Coming Soon to the Baltimore Book Festival…

Me!

That’s right, yours truly will be presenting a FREE sign language storytime program for children ages birth-6 and their grownups on the Enoch Pratt Free Library Children’s Stage at the Baltimore Book Festival on Friday, September 26 at 11 AM!

You can also visit me in the  Bicentennial Plaza Authors’ Tent between noon and 8 PM that day to purchase a signed copy of LITTLE HANDS AND BIG HANDS: CHILDREN AND ADULTS SIGNING TOGETHER and enjoy some hands-on sign language crafts!  Hope to see you there!

 

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Scary Starts and Fictional Census Results

It’s been a weird couple of weeks, writing-wise.  I submitted my latest revision of the novel-that-has-no-name-yet to my editor, and now I have turned to something scarier: writing Book 2.  The thought of doing in less than a year what took me almost ten years to do the first time is, well, terrifying, but we’ll see what happens.  There is a character who just demands to have her story told, so I guess I am going to have to give in to her.

As well as I knew my world the first go-round, I found that it was not nearly enough for this one.  This point-of-view character has a much broader education and experience of the world than the main character of my first book, and so I am learning things I never knew before.  I’ve spent the last few weeks doing things that don’t feel like writing but are a necessary prerequisite – lots of brainstorming and making charts and maps and background materials.  I’ve even pulled out a couple of books I bought about ten years ago, thinking that they might help with world-building someday, and it turns out that Past Me was correct.

Here they are:

culture      city

 

These are lesson-planning books for middle school teachers to guide students in a project researching various cultures and cities and then inventing their own.  These books have turned out to be great writer’s guides.  They help you think of all the angles on a culture, from the religious beliefs to the role of women to currency and games and sports.  I’ve ended up making a giant chart with all the major cultures represented in my story, and filling in these areas has led to some fascinating realizations, connections, and relevant story ideas.

And now, when someone asks what I did at work today, I can answer, “I wrote up census results for a fictional culture.” How many people get to say that?

New Favorite, Old Favorite: Just Like the Movies and The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman

just like the moviesNot long ago I had the pleasure of reading Kelly Fiore’s Just Like the Movies, the story of two unlikely friends who set out to recreate scenes from their favorite romantic films in their own lives.  Marijke and Lily are two girls with a plan…now if only the boys would fall into line.

(I should mention that I was reading this book while directing Deaf Camp, and that it kept me up for hours reading even after I had been corralling middle schoolers in the woods all day.  That should tell you something about how engrossing it is!)

The heroines of this novel combine heartfelt yearning with a canny ability to analyze the tropes of the movies they adore so much – and that reminded me of an old favorite of mine, The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer.  Though published way back in the dark ages of 1995, Plummer’s novel features a canny, smart heroine who would have been comfortable plotting alongside Marijke and Lily.  (Though I guess she’d be quite a bit older now – so I will just imagine her as their English teacher, watching their antics from behind Tina Fey glasses.)  Kate’s thing was romance novels, not romantic films, but her take on them was just as fresh and funny as Marijke holding an iPod dock unlikelyblaring “In Your Eyes” in her boyfriend’s backyard.    Despite the fact that Kate warns readers in the second sentence of the book that it’s “one of those romance novels.  You know, that disgusting kind with kisses that last three paragraphs and make you want to put your finger down your throat to induce projectile vomiting,” her attempt to tell her tale as a romance novel (complete with revision notes) is involving and funny and something that is still in my mind almost twenty years later.

So do yourself a favor and get a hold of both books to meet Kate, Marijke, and Lily, three girls who discover that grand gestures don’t change a thing in real life,  and that real love isn’t like a book or movie – it’s better.

A Sampling of Words I Tend to Overuse in My Writing

  • slightly
  • moment
  • roiling
  • dart 
  • glance
  • realize
  • felt

I admit, some of these are weirder than others.  But these are the words that I always do a search on when I finish a draft, just to make sure they aren’t taking up too much space.  It’s always a challenge to find new ways of wording things, but, like every part of the editing process, it often leads to unexpected changes that make the story better, or – more often than not – the discovery that the whole sentence is unnecessary.  God gave writers the drafting process so we could be astounded by our own creativity, and the editing process to keep us humble.

The Call

Tonight I will be packing for Deaf Camp, but this mundane activity will always hold a little magic for me.  That’s because last year my packing was interrupted by my agent, Steven Malk of Writers House, calling to tell me that I had been offered a two-book deal with HarperCollins, that after ten years of working and hoping, after more drafts than I could count, it was finally happening.  It wasn’t an enormous surprise – I had spoken to Alexandra Cooper, my new editor, earlier in the week before she took the book to the Acquisitions Committee, so I knew that she was interested and was excited about the story.  But it seemed too much to hope that it might, finally, all work out.  And it did.

Looking back, I realize that there probably wasn’t a better time for the universe to spring such news on me, especially because I couldn’t post anything about it online at the time or scream it to the ends of the earth as I would have liked.  Instead, I had a great distraction, as I spent the week following the announcement with a bunch of middle-schoolers in the woods, none of whom, I assure you, were the least bit impressed with my authorly success.   Not even the camper whose unusual name I had borrowed for one of my characters when I wrote the first draft, back when she was in preschool.  Yeah, that’s how long I’ve been working on this book.

Tortoise in the Fast Lane

A tortoise crosses a road.After four straight months of daily work on revising my debut novel, I have sent it off to my betareaders and set it aside for two weeks.  Part of this is practical – I am preparing for, and then attending, the Deaf Camp that I direct during that time, and I could drive myself crazy expecting myself to write, but that would be setting myself up for failure.  And part of it is absolutely necessary – though I love diving into the world of my story on a daily basis, there comes a point where I have to step away and let it simmer.  I am hoping that when I come back to the manuscript in two weeks I will have a clearer vision of what needs to happen.

Two weeks is a really short time for my “mental drawer” though; I am used to putting manuscripts away for months at a time while I am working on something else.  Now that I am in the publishing process, this accelerated pace is going to be a challenge for a tortoise like me.  I mean, I have been revising this story for almost ten years.  I have become accustomed to the idea that I have all the time in the world to get it right.  So the idea that time is running out, that soon I will have to stop tinkering and truly launch it out into the world is a little terrifying.  

Fortunately, I can always fall back on the strategy I used when I was sending things out to agents and waiting months for a response: work on something else.