writing, and eventually find myself needing to write a general outline of sorts to get me to the end, but it's usually more like a summary or synopsis of the major story points. And I don't always do even that. Sometimes I don't do it until I finish a draft, when it's time to start on revisions and I need to fix the plot. But I tend to start off writing off the top of my head.

2. Do you write straight through a book, or do you sometimes tackle the scenes out of order? Almost always straight through. Sometimes I jot notes or partial scenes for future parts of the book before I really get to that point, but I prefer to write most of it in order.

3. Do you prefer writing with a pen or using a computer? Computer, but I sometimes write notes for the story in longhand, or switch to writing in longhand to shake up my perspective and get through a block, or write in longhand when I'm not near a computer! I really enjoy writing in longhand, but it's usually just not fast enough.

4. Do you prefer writing in first person or third? I prefer first, but I usually try each story both ways just to make sure I'm picking what works best for the story. First person may come easier because of my theatre background, or maybe just because I'm used to talking and thinking my own thoughts in first person!

5. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, do you create a playlist, listen randomly, or pick a single song that fits the book? It seems unusual these days, but I don't listen to music while I write! If I'm really into the writing, there could be a rock band playing in my living room and I'd hardly notice, but I don't go out of my way to listen to music while writing. I've tried a couple of times and it usually distracts me too much when I'm getting started.

6. How do you come up with the perfect names for your characters? My characters normally show up in my head with names already! When I have to brainstorm about one, it's hard, but I usually just try out lots of possibilities until something seems right. I've always loved reading books and web sites about names and naming, so I have a lot of names in my head as it is.

7. When you're writing, do you ever imagine your book as a television show or movie? Sometimes I do that on purpose when I'm stuck in the story. I try to picture it as a movie or TV show, and imagine what I'd like to see happen next--or how I'd start the story or approach it in general. The medium really changes the way it's presented, and that sometimes kickstarts new ideas for approaching the text. I'm probably inclined to do this because I have a degree in Radio/TV/Film. I never imagine it will get made into a TV show or movie, though...the stuff I write doesn't usually lend itself to that. But that's one reason I like the exercise of imagining it that way, because it forces me to think more of action and visuals instead of getting stuck in the character's head too much (unless I start imagining it as something like Scrubs, where there's a ton of voiceover narration!).

8. Have you ever had a character insist on doing something you really didn't want him/her to do? I expect so. My characters definitely surprise me all the time! One time, I wanted to change the narrator of my story, but the character I was switching to just wouldn't tell it the way I liked it, so I had to take away her microphone and give the story back to the original MC.... Odd how that happens.

9. Do you know how a book is going to end when you start it? Sometimes I don't even know what it's about! (I tend to start with just a character in a situation.) But if I do know what it's about, I usually have at least a vague idea how I want it to end. But then, maybe I shouldn't. Maybe I'd get to the ending more often if I wasn't trying to find my way to an ending that might not fit the story anymore...hmm.

10. Where do you write? On my laptop, on my lap, wherever that happens to be! Generally, on the couch, on a chair, on my bed, or occasionally in the car (either parked or as a passenger, not the driver!), or at Barnes & Noble (in longhand) or at the library. I've worked at a desk or table a few times, but don't have an office. I wish I did! I thinks it helps me to focus if I have a dedicated space for writing. Once I'm going, I can keep going, but it's easier to get started in a good writing environment.

11. What do you do when you get writer's block? Brainstorm. Try writing in longhand. Journal about the story or characters. Try to imagine it playing out on a screen. Sleep on it. Take a walk or drive. Give up for a while and work on something else! Any or all of the above, and probably a lot of other things, too. And of course, just write through it, and throw out all the crap that comes out the first few tries, and keep anything good that comes along when I finally stumble into something that works. (And don't tell me writer's block doesn't exist, because it's one of my pet peeves when people say that. Maybe it shouldn't exist, or doesn't exist for you, but it exists for me. But I won't do the Emma Thompson in Stranger Than Fiction thing and refuse to try writing anything until I'm sure what's going to work...and definitely won't get an assistant sent to me by a publisher to help me break my block! Though in that movie, it did work out best that she didn't write anything until she did....)

12. What size increments do you write in (either in terms of wordcount, or as a percentage of the book as a whole)? Any and all! I don't normally have a wordcount-per-day or page-per-day goal, but I've tended to write between 500 and 2,000 words in a day (when writing novels, not picture books!). But I've probably had 10-word days (not to mention all the 0-word days), and I've had at least one 10,000-word-day during NaNoWriMo, as well as some 7,000-word days. I write manuscripts of all different lengths, though, from poems and very short picture book texts to my longest manuscript, a YA novel of about 60,000 words.

13. How many different drafts did you write for your last project? I don't know how to count revisions. I'm always tweaking, so except for the first time through, I never know when one draft is "finished" and the next draft begins. Suffice it to say, more than one!

14. Have you ever changed a character's name midway through a draft? Yes. In one case, I realized I had three characters with one-syllable names with a long "a" sound, so Paige ended up becoming Gena.

15. Do you let anyone read your book while you're working on it, or do you wait until you've completed a draft before letting someone else see it? I prefer not to share it before it's done, but because I've occasionally needed something to submit for conference critiques or critique groups, I have shared chapters of unfinished manuscripts. (It's also much easier to get someone to read a chapter than a whole book!)

16. What do you do to celebrate when you finish a draft? Rest! And probably jump up and down and shout it to the world. Sadly, this doesn't happen often enough for me to really know what I "normally" do.

17. One project at a time, or multiple projects at once? I've done both. I normally have one "main" project, but if things aren't going well, I sometimes have a bad habit of skipping around, unable to settle on one thing for long, and if things are going well, I often find that writing begets writing, and I have so many ideas I start writing more stuff! The month I did NaNoWriMo and completed a YA novel manuscript, I was so inspired I also wrote 16,000 moe words on two other projects! (But only after meeting my NaNo word count quota.) I guess it helps that when I was a technical writer, I often had to work on 7 or 8 manuals at a time.

18. Do your books grow or shrink in revision? Both. I tend to write long so they have to get tighter, but I've also had to add scenes or even chapters. My longest manuscript got a little longer, but my short stories usually shrink.

19. Do you have any writing or critique partners? I've been in critique groups in the past, but I'm not now. I have asked individual writers to read stuff for me on occasion, though. Actually, two local writer friends recently asked if I wanted to form an informal critique group with them & I said yes but nothing has happened with it yet & I'm not sure if it will. I have also paid for critiques in the past.

20. Do you prefer drafting or revising? Drafting!

I tag anyone who wants to answer.