Tag Archives: writing

writing in the cracks…

13 Jan

OK, OK, OK…I know it’s been FAR too long! But I’m here now…so here goes.

I just got back from an evening spent at the OneBookTwoBook Festival in Iowa City with my dear friend Sara. We listened to twenty 4th through 6th graders read their poems and stories aloud, which was truly inspiring. As we grow older (at least in my case) it becomes increasingly difficult to stand in front of a crowd and read your own work.

Then we got to hear from author and National Book Award winner (for her book Mockingbird) Katheryn Erskine. She said many wonderful things about why we tell stories and how important it is to make sure kids of all ages and abilities feel understood and appreciated.

But the one little nugget that I know I’ll remember for quite some time came when someone asked Erskine what her writing process is. She not only said she isn’t the type of writer that sits down every day to write but she also said she is often “writing in the cracks.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard before that totally hits home for me. And I don’t think you have to have a husband, two young kids, a dog, two part time jobs and a freelance writing career to (not to mention the rest of life) to understand what it means.

The cracks may be all I’ve got at this point in my life, but I walked out of the room where Katheryn Erskine was standing and thought “you can win the National Book Award just writing in the cracks.”

Call me an eternal optimist…I’ll see you when I find the next crack.


15 Jul

So clearly once again I have fallen off the blog wagon! I don’t know how this happens…life gets in the way I guess. Which is of course a silly and easy excuse. Because once I sit down to blog it takes all of half an hour of my day. I’d like to blame it on summer (which is FLYING by, by the way) and say I’ve been visiting wonderful vacation destination. But unfortunately that’s not true (not that I don’t love Kansas City and St. Louis our two summer getaways this year.)

I have been doing lots of writing though…local publications like The Gazette and CBJ Quarterly have been good to me as of late.

But anyway, a couple of recent…let’s call them “incidents” got me thinking about my lack of discipline for a routine. Example number one is the fact that I haven’t blogged for months…yes months! (I know you’ve been missing me.) For a while I was pretty good about doing it once a week…usually on Tuesday or Wednesday. And then I just didn’t get to it on my to do list (yes, I make one everyday that includes things like “shower” so I know I’ll at least cross one thing off…most days!) and it just didn’t get back on the list.

Then a few days ago I emailed an editor to send him a story and completely forgot the attachment. Nice!

If you thought that was bad, I followed up by sending a different editor my notes instead of the story I wrote. But to make matters worse, when I looked for the story I wrote to send the right version along I realized that in my haste I hadn’t saved the story in the right virtual folder and it disappeared into cyberspace. 1,000 words…gone! BOO!

After beating myself up a bit about it I’ve concluded that perhaps my working on writing at midnight (even though I am a night owl) isn’t my best option any more. Perhaps I need a new routine. One that includes blogging regularly again, too.

Until next week…promise!

ps…In the meantime, if you have any tips for whipping my writing routine into shape (please keep in mind my day is subject to interruption by a husband and two lovely children ;)) send them my way! My editors would appreciate it.

just keep running, er, writing

10 Feb

So I am ten days into my Picture Book Marathon and things are going better than I imagined. I have written eight different stories so far. Yes, that does in fact mean that I’ve skipped a few days…and I probably will again before February 28th rolls around. But I am proud that I am sticking to this..even when it means I have to stay up late because I’ve left “write a picture book draft” as the last thing on my to do list for the day.

And of course I am certainly not in love with anything I’ve written so far. But it is fun to sit down every day and just start writing about all the kids book ideas that bump around in my head.

Here’s a little bit of one that I wrote:

Charlie was the kind of kid who liked to pretend.

Not just pretending he didn’t like broccoli (because he didn’t!) or that he and the dog were ferocious lions.

He was serious about pretending (uniforms were often involved.)

Charlie pretended from sun up to sun down.

First thing in the morning, Charlie pretended his bed was an island and he’d have to jump from rock to rock (avoiding the crocs!) to get from pajamas, to clothes, to the hallway.  

During breakfast he devoured his pancakes as quick as he could because he heard the whistle blow out at his construction site.  Charlie pretended to build a skyscraper right in the middle of the backyard (the dog was excited about the new spot of shade.)

By mid-morning that construction zone morphed into a castle and Charlie pretended to fend off fire-breathing dragons (though he wasn’t too interested in rescuing any princesses)…

I didn’t sign up to do this so I’d get a little gold medal at the end of February. But maybe given this new inspiration to actually write and my desire to keep working on it (I have a conference I’m going to in April where I can actually have my work critiqued!)  I’ll get a little golden book out of the deal 😉

So I’ll just keep writing!

And thanks for reading!

a picture book a day…

28 Jan

Have I mentioned here that I love picture books?

Lucky for me I have two little kiddos who love to read them with me every day. Reading a picture book a day sounds like a totally doable task.

Writing a picture book a day…I’m not so sure.

But for some inspired reason I’ve decided to sign up for the Picture Book Marathon.

illustration by Nathan Hale (http://www.spacestationnathan.com/)

The Picture Book Marathon is a challenge designed to get writers working on a new draft of a picture book for 26 days in February (thank goodness they give us two days of rest!) They will of course be VERY rough drafts, but I thought this was the perfect motivation I needed to get some of my ideas rolling out of my head and onto paper.  I’ve got at least a handful rounded up so far that will get the month off to a great start. After that I’ll have to be extra creative (or take suggestions from you!)

You see I’m not really the marathon running type. I’m just not that into running itself, what with the chaffing and all when you run that far for that long. 

However, I have walked a marathon…in Des Moines, Iowa back in 2009. It was long and brutal and there were a few points in the last six miles when I didn’t want to take another step. And then I realized I had walked so far already and I wasn’t going to give up with just a few more miles to go. Sure I could barely move the next day, but I am really proud to say I finished all 26.2 miles.

I am hoping I have that same mental strength come February 20th. Sure I’ll be working with words (kind of my specialty) but a marathon is a marathon.

I’m just glad this one marks miles with picture books.

The writing on the wall…

19 Aug

So I don’t plan to use this blog to tell you endless stories about how funny my kids are (not that I don’t have the content!) But two recent Tom and Lucy episodes got me thinking about writing and being an author…and they might even make you chuckle. So today I just have to share… 

The other night Tom and I were laying in his bed reading before he went to sleep. We have read together every night since he was a toddler and we share a true love of books. (To her credit, Lucy loves books too.) Anyway, on this particular night Tom had picked a nonfiction book about being an astronaut he’d recently selected at Half Price Books using the dollars he’d earned from their summer reading program. Now I will admit I’d rather read a fiction book any day but Tom has always been drawn to nonfiction (especially if is involves emergency vehicles, sharks, dinosaurs and now outer space.) He has an awesome hunger for knowledge. 

OK get to the point already right?! So we read for a few minutes and then Tom stops me and says, “The person who wrote this book must have been an astronaut huh?!” I said well maybe, but that is the wonderful thing about writing. You don’t have to be an astronaut to write about space. You get to do research and become an expert on that topic to help you write. He thought for a second and then said “well I’m going to go to space and write a book.” “Oh, how cool,” I replied like a good mom. “That’s a neat idea to write a book while you are in space.” Tom quickly corrected me. “No mom. I’m not going to write it in space. I’ll need gravity so I can hold on to my pencil.” Of course, what was I thinking! 

Rewind a few weeks to an ordinary afternoon at our house. I was upstairs doing laundry or cleaning up the toy room or some other thankless mom task when I realized that my little friend Lucy was awfully quiet downstairs. That of course always means trouble. So I headed downstairs to check things out. When I turned the corner into my “office” (otherwise known as our living room) there was innocent little Lucy with a black pen in hand and an amazing assortment of artwork/writing all over the wall next to my desk and on the fabric of my desk chair. Busted!

Luckily we got all the pen markings off the chair. But I still haven’t cleaned the pen off the wall yet (it’s just over my shoulder as I type.) Maybe part of me likes the idea that my two-year-old is eager to be creative. 

I can see, in their own ways, that my quest to become a children’s book author is inspiring my own kids. Even if it means I have some touch up painting to do!

Live from South Dakota…

24 Jun

I’m a rather routined person. When I get up in the morning I do pretty much the same things, in the same order, every day to get the kids and myself ready. And I don’t know what I’d do without a bedtime routine. 

But for some strange reason when it comes to writing I don’t have just one way or order or place for doing it. Routines are tossed out the window. For example, people are always asking me where the kids go when I write. That makes me chuckle because more often than not they are right there running circles around me while I type.

But the fact that I don’t have to be in one certain place to write is one of the things I enjoy very much about my profession. My writing comes with me wherever I go. In fact, this week I’ve been on vacation with my family in North and South Dakota. And of course I packed my writing.

I’ve been writing on a laptop in the car as we’ve driven hour after hour up and down and across this beautiful country. I’ve typed away on a netbook (Love it!) while my daughter napped in a cabin surrounded by the breathtaking Badlands. And I’ve jotted notes down in the notepad I carry in my purse all the while. Because when you’re a writer, ideas follow you around even on vacation.

Of course, most days I sit at my little yellow desk in the corner of our living room and type away on my PC. A lot of times I also write in my head as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep (hoping my perfectly constructed sentence will be there when I wake up.)

So I guess the point here is that as a writer, I am always writing something. Whether it’s a chapter of “Evelyn’s Drawings Can’t Swim”, an article for a local publication, or an idea for a new story. Writing is essentially always part of the routine.

But for now I’m signing off until I’m back in Cedar Rapids. I am on vacation after all…

Call me crazy…but I’m going to write a young adult novel!

9 May

OK so I have been saying I wanted to write books for kids for quite some time (before I had my own kids even.) So I decided 2010 was going to be the year I should stop talking about it and actually start writing.

And so I’ve started writing this book. But this isn’t my first writing gig, I’ll have you know. I have, in fact, been a writer for a long time. I loved writing stories as a kid, was editor of my high school newspaper (totally cool, right?!) and got serious about it in college, when I majored in Magazine Journalism and English/Writing at Drake University. I’ve spent the last eight years writing for various publications (as a freelance journalist) on a wide variety of topics—everything from profiles of local folks making good in the community (check out page 10 and 11) to tips on installing a car seat properly (trust me, it’s much harder that it looks!)

But this is my first attempt at writing not only a novel, but a novel that will entertain kids…more specifically tweens and teens. Yikes! You, like me, may be wondering why I didn’t start out with something a little less challenging. Sure, there are moments when I think I might be crazy. But really when it comes to starting the quest of becoming a published author, I don’t think there is a non-challenging approach. Tweens and teens excluded, writing a book can be a daunting project (I am certainly not 100 percent sure of my abilities 100 percent of the time.) But I whole-heartedly believe it wouldn’t be worth doing if it wasn’t going to challenge me, push my abilities, enhance my skills and keep me learning in an ever-changing world. Oh, and tell a truly unique and special story that kids everywhere can’t wait to pick up.

So I write. And you can join me here (at least weekly) where I’ll let you in on the process of bringing my novel idea to life.