Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Check out this YA Contest - Hurry! Deadline Tomorrow!

The Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest is an opportunity to win a call from Regina Brooks of the New York-based Serendipity Literary Agency.

The Grand Prize winner will submit an entire manuscript to Brooks and receive entrance into a writing course.

The Top Five contestants will receive a call from Brooks to pitch or discuss elements of the novel, as well as feedback from editors at top publishing companies.

Entry is simple.  You are only required to submit the title of your novel and the first 250 words (no more!).

For more details and the entry form, click here.

But HURRY - I just learned of it today and the deadline is tomorrow, November 30th! (I just submitted - fingers crossed!)

Good luck!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Interesting Advice on Writing the Synopsis (before actually writing your novel)

Synopsis How To (from The Story Bodyguard Blog by Zara Altair)

I struggle with plot development and as a result, find myself floundering a bit during the writing and revision processes.  Now, much of this first novel has happened organically.  I had a basic premise in my mind and since then, the characters have taken the plot in places I never could have imagined when I began.  For some writers, this organic process is the only thing that works for them.  It's hard to imagine planning so specifically before beginning.

This blog post is technically written for screenwriters, but the advice applies to any type of story telling.  It suggests plotting the story first by writing every scene you have in mind on notecards, shuffling them up, and then placing them in the correct order on a storyboard or within the plot sequence.  From there, you expand upon the scenes and by the end, have written your synopsis before you've even written your first draft.

Essentially, that first draft should be much easier now to write.  

Will this method work for everyone?  Probably not.  

Will it work for me?  I'd like to try it and find out.

In my revision process, I'm finding that much of the second half of my book needs reworking.  I'm going to take the writer's advice and use notecards.  I already know what scenes I like and don't like.  I'm ambivalent towards some of the characters, but this method will force me to pay attention to what's important and to follow a natural sequence to help build suspense.

Wish me luck!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Black Friday

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday and for those of you daring enough to risk the crowds today (I am not), good luck!

I haven't written in a while because of a really bad week last week.  It started on Monday when I spilled an entire cup of coffee on my computer - the one place I had my entire novel stored.  Yes, I cried like a baby.  After desperately calling for a substitute teacher - to no avail, I hauled my miserable self to school.  I felt like everything I had worked for had been lost.  It hurt like hell.

What did I learn from this?  Backup hard drives are a necessity.

The good news is that my wonderful husband spent much of his time off last week visiting computer repair stores and ordering me a new computer.  They were able to save my hard drive - THANK GOD!  And my new computer didn't arrive until this week.  Yesterday, my husband and I were finally able to get the new computer up and running, complete with all of my old documents, pictures, and music.

So, please, excuse my absence.  I'm back - with my new hard drive on standby.

Have a good one, everyone!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

~Happy Thanksgiving~

Many of you will be spending today with family or friends, or serving at soup kitchens or cooking for families in need, or relaxing at home with some peace and quiet, but whatever the case, where ever you are, enjoy your day and Happy Thanksgiving.

My husband and I are making a "couple-size" Thanksgiving feast which includes a Turducken (which is the first time we will both will be tasting this hopefully delicious creation). Since we cannot fit a normal size turkey into our tiny oven in our German kitchen, we opted for an interesting combination of turkey, duck, chicken, and sausage. I hope it's yummy!

Below is a link to our President's weekly address: giving thanks to those who serve. The original link would not open for me so this is from youtube. Please, if you have a moment, take some time to watch it but please disregard the comments that people post below it. The video is what is important, a reminder of who we are, and to give thanks.

Again, have a wonderful day and Happy Thanksgiving~



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Who would I invite?

I was asked the other day by my professor, if I had the chance to invite three people to dinner, who would they be? I didn't answer him. I would have to mull-over that question. I woke up thinking about it today. It's a tough decision but one person came to mind that I knew I would enjoy the company of, Maya Angelou. I remember in fifth grade she came to visit my school, talked about her life, and told us a story. I remember sitting in awe of her, my eyes with filled with tears, and thinking, how is she so strong after everything that she has been through. Inspirational, is what she is. And if she joined me and some others for dinner, I would have her tell us a story or read some poetry afterward while we enjoyed a cup of tea together. 

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou (one of my favorites)

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
~ by Maya Angelou

Enjoy your Tuesday
  ~ Jacinda

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Week of Avoidance

This is how I've felt and behaved over the past week/weekend.
Cover up with a blanket, lay around, and avoid life.
(Things my dog, Daphne, does regularly.)

I’ve stayed away from my computer for the past week (at least).  I see it sitting on my kitchen table and I busy myself doing other things (such as sitting on my butt in front of the TV). 

The computer screams at my conscience, “You should be writing!  Get over here and do something.  You call yourself a writer?  You’re just a joke!”

I know, mean, right?  My computer’s got a nasty little attitude.   No wonder I avoid it.

Seriously though, the more the guilt weighs heavy on my shoulders, the more I block out my computer’s obnoxious little taunts.  I know I should be writing.  Heck, I’ve even had the time to do it.  So what’s my problem?

I’m pretty positive that I suck.  Yep.  I’m in the middle of a self-loathing pity party and I’m struggling to get out. 

Now, the event that brought this on wasn’t particularly cruel feedback.  In fact, that isn’t it at all.  The problem is that I’ve finished my first revisions on the first half of my book and it’s completely changed my plans for the second half.  Not just the “plans” for the second half because it’s already been written.  I’m talking about a massive, massive revision.  A second half overhaul. 

And I have no idea where to begin.  Scary, huh?

So instead, I’ve lost myself in a Samantha Who marathon, courtesy of Netflix, and a romance novel, which truth be told, wasn’t great.  All in my quest to avoid what I’m terrified to face. 

Because what if it sucks?  What if, after writing a pretty good first half, I turn the ending into complete crap?  What if none of it flows together?  What if I have to rewrite everything?  I already invested my heart into it.  To change it hurts like Hell. 

I’m such a coward. 

And isn’t it funny how self-doubt in writing can seep into other aspects of our life?  Because I’m also pretty positive that I suck at my job, as a wife, as a friend, etc.  And all of it just makes me miss my family and friends, which increases an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. 

At least I have Garrett.  My rock.  I’m lucky I have a wonderful, understanding husband.

So.  What am I going to do? 

I have the next week off for Thanksgiving.  I have no excuses not to work.  I may need some serious encouragement though.  I’m not going to lie.  A boost to my ego right now would be appreciated. 

I need to call my mom and my sister and my closest friends, Jill and Laura.  Sometimes we avoid contacting the people we love when we’re down because we don’t want to burden them.  But man, I miss them and I need to remember why I don’t suck (even though Garrett assures me over and over that I don’t).  And I need to hear the great things that are happening in their lives.  I need to just get over myself.

And for God’s sake, just WRITE!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Hurtgen Forest Battle (World War II)

"A Time for Healing"

A few weeks back, my husband and I took a tour through the Hurtgen Forest. We had never heard about the battle there as I am sure that you haven’t either. Our guide and historian, Martin King, introduced a battle to us in the forest 5 miles south and east of Aachen, Germany. This battle claimed around 30,00 American GIs, either killed, wounded, lost or captured, deep within the dense, cold and wet forest. The Hurtgen Forest Battle was one of the most brutal and bloodiest battles in history. It began in September of 1944 and ended around February 1945.

Many people believe that this battle shouldn’t have been fought. With outdated topographical maps, Americans were dropped in Germany and then trudged their way through a forest that they never realized they were going to encounter. There was no way to get air relief because of the dense woods, and the trail they attempted to get there tanks up was incredibly narrow and windy.

In visiting the battle site, we physically stood in foxholes that still exist from over 60 years ago. We also got to see the some bunkers and walk part of the Kal Trail where the tankers and the men slowly made their way to the Schwammenauel Dam.

Please take a moment today to remember those who have fought for us.

Here are some websites to read more on the battle of The Hurtgen Forest
·                                 http://home.scarlet.be/~cv920172/indexenglish.htm 

Our guide:
·         Martin King is a respected military historian who has conducted tours for many Allied veterans and interviewed both German veterans and civilian witnesses in and around Europe’s World War II battlefields. Voices of the Bulge is King's first book. 


Thursday, November 10, 2011

SCBWI Winter Conference 2012 - Great Opportunity!

If you live on the East Coast or can afford to get there and are a serious children's, middle grade, or young adult author/illustrator, this is a wonderful opportunity! (Follow the link above.)

I won't be able to attend this winter conference due to time off and expenses, but I made it to the summer conference in Los Angeles and it was an incredible experience.  It was inspirational to listen to some of the most respected names in children's literature speak, but it was also a valuable opportunity to network.

At the New York conference, an entire day is dedicated to "intensives," one of which allows new authors who have a full manuscript ready for submission to share the first 500 words of their work with a table of other authors, editors, and agents.  What a wonderful, rare opportunity to share your work with potential buyers, receive feedback, and interact with possible future colleagues!

Check out the SCBWI site for more information.  If the conference is anything like the summer one, it will be an unforgettable experience.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Maybe it's time for some poetry...

The weather has started to cool down and the sun isn't out as much as I would like it to be. It's fall or technically, the beginning of winter here. We are starting to prep for the holidays, making lists of gifts that we need to start buying, and planning for our Thanksgiving dinner. The smell of spice fills the air and all I want to do is curl up with a glass of Gluhwein and a good book. But there is a part of me that just wants to spend some time writing. Maybe not a novel because I do not think I am even anywhere capable of that but maybe a long journal entry or how about even a poem? When is the last time I have even written a poem? I cannot even begin to remember when or what it might have been about. But maybe it's this time of year that I just feel more emotional and poetry might be a great way to become more in tune with my inner feelings. Maybe it's time for some poetry...
Below is a poem that Brei wrote last year after my grandfather's passing on November 19, 2010. If you didn't read it when she posted then, please take some time to read it now. It is a beautiful poem and maybe it can inspire some of your own poetry. Our maybe it will just make you think of your own family and how important they are to you.

                                          photo taken by by Julie Napear Photography http://www.julienapearphotography.com/
The Last Great Cowboy

A sturdy, dependable presence.
That’s how we think of you.
Bear-hugging arms,
Sloppy, wet kisses,
Rough whiskers against our soft cheeks,
And always a smile on your face
When you see us.

Your smile is a gift -
Unique to each one of us.
With it, we know we’re special.
We know you see us.
All of us,
As we are.

Sometimes we may feel that no one else
Sees us
But you.

With dirt under your fingernails,
Sawdust on your boots,
A hammer ready on your toolbelt
And a Western in your hands,
You are a present day cowboy.
A hero –
Our hero.

You have crossed the country
To save us from our own mistakes.
You have calmed our fears
when we’ve been surrounded by danger.
You have repaired the cracks in our dry wall
As well as in our self-confidence.
You have built up our homes and our hearts
When they started to crumble.

We may not always be at our best,
But you see us.
You save us.

You have been our father,
Our grandfather,
Our great-grandfather.
A worthy opponent
In our childhood tickle wars
And a worthy opponent
For our children as well.
A confidante, even when our words
Are hard to hear.
A giver of advice
Even when we don’t listen.

We can be difficult,
But you see what’s in our hearts.

You bring us humor
When we want to cry.
You offer praise
without criticism.
You give hugs
And never a cold shoulder.
You see our success
And say nothing of our shortcomings.
You see us as beautiful,
Even when we’re not.

Sometimes we feel invisible.
Sometimes we feel overlooked.
Sometime we feel misunderstood.
Sometimes we make mistakes.
Sometimes we give up.
Sometimes we fail.
Sometimes we don’t say all that we should.
But at all times we feel loved by you.

You can’t always hear us,
But we know that you see us.

Thank you,
For being
Solid, sturdy, and dependable.
A working man.
A realist.
A giver of unconditional love.
Thank you for
Bone-crunching bear hugs
And big juicy kisses
And for letting us sit in your lap
With our head on your shoulder.
Thank you for giving us confidence
And for believing in us
When you are the only one,
Because at times,
We forget to believe in ourselves.

Thank you for seeing us
And letting us know that you love
What you see.

And we want you to know that
we see you.

We may not live in the
Wild West of your novels.
But with your tough, calloused hands,
Gentle in our own and with our hearts,
And your fighting spirit,
To us, you will always be
The Last Great Cowboy.

And long after you ride off into the sunset,
We will love you.
~ by Brei Wilson

Below are a couple of links to some poetry contests.
Teen Ink:
 Checkout Goodreads.com to for their poetry contest: 
Want your words to reach 4 million people? Goodreads and the ¡POETRY! group have partnered to host an ongoing poetry contest. Join the ¡POETRY! group to vote each month to pick a winner from among the finalists. You can also submit a poem for consideration.  


Monday, November 7, 2011

The Vegas Valley Book Festival was this past weekend and while the weather was chilly, I still managed to have a good time.

I attended two young adult panels – one on paranormal fiction and the other on contemporary fiction, and waited around for autographs in the afternoon.  (James Dashner and Jay Asher are really nice guys!)

It’s so interesting to me to hear from published authors about their creative process, their typical writing day, their inspiration, and their path to publication. 

Here are some of the things I took away from the experience:

1)   There is no ONE way to write. 

For example, some of the authors create their characters by making soundtracks or thinking about the types of foods their characters would eat, while others let the characters come to life as they write.  Some use outlines, some don’t. 

Some of the authors wrote freely, withholding all revision until the first draft was finished.  Other authors revised after every few pages or paragraphs (I fall into this category). 

Although there are a ton of books out there on the proper way to write a novel, it is freeing to realize that there is NO proper way to write a novel.

2)   There is no ONE route to publication.

Each author had a different story to tell.  For some, it wasn’t until the tenth manuscript that they were published (I know, disheartening!  But they persevered).  For others, they were at the right place at the right time.

Having said that, they stressed the importance of getting involved in a writing organization.  They mentioned RWA  (Romance Writers of America) as an invaluable resource – even if you don’t write romance (this is something I need to look into).  And, as I spoke one on one with Jay Asher and James Dashner, they mentioned SCBWI.  Asher said that he attends the SCBWI Conference every year because it is so inspirational.  I attended it this year as well and completely agree.  It is also a fantastic way to make connections.  I hope to make it a regular event myself!

3)   Their typical writing days were very atypical – varying by person and even on a day-to-day basis. 

Most mentioned not being as disciplined as they would like to be.  Many talked about finding the time to write with small children.  Since I work full-time, I wondered about whether any of them did too, but at this point in their careers, I guess they don’t need to.  Or some of them decided to do the daring thing and give it a shot, knowing the money wouldn’t be there for a while (this is where, I imagine, a spouse comes in handy). 

A couple of them used to be English teachers like me, which was interesting.  Although one said that she had to get out of teaching because it was “sucking out her soul.”  Ha!  I think every teacher can relate to feeling that way once in a while.

4)   They ignore their families when they write. 

This was what my husband most took away from it. He was hoping I’d outgrow this habit of cutting off the world when I write, but nope.  It made me feel better knowing that it isn’t just me.  It made him feel worse because now he knows it’s permanent. J

5)   Even if you are lucky enough to get an agent and get published, it does not mean your book will sell. 

One author – who is now quite popular – is on her third pen name because her books before her current series did not sell. 

The stress does not go away once you’re published.  You have to keep working, selling yourself, and starting new projects.

6)   While a few of them mentioned wanting to be spies for the government at one time (and seriously applied for the CIA and FBI!), they made it clear that being an author is their ideal job.  They really wouldn’t want to do anything else.

Overall, I learned a lot.  It only adds fuel to the fire of my desire to become a published writer.

Good luck to each of you in your writing pursuits!  Don’t give up.  These writers didn’t. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

You Learn Something New Everyday

Are you old school?
So, I have this addiction to Podcasts right now and I am always searching around for something new to listen to. While doing a search, I came across the Grammar Girls Quick and Dirty Tips podcast and uploaded as many free episodes as I could at that time. Pretty much every one of them, each only approximately five minutes long, have great tips and information that I have forgotten or wasn't aware of. I just wanted to mention one today because I had typing class in high school and double spacing behind a period was drilled into my head and is a hard habit for me to break. Maybe a lot of you do not have this problem but at least I can introduce you to this wonderful podcast and helpful tips to grammar and writing.

Most typewriter fonts are called monospaced fonts. That means that every character takes up the same amount of space. It made sense using two spaces after a period because of the size of the letter and gave you that visual break that you needed. Now, no longer working on typewriters, most computer fonts are proportional fonts which means that letters are different widths. Single spacing is more logical. Chicago manual of style, the APA style book and the modern language association all recommend using just one space after a period.

Check out Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips:

Check out the article on NPR News. At the bottom you will see a paragraph that explains the "rule" of spacing after a period.

Another good article is on About.com:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review (long overdue!): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I’ve been reading a lot of YA and dystopian novels, but I thought I’d take a little time today to recommend a book that I meant to review over the summer, but somehow never got around to it.

I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own because the title seemed really obscure, but a member of my critique group recommended it.  A few of us had met for lunch at a Starbucks in Barnes and Noble and being book people, we couldn’t leave without a couple of treasures. (Watch the above video to find out more about this moving novel!)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows is a gem of a book that manages to be heartwarming, tragic, and informative all at the same time. 

In post-World War II, a writer – Juliet Ashton – searches for her next story, when she receives correspondence from a gentleman asking her to come to the island of Guernsey to speak at the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a group which sprung up out of desperation during the war and provided the people of the island rare moments of happiness at a time of great struggle and tragedy.

There are a few things that make this novel special:

1)   It is written entirely in letters.

2)   It is written immediately following World War II – a time period that I know little about and hadn’t really thought much of.  It addresses the after effects of the war on England and particularly, the small island of Guernsey (yes, it does exist!), as well as memories of the occupation of Guernsey by Germans during the war. 

3)   I learned much about the war that I hadn’t heard known before and considering the amount of books, movies, and documentaries on the subject, I was a little surprised by this.

4)   Even through letters, the characters come alive as quirky, strong, and immensely likable.

The novel is really about the characters – the Guernsey citizens – and their perseverance and resilience during tough times.  Even through tragedy, they come together in their literary society and find hope, support, and laughter.   

5)   There is even romance.  It seems hard to believe that a story – and a romance – can be conveyed so profoundly and touchingly through letters, but Shafer and Barrows succeed.  There is such a sweetness to the story – even as there is some sorrow – that I could not help but be uplifted at the end.

Over the summer, I lent this book to my best friend and hopefully, she’s enjoyed it as much as I have.  If you are interested in history, romance, or simply a moving story, I recommend this book.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Dreaded Synopsis

It boggles my mind that I can write an entire novel, but I cannot write a simple, one-page synopsis.
I’m in the process of applying for a writing mentorship program, which requires a one-page synopsis, 20 pages of my draft, and an artist’s statement.  Well, surely, after writing an 80,000-word story, I should be able to fill up one measly little page.  Besides, I review books all of the time.  I know how to sum them up.  Right?

Wrong.  So very, very wrong.

Apparently, I am an idiot when it comes to writing a synopsis for my own book.  I came to this conclusion over the weekend.  I wrote it.  I read it.  And it sucked.  Big time.  So, did I roll up my sleeves and try, try again?

No, I sulked.  If I can’t even write a one-page summary of my book, then my book must be a complex pile of crap.  (But I really, really hope that it’s not.)

However, while I may have given up for that day,  I haven’t given up.  My husband, who knows the entire story and is much more succinct than I am, has begun to help me pull out what’s important.  I just need to flesh it out from there.

Is it hard?  Very.

But can I do it?  God, I hope so!

I don’t have much advice for others trying to write a synopsis of their own, but I’ve read some of the tips and I’d love to pass them on.  If you have any tips or helpful pointers, let me know! (And if I’m wrong about something, let me know that, too. PLEASE!)

Necessary Elements the Synopsis Should Cover:
  1. What your book is about
  2. What characters we will care about (or dislike)
  3. What is at stake for your heroes
  4. What they stand to lose, and
  5. How it all turns out (Yes, you have to give away the ending.  I know, it hurts.)
Synopsis Checklist:
_____Does the opening paragraph have a hook to keep the reader reading?
_____Are your main characters' conflicts clearly defined?
_____Are your characters sympathetic?
_____Can the reader relate to them and worry about them?
_____Have you avoided all grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes?
_____Have you hit on the major scenes, the major plot points of your book?
_____Did you resolve major conflicts?
_____Did you use present tense?
_____Did you use 3rd person?
_____Is it written in the same style as your book?
_____Is your main character’s name in all CAPS the first time mentioned in the synopsis? (ONLY the first time)
For more information and advice: http://www.fictionwriters.com/tips-synopsis.html