Remember how my last post promised updates? Here they are!
First, my ARCs (advanced reader copies) came in the mail from Chronicle Books and I was excited enough to try an Instagram reel speaking direct-to-camera. Uncomfortable? Perhaps. Authentic? Definitely. Please follow me there @annawritedraw
I had a blast sitting for my author photos with National Geographic photographer, Becky Hale. Because I knew her in another capacity, I felt very comfortable and she turned out photo after photo that were just stunning. Here’s one of my favorites. I’m so grateful!
The ARCs don’t have the final book cover, but I’m thrilled to share that with you today. Illustrator Marco Guadalupi created this fun cover that captures both the similarities and differences of Shira and Esther. I love how he subtly transmits Shira’s vigor and Esther’s studiousness. The Idylldale tenements and the story landmarks of the theater, The Heights, and the synagogue all become a theatrical background framed by the canned spotlights and the title marquee. More on the cover soon!
After so many years of working on the manuscript for SHIRA AND ESTHER’S DOUBLE DREAM DEBUT, it’s amazing to see the book–the thing that people will hold in their hands and actually read– becoming a reality. If you preorder the book from my local indie bookstore, Politics and Prose, you’ll get a signed book and additional swag! The book is also available for preorder anywhere you buy books.
After a long social media roll-out with a cover reveal…
…and a puppy countdown…
The print book is available!!!
In my last post, I discussed how I compose my rhyme. It’s a tricky thing to get rhyme right and it doesn’t just appear fully formed on the page. I showed this image of my notes:
This scribble with cross-outs, word lists, and prose eventually (with a lot of reading aloud) turned into this:
The rhyming couplets are rhythmic and great for early learners (0-3) as well emergent readers (3-6).
While my editors and I are responsible for the text, I couldn’t be more pleased with the design and photo illustrations. I’m grateful to the graphic designers at Callisto Media and Rockridge Press for making this book diverse, fun, and engaging for young readers.
The book is currently available on Amazon but if you are a bookseller or book buyer at an independent bookstore, please contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the right people!
Please follow me on my Author Page or on Instagram where I’ll be sharing a few more spreads from the book. If you purchase a book, (especially with a dog or young reader) I’d love for you to tag me @annawritedraw or use #thispupstepsup!
I know I’m not the only one who felt as if each day seemed like a year in 2017. This year was the first time I thought a 24 news cycle might be necessary. It isn’t. Constant pinging from my phone made me crazy more than once a million times this year. (Cue notification settings.) I attended the Women’s March in January and wrote constantly to my elected officials thanks to ResistBot. I had many driveway moments after NPR stories where I’d whip out my phone and text a fax to Senators King and Collins.
The political was personal this year, and I had to remind myself more than once that creating art and writing is a form of resistance. When I couldn’t write, I turned to TV.
My ability to binge on story through streaming was both a help and hindrance. I started the year with the newest season of Orange is the New Black; I enjoyed the ongoing telenovela Jane the Virgin; I was rooting for Ayana Ife in the most recent season of Project Runway; I loved Younger, a show about a 40-year old who gets an assistant’s position in publishing by lying about her age (ahem, is that how I do it?); and I got freaked out by one of my favorite books turned television show, The Handmaid’s Tale. I learn a lot about storytelling and what keeps people watching from episode to episode. Binging multiple seasons allows me to see how the arcs are similar from one season to the next. Okay, maybe that’s all justification but it’s also fun.
My favorite YA books of the year featured strong girls who didn’t start off knowing they were so kick ass: Gillian French’s, The Door to January (Yes, this is from the publisher I work for, and I really loved it); and Jennifer Mathieu’s, Moxie.
I signed with a new agent early in the year and delivered a new middle grade manuscript to her. While I wait to hear from editors on that submission, I’m busy writing a YA historical time travel that I started during NaNoWriMo. I got the first 13,500 words done in November and I’m at 18,910 today.
Personally, I sent one son off to his first-choice college this fall and helped the other through his college apps. We found out in mid-December that he got into his first choice early action. It is beyond beautiful that my boys are turning into such amazing young men. It is the one thing that fills me with hope. As part of the sandwich generation, I’ve also traveled to be with my parents. Aging sucks (in case you didn’t know) and can be filled with infirmity that begets pain and depression—but that’s another post.
Well! After looking back at my year I feel like the protagonists in my favorite YAs—a strong girl who didn’t start off knowing she was so kick ass. Bring it on 2018.
I’m currently in the Research & Development phase of my Work In Progress which reminds me of the character Conrad (Jason Bateman) in the movie The Longest Week:
Narrator: …At present, he was working on his magnum opus – a great New York novel in the tradition of Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton. It was widely speculated as to where he was in the process of writing it. When asked, he would simply reply…
Narrator: Conrad had been in the “gathering stages”for several years now.
This seed has been around for several years as well, but for various reasons the time has come to push it to the front of the idea list. The idea includes a time travel/historical element and since that has been done before it is hard to make it not derivative. These concerns keep putting me off, and yet, I keep coming back to the drawing board.
The actual act of time travel requires many world building solutions to everyday questions: what’s so special about this character that s/t/he/y gets to travel through time, what is the time travelers purpose when s/t/he/y is in another time, why time travel and not just historical fiction, how does the time travel work, does it work only to a single specific time/multiple times/past & future, can the traveler go back & forth or forward & back at will, can the traveler determine the time before s/t/he/y go, how does the main character return? (I’ve been reading and watching a lot of time travel movies/shows.)
Here’s a quick list (to organize my thoughts) of how time travel tends to work in fiction.
Time Machine or device (Back to the Future, Bill & Ted, Annum Guard Series (YA), Into the Dim (YA series). This allows the character to go to different pre-set times/worlds unless something happens to the device. TARDIS.)
Geometric (tesseract ala A Wrinkle in Time)
Rip in universe
Time ray (comics often villain has this)
Weather or Earth event
Interaction with Future Traveler who has superior technology
Endowed Magical Object/Person:
Book (Magic Tree House series: Morgan Le Fay is “Time Librarian.” Inkheart series. Really world traveling but still.)
I’m in the final pages of revision note making on my current middle grade novel WIP, and I’m finding all those things that make me roll my eyes when I see them in submissions. Ideally, I’m able to take off my writer hat, put on my self-editing hat, and catch those mistakes before my work goes to any agent or editor.
Many of these craft concerns are just part of drafting and in some cases are a writer’s own shorthand or red flag to rework a section. My personal red flags include the words: then, and then, feel, smile, see, and hear. To me, they signal that I’m about to tell, or lose a chance to be in scene showing emotion or moving the plot forward with action.
This manuscript is particularly difficult because the narrator is rather intrusive and actually has an important part to play in telling the story. What I’m finding is that I tell AND ALSO show. It’s as if I don’t really trust the characters to have their own voices or actions, nor do I trust the reader to get what I’m trying to say. Instead of just showing and letting the scene stand on its own, I write a little telling intro that goes nowhere before their scene. Like this:
My job now is to rework these scenes. Instead of summing up crucial off-stage moments after the fact or before I also show, I want to make sure that the action is happening on stage and in order. Back to the revision cave.
Weighing in a just over 35,000 words, the first draft of my newest middle grade novel is now complete.
Calm down cute, fluffy, puppy. Complete is a misleading word as there are still many miles to go before it is actually finished.
No, no. Don’t be a sad panda. Now I’ll set the draft aside to marinade, pickle, steep, sleep (Oh, sorry. That’s what I should be doing now since it is past midnight…). Normally, I’d let it rest for two weeks to a month, but I’d love to get it off my desk by the new year (resolutions and all), so I may speed up the process. Next comes a revision, then beta readers, more revisions, and a thorough edit after that.
Kvetching and moaning confessional ahead. You’ve been warned.
Let me start by saying motivation has been low on this side of the keyboard. After working for a couple of years on a project, I hit a major road block. The new piece I started in January and was super excited about seems to have stalled as I’ve reached the muddy middle. My knee has been aching (an injury from a couple of years ago come back to haunt me), and I’ve used that as an excuse not to work out even though working out is one of the main ways I control stress and mood. The job (read income) situation has been spotty at best. Eighteen months out from the finalization of my divorce and the journey of grief seems to be never ending.
And don’t even get me started on the weather. It’s 60 degrees and sunny then it’s 18 and snowing. Right now there is some kind of mixed rainy, freezey, ooblecky* crap coming from the sky and I have on wrist warmers while I write. The only thing that has brightened my spirits has been the large number of hits my post about college visits got this week. I have had enough. If I was rich I’d hop a plane to somewhere with palm trees and turquoise waters. Instead, I watched the first three seasons of House of Cards (not a feel good show that one) interspersed with The British Baking Show (much lighter) and surfed the internet for inspiration.
I suppose I could find something on the internet to validate any mood but this week a few things have fallen into my cyber lap and I thought I’d share them with you.
All of these articles reinforce the idea that sometimes writers need to take time off, that the universe provides, that we are where we are for a reason, that we need to be kind to ourselves. I tend not to buy this line of thinking. If you’ve read Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and rewards) of Artmaking by Bales & Orland, you’ve seen their argument that artists will do almost anything rather than do their art. They call this “resistance” in the book and I seem to have it in spades. My suspicion of self-care is probably rooted in my early indoctrination as a rower. “There is no I in team,” “we don’t say can’t,” “row hard or go home.” As you can see, there’s not a lot of forgiveness or kindness in this philosophy. At this point though, I’ve should-haved and guilted and scolded myself enough and the only thing I feel is that it’s time for a hot bath…
3 cups of tea, 0 words. Not a good day at the office #writerslife
Thanks to the fun and easy infographic maker over at Canva.com, I’m able to bring you my 2015 in review. It’s been a crazy year with a lot of growth, connections, and possibility. Stay with me for 2016!
As a middle school educator I taught the writing process as a series of steps that separated “revision” from “editing.” Revision, I told my students had to do with answering the big questions that a reader had about your work. It was the writer’s chance to go deeper, be more specific, cut what didn’t work, be clear. Editing on the other hand was about the conventions: spelling, grammar, etc. (By the way if you teach writing I highly recommend Kate Messner’s, REAL REVISION)
At some point in the journey of my writing career, someone at some conference or workshop or lecture pointed out the obvious that the word revision is re-vision or “to see again in a new way.” I took on this definition as my mantra and thus, each revision has turned into a massive undertaking where I basically re-write a manuscript.
It doesn’t start that way. It usually starts with finding a better beginning. Beginnings are hard and many writers talk about a necessary writing to the end in order to fine tune a beginning again (and again). Of course, my fine tuning sets off a ripple effect throughout the entire manuscript. When faced with a section of manuscript that doesn’t work, I pinpoint the problem, I brainstorm solutions then I try it. (“Try it”–is another good piece of advice that can be an entrance to a revision blackhole.) How about a whole new character, Anna? And what if you add an epistolary element? What if, what if, what if…?
I’m pleased to say that I’ve been making steady progress in the revision cave for the last two weeks! My word count each day has hovered around 1000 as I reorder, rewrite, and rediscover the story I am trying to tell. I am going deeper, being more specific, cutting what didn’t work, being clear. Here are a few other things that I’m working on that you might notice in your work:
Where Does the Scene End:
I often end a scene where it will make a good chapter ending–one that doesn’t let the arc of that scene come to resolution, one that keeps the reader a little on their toes. This is a good thing unless, I haven’t given the reader everything they need. When I haven’t, I seem to start the next scene with a quick summation of what the reader missed. Sometimes this info is crucial to the emotional arc of the character. It should have happened “in-scene.” I am looking for these places in the work and rewriting to show the emotions instead.
Tension Makes Me Tense:
I am a pantser by nature but recent workshops with David Macinnis Gill and re-readings of Vogler’s,THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, and McKee’s, STORY have reminded me that plotting and outlining helps. I struggle to make the tension rise throughout a story and sometimes fall into and episodic (good fodder for another post) form of story telling. In this revision, I’ve listed the steps of the hero’s journey and jotted down the scenes that will happen at each of these crucial points. This organizing tool has been incredibly helpful. I’ve also written out what I see as my MC’s controlling belief (an idea I gleaned from Kathi Appelt and Franny Billingsley ) and I’ve added to that a question that describes her emotional arc. I make sure that each scene addresses in someway my MC’s belief and question (and desire but that’s also another post). This forces me to stay on track in the plotting.
Controlling belief: My mother left because she thought I was ugly and useless.
Question: Am I worthy of people’s love?
I guess these are similar but it has helped me.
Who Hates You Baby:
As students we learned the different types of conflict: man v. man, man v. self, man v. society, man v. nature, man v. machine. (Man! We’ll assume that is short for human.)
I was convinced that my book was MC v. self but part of the lack of tension in my manuscript came from the lack of a clear antagonist. I struggled with this idea, but in this revision I’ve chosen to clarify the antagonist and amp up the adversarial nature of their relationship.
I’ll be back in the revision cave come Monday but for now… out of the cave and into the mountains!
Hello wonderful followers. I know I’ve been MIA from my blog but there’s nothing like a deadline to make us produce. This week, it was my deadline for my group blog. I’ve posted over at Sporty Girl Books about my recent colorful, tactile revision technique using a plot chart. If you are a plotter or a pantser, this could be useful for you either as you revise or as you plan the initial draft. Please take the time to click, read, comment and follow over there. Hopefully, when I’m done with this revision, I’ll be back on a weekly blog schedule. See you then!