Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Location!

Greetings to all who have found their way here. This blog location location will be an abandoned post from here on out, but please visit me at my new web page at another location: It's fresh as a newborn at the moment and I'm still tweaking things, but do come nonetheless. I love hearing your comments and look forward to more discussion.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Becoming your Character

Sorry I missed you last week, I've been thinking about character a lot lately. To me, it's the core of a story; who someone is and what they are made of. It was Booker T. Washington who said that character, not circumstance make the person, and I won't argue much with that. But bring character and circumstance together and you have the makings of a real story.

It's one of the most exciting parts of writing. Often it takes time and sometimes a lot of coaxing (of kids, spouse, your subconscious, the muse) before you're in a physical and mental space where things fall in place and you're allowed to discover who your characters are. Sometimes it's like lightning and you suddenly know exactly what your protagonist would have done and maybe more importantly, why. But you have to be ready.

Last week I chaperoned my son's class to a performance by the Richard Alston Dance Company visiting from the UK. They were brilliant and engaging, not to mention understanding that this was likely the first modern dance performance most of these elementary age kids had ever seen. Richard Alston himself, took the time to point out how the pieces contrasted, as well as a guided pre-interpretation of the stories and movements within the dances. After their two pieces were finished there was a Q&A. The best question by far was when the male dancer who had the part of Petrushka was asked what his favorite thing about dancing was. He didn't hesitate to respond that it was the process of actually becoming his character and understanding how Petrushka would feel, move, think, and exist that made dancing so thrilling to him.

This process is exactly what makes writing such an adventure to me. I constantly ask myself, What would I do if I were him/her in that situation? Seemingly infinite possibilities may overwhelm you, but the more you know your character and see the world from their eyes, the better your story will be.

Oh, and coming soon, this blog at my own domain (they wouldn't give me a kingdom).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Buy Indie Books!

I'm probably preaching to the choir today, but I'll say it anyway. Buy your books indie please.

I'm saying it again because I know (really, really know) how tempting it can be to just swing by Barnes & Noble or get on to find a book you want for quick and dirty immediate gratification. I get it. But it really makes a difference if you  check out the indie bookstores in your town first.

Yesterday I had to locate some copies of a local author's book for a school book club (Farwalker's Quest by Joni Sensel) and I needed them ASAP. I was lucky enough to find the copies with the courteous help of a few indie booksellers.

This process always goes smoother if you just give them a call first and tell them what you're looking for. If they don't have it, chances are they can order it in quickly, or may even refer you to another store! I have never had customer service so good as when I've gotten it at one of Seattle's great little book shops. All For Kids is gone, but Ravenna's Third Place Books is awesome (not to mention the great food at the in-store restaurant, Vios and the rockin' pub downstairs), Mockingbird Books in Green Lake is a new favorite (with café too), the University Bookstore has an amazing selection and well read staff, and an old favorite is The Secret Garden Bookshop in Ballard. I love, love, love that store and only wish it were closer to home. The people there are as great as the books they carry and they also do the wonderful service of showing up at the monthly SCBWI meetings to give us the word on the latest hot material on the shelves.

All of these stores have helpful and knowledegable staff (will help you find a good read for that tough customer on your list), convenient services (pre-signed copies or copies signed to order), and often have superb lineups of authors and events (more than I can attend!). Besides these benefits, buying indie supports your local economy in immeasurable ways. It's just the right thing to do.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gushing Love Post

It's 2010 and I'm in love all over again. A mad crush, a divine calling to destiny, whatever you want to call it.

It's writing that I can't give up or deny myself. It's reading that spurs me on and sparks my imagination. And what's reading without the writing? If one didn't happen, the other wouldn't exist, and vice versa.

Okay, I'm actually in the thick of re-researching agents (yes, I meant that) and writing query letters. One might think it would be easy to lose inspiration at this point in the writing process, but I'm energized. It's part of the process and like Bill Murray so aptly said, "Baby steps!"

Luckily, there are plenty of online resources for writing queries that make it simultaneously easier and more confusing. Just research until you find the agents you are interested in and send them only what they ask for and nothing more.

Also, here's a good list to follow at Writer's Digest. It's from 2008, but still pretty good advice to keep in mind.

So Happy New Year everyone and stay in love with your writing, even it means baby steps to your goal. Or as Churchill is reported to have said, "Never, never, never, never give up."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Baking for writing therapy: Ginger Lemon Scone recipe

Sometimes the writing ideas get a little stuck in the cycle of thinking too hard or just being stressed about it. Baking is one of the ways I let my mind relax into a state of semi-hypnosis where ideas seem to flow naturally and I have to scramble to write down notes, doughy fingers and oil splatters to boot.

As a break from my regular writerly musings, I would like to offer a tasty and easy recipe of mine as requested by a writer friend.

This Lemon-Ginger Scone recipe is vegan but is quickly made otherwise by using eggs, milk, and butter where I have made the substitutions.

Preheat oven to 375, makes 13
1 c. white flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 c. brown sugar (or organic/turbinado type sugar)
1/2 t. salt
grated peel of one lemon
1/2 c. chopped crystallized  ginger

1/4 c. soy milk (or other substitute)
1 t. vanilla
replacement for 2 eggs (I use ENER-G egg replacer, so it's 1 T. replacer + 4T. warm water, mixed before adding to the rest of the wet ingredients)

1/2 c. frozen (very important) soy butter (1 stick) grated directly into mixed dry ingredients

1) Mix the first 6 dry ingredients together in a big bowl.
2) Mix 3 wet ingredients together in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup.
3) Grate the frozen soy butter directly into the dry ingredients. Toss quickly and try to evenly distribute the butter as much as possible.
4) Add the wet ingredients and, again, mix quickly until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
5) Use an ice cream scoop to dole out onto seasoned baking sheet (use parchment paper, if you like), leaving an inch between and flattening them slightly with hand or spatula.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Should be golden brown and aromatic. Best if not over baked, so feel free to test one by opening if they are getting close.

Enjoy with a cup of tea and a friend while you discuss writing or your latest read.