Kick-Starting Your Writing

If you’re like me, you have never been on a motorcycle. The idea is intriguing, but it was hard enough for me to learn to ride a bike. Add in seeing a few motorcycle accidents and watching a friend get pinned under one, my desire to rev that engine is now next to nil. Then, I read something like this: “I had a dream about a motorcycle,” said Harry, remembering suddenly. “It was flying.” Uncle Vernon nearly crashed into the car in front. He turned right around in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like a gigantic beet with a mustache: “MOTORCYCLES DON’T FLY!” Dudley and Piers sniggered. “I know they don’t,” said Harry. “It was only a dream.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone What if motorcycles could fly? Or pigs could talk? Or chickens could dance? I’ve seen all these things happen in the pages of books. But how do people get these ideas to begin with? (I was going to make an amazing analogy of how writing is like a motorcycle, but after doing my research—a very important aspect of good writing—I’ve learned it’s more complicated then just kicking the engine. Actually, if you’re literally kicking the engine, you might damage the motorcycle and/or your foot.) But back to writing, something I know a little about… Every writer is unique, but here are a few things I do when I want inspiration for a new book: My local café – I can’t work in quiet solitude for long or I fall asleep. So I go to a coffee house, get a pastry and coffee, and sit in a corner with my computer. Alternate news sources – Whether or not the stories are true, they’re chopped full of strange ideas—the flat earth theory, sentient insects, black goo, Planet X. Even if you don’t write sci-fi, these headlines might stretch your brain enough to find the perfect idea for your new novel. Staring into space – Once I have an idea, I have to look away from my computer. I keep my fingers posed over my keyboard and type my thoughts. It might be days or weeks later, but I eventually get an idea I want to expand upon. Whether or not you do what I do, the point is to keep thinking and writing. You can scribble notes on a napkin or draw in a journal or make an outline on your... read more

The WWAT Crew Hits a Conference!

There’s nothing like spending a Saturday in a room full of writers, learning from the leaders of the publishing world. This weekend we were privileged to hear from some of the best. Jodell Sadler of Sadler Children’s Literary taught us the ten P’s of Pacing. Vicki Selvaggio of Jennifer DeChiara Literary touched on tension/suspense, dialogue, pacing, world building, plot, characters, and marketability. Jason Henry of Dial Books gave us an insight into the process and work that goes into illustrating picture books. Karl Jones of Grosset and Dunlap cultivated our creativity. Sara Sargent of Harper Collins had us laughing and learning about adding humor to our stories. Today, I want to talk about the last speaker – Carter Hasegawa of Candlewick. Carter taught us the value of losing. Failure isn’t something we often want to think about. Let’s face it, failure is scary, failure is painful, failure is awful. But Carter made us rethink the meaning of defeat. As writers, we put our hearts and souls into telling stories, and then we offer ourselves to the world. I’m not sure if we’re insane, masochistic, or a little of both. More times than not, the world rips us apart. We’re told no, sometimes without knowing why. Rejection, critique, and red wine become an integral part of our lives. Carter taught us that failure doesn’t mean defeat. Every rejection is a learning experience. It makes us stronger and better writers. We’re only defeated when we give up. So the next time that heart-wrenching letter of rejection comes in, drink your wine, eat your chocolate, cry if you must, but afterward, take a deep breath and know that you are one step further in fulfilling your... read more

The Power of the Library

The WWAT Crew just got a new member and if that isn’t exciting enough, she is a librarian. Now in my book, librarians are rock stars. They are the keepers of the most amazing places on Earth and they know what the readers want. Am I right? Libraries have a plethora of information on any curiosity one might have and the means to take you on any adventure your heart desires. The only drawback is you have to be quiet which I find it difficult to contain myself when I am so happy. And no it’s also not cool, to smack the person in the chair next to you to share the most amazing scene you just read either. My husband has informed me of that. My Mom was a friend of the library and my Dad was always studying this or that so needless to say I spent a lot of time in libraries growing up. Which may be why they give me the feeling of home when I am far away. However, there was a time when I forgot the magic of my special place. Instead, as a college grad and a working woman, I liked to hang out in bookstores and buy everything. Which was cool and all, until I had children. All of a sudden I had to practice self-restraint which is really, really hard when you want all the books. But, guess what? There is a place where self-restraint goes out the door (Not exactly. There’s a limit to how many books and how long. Oh yeah and that whole being quiet thing). Libraries made it possible for me to continue writing and to do fun things with my kids. I’d sign them up for story time, which I’m pretty sure we both loved equally. I’d scour the shelves for them and me. I found out which stories kids loved and I got to keep up with the latest books in kidlit. It worked best before they were mobile. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they take after their mother. They love books, but have trouble with the whole self-control too so I have to be a very attentive mom. Often the middle grade section is by the picture books, but it is rare that the young adult section is. I get it they don’t want to be hanging out near the little ones. Anyways my kids wouldn’t just stay with me in the section I was... read more

It’s Conference TIME!

Ernest Hemingway said, “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.” And if you’re a writer you know this to be true. For the most part when you fire up your favorite word processing app, it’s just you, a white screen, and the steady sound of clicking keys or your favorite tunes. Even if your favorite writing haunt is a well-trafficked coffee shop, when the characters start talking, it’s just you and them. On good days, writing transcends time as you measure the day not with hours and minutes, but with word counts and pages. And on a bad day, well, there’s always the internet to distract us. And when we go out? Enter our personal body guard: the cell phone. I recently read a number of articles discussing the dynamics of smartphone usage. Almost all of the authors mentioned that only after they temporarily put aside their phones did they see how reclusive their phones had prompted them to become.  The point? As previously mentioned, we writers tend to like being alone. We often work hard to find ways to avoid living/breathing human interaction, and if we do get in public? We use earbuds and glass screens to wall ourselves off. Now, the point isn’t to introvert-shame anyone. Nor is it to say that our writing suffers by not experiencing real-life human interaction (it does, but that’s a different post). The point is to offer you a friendly public-service announcement: ATTEND A WRITER’S CONFERENCE! Yes, yes, yes. You’ve seen through my disgustingly obvious endorsement. But it’s true. Most states have writing conferences of some type. WWAT’s favorite, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has 51 chapters in the US alone and over 80 Worldwide. “So what?” you say. So here’s an organization with people just like us. An organization made up of people who struggle like we do, sympathize, and most importantly, empathize with our situations. It’s an organization where we can attend a conference and be our introverted selves in a most excessive extroverted manner–you have to attend to know what I’m talking about. And the best part? After you’ve been to one, you too get to be the one saying, “I can’t wait to see everyone again!” Now, having said all of that, IF you happen to be in the Oklahoma City area <lame humor>and really, who isn’t since we are ridiculously centrally located </lame humor>, sign up. There’s still time. Hope to see you there! (And if it’s past Saturday the 16th... read more