Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Some people wear their heart on their sleeves. I wear mine on my desk! When my desk is a mess, usually, so is my life.

A year ago, I thought my life was finally on a perfect path - I was on the path of a writer. Now here I am, still in the same place. Things are looking very familiar; the bend in the road, I've tripped over this bump before, the fork, that tree, this sign... I've been here before.

I thought I learned, but perhaps I didn't. Not really. I still have not broken into the freelancing world enough to support not "working" so I can stay home and write my novel and be there for my kids. Once again, it is that old tug of war between needing to make money, and wanting to write and be with my kids. What's a writer to do??? Or any artistic type for that matter.

I read books about the law of attraction and thought I truly surrendered, but tell me, how do you know when surrendering is not working... When they turn off your power? Take away your house? When?

OK, so none of that has happened to me. YET! Thank G-d. But I just don't know how to do this. I want to be a writer so badly. But more than that, I want to be able to sustain my life by being a writer. Is that so much to ask?

Say, you were an engineer. You loved math and solving mathematical questions. So you went to college and studied and worked really hard and graduated with a degree in engineering. Now say, there actually weren't any jobs where you could interview, actually interview. So instead, you stayed home and worked on hypothetical problems hoping one day someone would recognize the elegance in your equation and finally pay you for the years of turmoil and dedication you already put into engineering. Sounds crazy right? But that's what we all do. That's what we are all doing right now.

We, perhaps, studied English or art in college and poured our heart and soul into it to only graduate and not know what to do with our studies. Or perhaps you were like me with parents who warned me there'd be days like this, so I majored in music and education instead. So, now I am here... we are here... writing for no other reason than we must. Hoping, waiting, praying, surrendering to the Universe, that the right editor, agent, publisher will be paired up with us (Universally speaking) and all our dreams will finally come true to pay us for all the years or turmoil and dedication.

But what if that doesn't happen? What if that never happens? Sure. I must be positive. Yeah. I know. The law of attraction. But honestly, we are all hoping and dreaming on an industry that is backwards and one of the hardest to break in to. Again, name another profession you study and work towards, but there is no actual job for? Only the very few, lucky ones, get a job.

Yes, I am a little bitter today. And I am sorry for unloading. But hey, this is a Diary of a Children's Book Writer, right? And this is the honest truth of what a writer's down is like. You question your whole life's work and wonder why you MUST do what you do.

If G-d gives us each talents, and if ours is to be writers and artists, why then, why can't that talent feed my family? And not... well, it might, one day feed your family. Why can't it feed my family TODAY?

So, yes, my desk reflects my inner feelings. I am frustrated. I want to be positive. I want to believe. I want to make it. I want to be successful. I want to believe that if G-d gave me this talent it was not to simply torture me with.

I do truly believe I can be a great writer. I do truly believe my novel can be a well-read book. I do truly believe I can have that life. But my trouble is... this path, this familiar stretch of bends and hills and bumps... is so dark and murky with haze that I cannot see where I am supposed to go to fully realize that picture I see and believe is a possibility in my head. I don't know how to navigate on this road, my journey. I don't see a light at the end of my tunnel. Yet. And so for now, me and my desk... we're a mess!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Patience is a Virtue, but not so much in a Book...

Hey everyone. I was visiting everyone's blogs and catching up when PJ Hoover's blog posting on patience made me realize something! I don't know the last time I had an epiphany, but it always feels so darn good to have one, doesn't it?

So she was talking about having patience in your life and I realized, while patience is a virtual in real life, in a book, it is a downright killer. Your Main Character needs to have a sense of urgency in order to move the book forward, keep the reader interested, and make the story captivating.

Imagine if your MC had acquired patience... "Oh, that's OK Johnny, we can save Dad tomorrow. No need to hurry or freak out about it. The sun is setting and it will dangerous for us to go now. Let's get a good night sleep, eat a hardy breakfast and break out tomorrow...."

Of course I can think of a few books where acquiring patience was an integral part of the story, like Island of the Blue Dolphins, or Sign of the Beaver. But these main characters' lives depended on having patience and, they had to learn how to have patience. The writer had to write scenes before showing a lack of patience so growth, and the pain that comes with learning this life lesson, could be felt by the reader. But it doesn't, in my opinion, make for the most thrilling reading. It was heart felt, and interesting, and necessary, but it was not nail biting, sitting on the edge of your seat, thrilling reading. At least not for me - I liked both books very much, but not for the thrill of the ride. And not every book has to be wirtten that way, nor should it.

But let's think about this... In life you should not lie, steal, cheat, hurt or cause harm, etc. But in a book, these not so favorable life characteristics make for better reading.

Let's hear from you. I have my theories on why this is. But what do you think? Why do you think the tragically flawed protagonist is still the most favorable way to write since before Shakespeare?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Writing Exercise - Adding Layers

On my other blog, The Hunterdon County Children's Writer's Group, I try to give writing exercises once or twice a month. So, I thought this week, I would post it on this blog as well.

This month's writing exercise is all about layers and meaning. Here are a few sentences that you will have to add the layers to, and give the sentences their meaning and dimension. You may use gestures (let's keep this rated PG-13 or lower please), one or more of the five senses, props, etc.

My favorite example of this I know I have used before, but I think it is a point well taken...The simple scene is... a man and a woman... a girl and a boy... a frog and a turtle... You decide.

"I love you," he said.
"How nice," she replied.

Can you say, BORING! It is not the words alone that paint a scene, it is all of the above mentioned that give a scene it's meaning and tone - the layers.

So what if the lines were set up and delivered like this...

The gymnasium was disguised, but not well. The streamers and balloons, disco ball hanging from the ceiling, the D-class garage band on the stage, it was all supposed to make us feel we were anywhere but in the HS gym. But we were not fooled. Well, maybe I was... just a little.

Maybe it was the low lighting, or maybe Peters really did spike the punch, but when Cindy pressed her way through the crowd and made her way next to me, my heart leaped to my throat.

Act cool, I told myself, but I just couldn't. She was there for punch. Not me. Her dress, the lighting, the way her silky, blonde hair cascaded downward as she reached for a plastic, pink cup... I don't know what came over me.

Actually I didn't mean to say it out loud. I only meant to think it, quietly, in my head. But there they were - my words fell heavy, like a ton of bricks, and remained thick in the air, "I love you," I squeaked.

She froze. Stood straight. Turned and looked me in my eyes. I froze. Panic surged from my toes to the tips of the hairs on my head. Her cell phone rang. She reached in her purse and checked to see who was calling.

"How nice," she said flatly as she flipped open her Envy. "Oh-my-gawd, Jen, you'll never believe what just happened..."

OK so now's your turn.

The phrase is...
"I love you," he said.
"How nice," she said.

How can you set this scene by adding layers? Don't worry about the word count. It can be tailored to fit a PB, MG or YA novel, poem, whatever... or don't even be concerned with your target audience. How can you put the meaning behind those simple words? It could be requited, unrequited, or not even heard... you decide.

Post your short story in the comments section. Oh and the due date... let's say by May 20th.

Happy Writing,
“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous