Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Make a Merry List

Image
Gift yourself with this quick writing exercise. On a rumpled scrap of wrapping paper, jot down... Three things that sparkle Three things that bring joy Three things that inspire you Three favorite toys Three incredible authors One favorite phrase Two books that you'll read soon Your plan to amaze

Will You Write for Christmas?

Image
Every year around this time, as I frantically bake cookies and wrap presents for the family, I vow that I'll give myself the gift of writing time. Sometimes, it's overwhelmingly difficult to tear myself away from the kids and the fun to pound out those words. I want to be all things to all people. I want everyone else's holiday to be perfect, which means doing an epic amount of 'mom-ing.' So, will it happen this year? Will I start my usual New Year's resolution in advance? Will you? Here's hoping!

Second Saturdays: FREE FIRST PAGES INTERACTIVE WORKSHOP

Image
First Page or One-Page Synopsis Interactive Workshop  Free & Open to the Public SATURDAY,  December 9, 2017, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM Woodinville Library, 17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville, WA Join Second Saturdays favorites Sara Nickerson and Holly Cupala for an interactive workshop. BRING YOUR ONE-PAGE SYNOPSIS OR FIRST MANUSCRIPT PAGE to submit (anonymously) to the group. You’ll hear it read aloud and receive constructive feedback for polishing your piece.       www.hollycupala.com           www.saranickerson.com This workshop will be FRIENDLY, POSITIVE, ANONYMOUS (for submitting writers) and CONSTRUCTIVE. Please consider taking advantage of this exciting FREE opportunity which is usually only available within expensive writing retreats and conferences. BE BRAVE! Below are some guidelines to help you prepare. If you have additional questions, feel free to email me at stasiakehoe (at) msn (dot) com. WHAT TO BRING: ONE (1) copy of your the first page o

New Steed, NaNoWriMo, Darkness & Light

Image
It's been a whirlwind fall, which is my best pathetic excuse for the lack of posts. Okay, here's a better one: NaNoWriMo. I've 'won' NaNo before - completing 50k words in thirty short days with the yield of an utterly un-publishable manuscript but a heartily beefed-up writing muscle. This time, my goal is more moderate. The plan is to simply write a little every day and to be kind to myself with the understanding that, for me, for right now, life is a balancing act of parenting, partnering, working, exercising, socializing and, of course, getting those letters on the page. At my current unspeakable age, I have learned that all of these are important and the trick is to pay a little attention to each in turn. Behold, my October in pictures. Top right is my last outdoor ride before the rains began, at Seattle's Gasworks Park with my awesome new bicycle. On the left is a piece of the Berlin Wall on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Definitely worth t

Ah, Stephen Crane, we need you now...

A man said to the universe:    "Sir, I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me "A sense of obligation."

Chill-Weather Reads

Image
                     This fall, my reading list is lush with worlds to which I can fly only via words and it feels so right to visit them while my cellular self snuggles by a cozy fire. Where will pages take you this season?

Small Towns in Fiction: Place as (Un)Motivator

Image
What is it about small towns and dark emotions? Having grown up quite happily in a small town, it never ceases to amaze me how places where there are more farm acres than cows accrue so many mythical attributes, particularly in fiction. Is it me, or are small towns a sort of shorthand for certain tropes, such as... social immobility financial struggle depositories of dark secrets hotbeds of gossip places with horrible high schools I suppose cities have their own stereotypes involving gangs, Wall Street and high-rise apartments. And, Blue Velvet plus The Stepford Wives has certainly totaled up some assumptions about suburbia. There's no denying that employing SETTING AS CHARACTER can be a powerful writing technique employed in books as diverse as  Wuthering Heights  and  The Hunger Games . Beyond literature, it is instructive to break down cinematic examples of this strategy, such as  Fargo, Breaking Bad , and  Lost in Translation . I recently read and enjoyed tw

FREE CLASS THIS SATURDAY AT KCLS WOODINVILLE: CHARACTER with Lish McBride

Image
SATURDAY, October 14, 2017 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM Second Saturdays Writing Program at Woodinville Library  17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville   Author ( Pyromantic; Hold Me Closer, Necromancer; Firebug ) and bookseller LISH McBRIDE returns to the Second Saturdays program to help you dig deep into character. Give fully-developed motivations to your characters’ actions. Make your protagonist more complex and your villain more compelling. A combination of discussion and writing exercises will help you refine this all-important element of your manuscript. This workshop is free and registration is not required. For more details, click here .

Come take my workshop on Saturday: THIS IS YOUR WRITING YEAR

Image
I can hardly believe everyone is back at school and work and, through the horrible haze of the wildfire smoke-clouded air, I can see the faintest glimmer of that beloved dream: A Fall Routine. I have BIG GOALS, Crazy Dreams , Small Plans, whimsical wishes and a few faint hopes . All of the aforementioned are tied to FINDING TIME. Of course, time is a precious commodity and, in my experience, the first step to achieving some goals is to let others go. To prioritize. To be honest with yourself about what you most want and need, what sacrifices you are willing to make, and what might bring you the greatest happiness. That said, I hope I believe you'll find it worth your while to join me at the WOODINVILLE LIBRARY (17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville, WA) this SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM for this year's Second Saturdays Writing Program kick-off workshop. Here's the 'press' from the Woodinville Library website : THIS IS YOUR WRITING YEAR

My July in Books & Bikes

Image
Trained for five months to prepare for 166 miles of hilly Irish countryside in County Cork and County Kerry (interspersed with pubs and some awesome gin). Worth every moment in the saddle for the views and the incredible sense of powering yourself up, up, up! Now, I'm back to reality which currently includes a full-time job, volunteer work for my local library, hosting visiting family, parenting, catching a few plays and trying to finish a new YA novel. Truth be told, my kitchen floor could use a sweep...and a vac...and a serious mop. Heck, my whole house has become a refuge for dust and clutter. I've decided to embrace the dust and love it like a sister. (My sister, btw, is one awesome chick so that's some lucky dust.) Sometimes it's hard to come up with 500 words of fiction after a day describing wacky retail stuff like toddler party dresses and glitter pens and horse bridles. On the other hand, sometimes it's amazing to spend a day flexing the writing

Are You Struggling to Write? Try Making a Change.

Image
This spring, feeling the repetitive wear of two-decades of freelance work and novel-writing from my kitchen, I went back to "work" -- the kind where you drive to an office, wear a corporate ID badge and have a lunch hour (as opposed to ALL the other kinds of equally valid and challenging types of work that take place outside the walls of buildings sporting logos). It's been amazing. I realized that having so much unstructured time was making me feel intense pressure to produce more fiction while simultaneously making me, well, blue. Since rejoining the 9-to-5 (or in my case, since I'm on eastern time 6-2) crowd, I have less time to write and more I want to say. More ideas have come to me as I make my 40-minute commute into Seattle surrounded by mountains, water and cars, than in the four daily hours I labored in my home office. Maybe it will get old. Maybe I'll start being jealous of all those scads of unaccountable time. But, for now, for today, going ba

FREE CLASS THIS SATURDAY AT KCLS WOODINVILLE: Enter the Fray - An Inside Look at the Publishing Industry with Tegan Tigani

Image
S ATURDAY, May 13, 2017 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM   Second Saturdays Writing Program at Woodinville Library  17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville   To celebrate the conclusion of this year’s Second Saturday Writing Workshops, we invite you to learn from Tegan Tigani, acquisitions editor for Sasquatch Books’ Little Bigfoot imprint, book buyer/bookseller at Queen Anne Book Company, and all-around industry expert. In her lively, interactive workshop, Tegan will take participants through the “pitch process,” explaining how pitches are used by agents, editorial boards, marketing teams, and booksellers. Gain insight into the way a publishing house works, and hone your own book pitch to perfection with writing exercises. This workshop is open to writers in grades 7 to adult. Registration is not required. For more details, click here . 

Spring Reading Recap

Image
Given our political climate, perhaps I should not be surprised that the three books at the top of my reading list all explore some aspect of the concept "us and them." In each of these novels, the main characters struggle to understand themselves in the context of their family, community and belief systems, and in contrast to those they see as "other," racially, religiously, economically, spiritually, and even intellectually.  I finally filled the gaping Barbara Kingsolver gap in my literary education by reading THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, a breathtaking exploration of a misguided Christian preacher's attempts to convert the denizens of a village in the Belgian Congo, and the decades-long repercussions of his efforts. I've been told that Angie Thomas's New York Times best-selling THE HATE YOU GIVE should not be missed, so I picked it up next and discovered that, with wry, stunning honesty and insight, Thomas, like Kingsolver, brings r

"Going There" - A Lesson in Plotting from HOMELAND and THE AMERICANS

Image
I've been struggling a bit with the manuscript lately. And I don't think it's just because life has been busy. I think, at the core, my problem is that I'm tackling something bigger--darker--than I ever have before and I am nervous. Is my story too dark? Are my scenes too melodramatic? What am I doing? In an epic act of procrastination, I did some binge-watching. Okay, a lot of binge-watching. I watched the entire current season of HOMELAND on Showtime and every available episode of THE AMERICANS on FX.  And I learned something. I love big drama. Huge moral questions. Explosions. Dire twists with dark ethical consequences. Love and loss. In the words of our current Voldemort, I like my tv "huge." So, why not my book? Inspired by the television moments that took my breath away, I decided to "go there" in my manuscript. That is to say...  When in doubt, kill the beloved character.  Make the good guys impossibly conflicted... And the

Thank Goodness that April is National Poetry Month!

Image
Just when I begin to worry that the pounding rain on my Pacific Northwest roof may drive me mad, the Academy of American Poets sweeps in to soothe my spirit with National Poetry Month . It's a balm for the soul and a wellspring of writing inspiration. My favorite feature of the month is the Poem-A-Day , but there's plenty of word beauty from which to choose, so please do celebrate in your own way. And here are a few beautiful, recent verse novels (MG and YA, fiction and nonfiction) to add to your poetic reading list:   AUDACITY by Melanie Crowder ;  THE SKY BETWEEN YOU AND ME by Catherine Alene ;  LOVING VS VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell GARVEY'S CHOICE by Nikki Grimes ;  SAVING RED by Sonya Sones There's also a pretty cool list of upcoming YA verse over at Stacked .

FREE CLASS THIS SATURDAY AT KCLS WOODINVILLE: Beginnings & Endings with Kevin Emerson

Image
S ATURDAY, April 8, 2017 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM   Second Saturdays Writing Program at Woodinville Library  17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville   How do you hook readers to ensure they don’t put your novel back on the shelf after chapter one? What questions must be answered—what mysteries must be solved—on a novel’s final pages? Do the rules change if you’re writing a stand-alone, sequel, or series?  Kevin Emerson, teacher, musician and author of LAST DAY ON MARS, BREAKOUT, and the ATLANTEANS series, will share tips for bookending your stories with powerful, effective openings and conclusions. This workshop is open to writers in grades 7 to adult. Registration is not required. For more details, click here . 

GIRL: The word, the idea, the phenomenon

Image
I was reading a recent Goodreads Young Adult Newsletter when this cover caught my eye. More specifically, a word caught my eye: GIRL. Katie Bayerl's book, A PSALM FOR LOST GIRLS , looks great. It's already on my to-read list. But that word...that word... It seems to be everywhere. I am not sure whether I am more intrigued or bothered when I see the word "girl" in a title. As a child, being called "girl" or "little girl" felt demeaning. Now, it's part of the formula for high-concept, best-selling novels, many written by women, such as Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL, Paula Hawkins' GIRL ON THE TRAIN, and Jessica Knoll's LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE.  From Lena Dunham's HBO series to Steig Larsson's trend-starting GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, the word is everywhere. And it's plentiful in YA. Look...! GIRL IN PIECES , JUST ANOTHER GIRL , GIRL CODE ,    THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE ,  STORY OF A GIRL ,   GIRLS ON FIRE I am n

Dear NPR...

Image
I am writing to thank you. Not just broadly for Snap Judgement and The Moth and the late, great Vinyl Cafe. No, I want to thank you specifically for your contribution to my work as a novelist. My strategy for writing fiction involves a fascination with characters, and a great deal of wondering. A great deal of time with sentences that begin, "What if...?" And then, er, a kind of creative plot-building supercollider. An example: My 2014 novel, THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, began with a love of jazz and a dream of writing a novel about a tough, cool girl trumpet player. An interesting notion but not quite a story. Then, driving to pick up my kids from school one day, I heard an interview with an author discussing his autistic son. Lightbulb! What if my trumpeter diva lived in a house where silence, constancy, lack of "jazz improvisation" was the only way to maintain peace for an autistic younger brother? What if the point-counterpoint of the story was sound versus s

FREE CLASS THIS SATURDAY at KCLS WOODINVILLE: WRITING SYNOPSES: AN INTERACTIVE WORKSHOP with JEANNE RYAN

Image
S ATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2017 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM   Second Saturdays Writing Program at Woodinville Library  17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville   What does it mean when an agent of editor requests a synopsis? What do you include--and what do you leave out? At what point should you create your synopsis? Jeanne Ryan, the author of the novels  Charisma  and  Nerve  (a recent movie, starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco) will share her insights into this challenging but critical component of the professional writing process. A helpful workshop for writers at all stages of the process! This workshop is open to writers in grades 7 to adult. Registration is not required. For more details,  click here .   

Searching for Meaning in YA Literature

Image
In the last few weeks, I have read two novels about cults: EDEN WEST by Pete Hautman and THIS SIDE OF SALVATION by Jeri Smith-Ready. I then revisited Jennifer Matthieu's DEVOTED. After reading this thematic group of YA novels, here are a few observations that might be useful to writers: 1. A Fundamental Sense of Agency . YA literature is noted for the centrality of its teen protagonists--a reason the "orphan" trope is common in the genre. While, in real-life, adults may offer help or guidance, in YA literature, teenagers solve problems largely on their own. In the cult setting, families are often separated by cult rules which, in many ways, strip parents of as much agency as their children. Thus, in the cult narrative, the young adult does not merely seek the independence adults are observed enjoying, but must discover the very existence of his or her own individuality and examine their rights to free thought and agency. 2. A Separate World . Cult settings disconnect

What does it mean to have a "writing career"?

Image
Six years into my journey as a "published YA author," I have accomplished the following: BOOK-WISE Published a "quiet" debut novel, AUDITION, 2011. Worked myself to the bone blog-touring, live-touring and otherwise promoting AUDITION. Paid my own way to several book events in support of AUDITION. Wrote another novel that was passed on by my editor so it is currently filed away. Contributed a short story to the DEAR TEEN ME anthology edited by Miranda Kenneally and E. Kristin Anderson, and a short entry to THE GIRL GUIDE by Christine Fonseca. Published a more successful (Junior Library Guild selection; made a few award short-lists; PW star, strong reviews) sophomore title, THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, in 2014. Did next to nothing (not even a launch party) to promote THE SOUND OF LETTING GO but the reviews have driven slightly better sales. Found out my first novel was being remaindered. Wrote a fourth novel that was passed on by my editor but I didn't wan
Book Commentary Policy: From time to time on this blog, I will comment on titles for which I have written marketing materials, or by authors I know personally. The opinions are entirely my own and I am not being compensated in any way for noting these titles. They are simply relevant to the topic I am discussing or worthy on their own merits.

Privacy Policy: Should you choose to enter a giveaway or contest via this website the information will be used solely for the purposes of drawing and contacting winners. Information collected at this site is never sold to third parties.