Thursday, November 22, 2018

When Your Book is on One of Those Lists...

It's weird, you know, when you see your book on one of these library "issues" lists. It's cool, of course, to know that someone actually has a hard copy on a shelf somewhere. But there's always a part of me that wonders two things: (1) Is my book really just about an "issue" - because, when I wrote it, I was thinking about siblings and families and music and high school and growing up you know? and (2) If there are teens who face these issues in their lives, is my book doing them good?

Which brings me to the larger question: Are the books in which we most clearly see ourselves the ones that inspire, guide, speak to us most deeply? Could my book be balm to the soul of a person trying to understand the meaning of loneliness - the differences between need and love? When you think of the stories the touched your heart growing up, were they stories about the "you" that existed, the "you" of your most secret dreams, or a "you" as yet unimaginable - your connection to the narrative being the indefinable sort that means so much but cannot be put into words.

Honestly, these sorts of "issues" lists help keep The Sound of Letting Go in print. I hope that its inclusion means that librarians, educators and other people dedicated to helping young adults think that the story I wrote adds value to the canon, but there's no denying that it's a kind of pressure - and maybe its own sort of limitation.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Scrivener Revisited

Backstory: It's been a fallow year for my novel-writing career (intentional rhyme) but a delightful twelve months at the day job. I'm learning, creating and indulging my passions for consonance, rhyme and catchy turns-of-phrase.

All of that above paragraph has been filed under notes in - yes - Scrivener to which I've returned after much avoidance and denial for my new young adult writing project.

I've tried Scrivener before, largely inspired by Justine Larbalestier's comments about writing her amazing novel, LIAR, in Scrivener.  Other amazing YA authors, including April Henry, Daisy Whitney, Maureen Johnson and Lisa Yee can all be found gushing on Scrivener's "Testimonials" pages.

A few observations I made the last time I tried Scrivener, a few years back...

  • Its components are fairly intuitive or easy to learn.
  • It is useful having organized repositories for backstory, primary and secondary character worksheets, setting pages, and subplot ideas.
  • I enjoy seeing a word count build for a given chapter or section, which feels satisfying.
  • Being able to move chapters around in a more graphic format (instead of the old cut-and-paste) helps me avoid becoming mired in micro-edits which I know I should really save for later.
  • It's a little bit!

  • So, once again, I find myself

    A scrivener using Scrivener

    Admittedly, last time, life got in the way and that manuscript is still a work-in-progress. But I'm feeling that need for order and accountability in the writing process as I try to work novel-writing back into my happy-yet-hectic life. Here's hoping...!

    If you've tried Scrivener, let me know. I'd love to hear about your experiences!

    Tuesday, May 29, 2018


    • OR the magical distinction between YA and adult literature
    • OR why Mia Thermopolis is not the same as Lee Fiora
    The evolution of the YA bookshelf is a frequent topic amongst publishing professionals. We point to Maureen Daly’s 1942 novel SEVENTEENTH SUMMER, the National Library Association’s coining of the phrase “young adult” in the 1960s, and the 1970s heyday of Judy Blume and Robert Cormier . We marvel at Harry Potter and Twilight, and we look uncertainly into the mid-twenty-first century, as “chick lit” and “new adult” came and went faster than the kale fad. Now, we ask ourselves, what’s next for YA – and what is (was) it anyway?

    What, for example, makes Curtis Sittenfeld’s PREP or SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS by Marisha Pessle adult books, while prep school turns by E. Lockhart (THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS) or Daisy Whitney (THE MOCKINGBIRDS) are intuitively placed on the young adult shelf?

    It’s an oft-posed question about the genre: Why isn’t every novel with a high school-aged protagonist a work of young adult literature?  The theme of most replies to this question is that YOUNG ADULT novels feature not only teen protagonists but cathartic – dare I say hopeful – endings. That, in the end, the protagonist emerges not merely more or less triumphant over mortality or evil or agnostic despair but, also with a sense that things will take a turn for the better. So, in simple sum: optimism equals young adult. Can that be? I think there’s more.

    In terms of narrative structure, Martel’s and Sittenfeld’s protagonists tell their tales looking back ruefully, with sober comprehension that they are not, in fact any better now than they were when their stories unfolded and that the world is a place that demands less-than. In adult fiction, if you’re a princess you’re Diana, not Meghan Markle.
    Sometimes it takes more courage not to let yourself see. Sometimes knowledge is damaging - not enlightenment but enleadenment.  Blue van Meer, SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS by Marisha Pessl
    In the end, there was always your regular life, and no one could deal with it but you. Lee Fiora, PREP by Curtis Sittendfeld

    Meanwhile, Cabot’s and Whitney’s teen protagonists reach their stories’ ends “un-enleadened.”
    Yes, I am a freak. But you know what? Someday, I just might grow out of that. But you, you will never stop being a jerk. -- Mia Thermopolis, THE PRINCESS DIARIES MOVIE based on the novel by Meg Cabot
    It is not mere optimism that Mia reveals, but a greater sense of evolutionary identity – the possibility of transcendence, of transformation. Despite their youth, the teen protagonists of adult novels emerge from their travails “sadder but wiser” as the cliché goes. Meanwhile, Daisy Whitney’s Alex – not unlike J. K. Rowling’s wizard hero Harry Potter – takes on a leadership role in the group that initially saved her life and becomes, on a bigger-than-self scale, a fighter against evil. And Cabot’s Mia Thermopolis finds out both that she really is royalty and that she can be noble on her own terms.

    And so, perhaps, it is not the age of the protagonist that defines a novel’s genre so much as the sense that who we are is not all that we can or will be. That, perhaps, the world can be saved. And that hope is not lost EXPRESSLY BECAUSE of our own innate potential. Or, to quote a red-head:
    Anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve. -  Ginny Weasley, HARRY POTTER series by J.K. Rowling

    Wednesday, May 9, 2018


    Saturday, May 12, 2018
    10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
    Second Saturdays Writing Program at Woodinville Library 
    17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville 

    Join me for an interactive workshop on writing a 250-word book pitch. We'll discuss how this exercise can help you identify plot and character questions, guide early revisions, and draft an irresistible query letter (er, email) to send to agents. This class is designed to benefit both beginning writers and people ready to submit their work.

    The workshop is free and registration is not required. 
    For more details, click here

    Sunday, April 15, 2018

    Words & Taxes

    April is so many things.

    National Poetry Month,
    middle spring,
    tax time...

    Somehow the confluence of rhythmic prose, daffodils, and mathematical percentages always leads me to reconsider the path of the fiction writer.

    Do you have a particular time of year when you wonder what and what-if and whether you should keep on logging word after word in hopes of creating a story worthy of sharing with the world?

    January, maybe? Are you a New Year's Resolution-maker?

    Or perhaps each November you delve into the dizzying challenges of NaNoWriMo.

    I believe that taking an honest look at your writing life is a worthy practice. Not for every day, but occasionally, at that certain season. And I hope that you find the desire to keep going still burns like the sting of writing that tax check or digging your hands into newly-thawed soil

    I do.