shabby blogs

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Writing Every Day

Since the start of school I've worked on my middle grade WIP every day.
I told my critique group I would get two chapters written before our last meeting. I wrote eight.


I have hunkered down and got myself in the chair. My writing place is cozy, like this fairy house in my garden, only much bigger.

I have said "No, I can't," to many invitations to volunteer/be social/go boating/audition for plays. I'd been saying yes for so long I had got out of practice, but it gave me time to realize what my priorities are. 
If it messes up too much writing time, no thanks. At least, not when I've got a great WIP going.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Edinburgh Writers' Museum

Every city should have one of these:

This is Edinburgh, Scotland (which you should pronounce "Edin-burrow" or Scottish people will heave loud sighs at you). Outside, on the ground, there are these:

 There were others but my family was looking at me like, "Why are you taking pictures of the ground?" 

After the interminable car ride we'd had on the way there (from Loch Ness, obviously), we needed some of Sir David Lyndsay's "bukis" necessary to  get along*. 

BTW yes, we saw the monster. 
Proof: we caught one of her babies and made it into a fridge magnet.

Hope everyone else has had a wonderful summer!

* "bukis" actually translates as "books," but I liked the long car ride application of the quote.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Frodo Goes out the Door (and So Do We)

I was on Facebook recently and came across this link to a blog post called The 17 Things that Change Forever when you Live Abroad.

I did live abroad for a year, maybe that's why I connect to  Number Four

4. You come to understand that courage is overrated.
Lots of people will tell you how brave you are – they too would move abroad if they weren’t so scared. And you, even though you’ve been scared, too, know that courage makes up about 10% of life-changing decisions. The other 90% is purely about wanting it with all your heart. Do you want to do it, do you really feel like doing it? Then do it. From the moment we decide to jump, we’re no longer cowards nor courageous – whatever comes our way, we deal with it.
«It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.»
This struck me as something writers have to do when the time comes to share what you've written. If you're querying or your MS is out on submission, you're scared of being rejected. It's like a punch in the stomach, or a bad hangover. It's like eating ice cream with cockroach legs where the sprinkles should be.
So why do you subject yourself to this possibility? Is it because you are brave?

Do you write because you have courage? No. You write because you want to do it. You have no control over those rejections.

Maybe at some point all that matters is what you put into this world. Leave it better than you found it. And maybe writing stories is one of the ways you can do this.

Does that make you brave? In my opinion, not really. You're just following the directions that were planted in your heart.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Writing with Pictures

When I'm working on a story idea, I usually draw a lot of pictures (especially if it's a lower MG or chapter book) to give myself ideas how the manuscript might look on a page, and how to make it fun. 

These are drawings I've sketched for a MS called 

Lower MG and chapter books need lots of fun sprinkled everywhere. For THE DEAD THINGS COLLECTION, I gave the MC's pets each a POV in the drawings, which they do not have in the text (the text is in the MC's pov).

This makes me feel very clever. When I submit the MS to agents, I don't include the drawings. But if anyone is interested in them, I'll be able to say, "Look at this trick I've come up with! The animals have their own story in the margin!"

Hope everyone is having a happy summer! 

Monday, May 5, 2014

What Happened with my Agent

On Saturday evening, I was sitting between my friends SarahBrannen and Heather Kelly at an agent panel at the NESCBWI conference, CREATE BRAVELY: MAKE YOUR MARK. And it hit me.
I’m okay.
And I'm one of the brave ones.

A few months ago on my writing journey, I had this setback. 
I wrote a blog post here about how I signed with an agent at Writers House and then she left the business, and I got matched up with another agent there—a young, clever agent. And how she had been editing my manuscript, Silver Pool of Light, and it was going to go out on submission to major publishing houses in the summer.  She cheered me on with emails of “I’m excited to get this out there!” and “I’ve already talked it up to some of the editors” and words to that effect. I was on my way to great things because finally, I had a comrade in this business. She had my back.

Well, it was submitted to a handful of publishers. We got some lovely letters complimenting my writing:

“… I really enjoyed Kristen’s prose—her writing is assured and has an interesting, old-fashioned quality that I think is perfect for a middle-grade audience. I also thought that she did a nice job of crafting two fully-realized and unique heroines...

“…I just had to read to the end to see what happened to Jane and Eve…”

But in the end, everyone ultimately said no, for various reasons. We had a second list of editors to send it to. In the meantime I sent my agent some chapter books I’d been working on, and another novel with the caviat that if she didn’t think the novel was worthwhile revising, I’d shelve it and work on other things. I just wanted her thoughts.

A few months later, on the eve of a very difficult day regarding my father’s illness which I won’t get into (suffice it to say it was sucky timing), I got an email from my agent that started with “It is with a heavy heart that I write to you…” and I thought, How does she know about my dad?
And then I thought, Uh-oh.
She said she’d read the novel and didn’t connect with it. She said we had “editorial differences” and she didn't want to finish submitting Silver Pool of Light, that I could tell potential agents that it had only been "lightly shopped" and she didn’t want to represent me anymore.

Granted, I had been a hand-me-down to her from my first agent; she never chose me. We never had wonderful conversations on the phone. I don’t know her end of the story and she’s not a villain here, but on my end—it was a tough winter. 

But here I am. Just back from a conference where nothing really changed, but somehow, it all feels different. The timing was good.
I've been going to The Writers Loft; I have a new critique group.  Heather and my other friends there have listened to me MULTIPLE TIMES tell my tale of woe. I said to Heather recently, “You have listened to me whine about this so many times. Why don’t you tell me to stop?” And she said something like, “I don’t mind. You just have to feel what you’re feeling. At some point you’ll stop yourself.”
Then last weekend at the conference, Sarah said, “I want you to know that no matter what happened with your agent, you’re a really good writer.” Then she quietly went to a friend of hers who was giving out small awards for bravery, and said, “Kristen needs one of those.” Suddenly I realized, I am brave! 

At the conference I met The Book Doctors who fired me up, editor Melissa Kim gave me an excellent critique of one of my chapter books, Peter Reynolds made me a member of The Dot Club, and Bruce Hale and Lynda Mullaly Hunt sat with me, talked with me, and made me laugh.

So. Much. Better.
*deep breath*

I’d better get going now…I have some chapter books and a middle grade novel to write.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I was in the play Our Town last weekend. I missed Sammy's final episode on Under the Gunn because of dress rehearsal. 
Below is a photo of Jack, me, and Ari, a friend who was also in the play. We were face-timing Sam after our rehearsal was over, when he was telling us what happened.
photo courtesy of Our Town's photographer, Kathy Wilkinson

 Second place! I am a Red Sox fan--I didn't dare assume he might have won--that could put a curse on him or something.
My brother Dave and niece Shea (here they are at the finale) didn't give much away... I had to sit on my chair, being a dead person all through act 3 of Our Town, while my kids and the rest of my family were at my mom's house, watching Sammy and his fantastic collection.
My mom said to me later that night, "The best part about the show was Sammy's collection. It was beautiful."
She got it--to Sam, it was all about the art.
The $100,000 woulda been nice, but he won in so many other ways.

It's been a difficult few months for my mom, and my family. This has been a wonderful twist.

If you ever have a relative on a reality show, here are some tips:
1. Keep the night the show is on free. 
2. Don't ask who wins. They can't tell you.
3. Don't read the online nonsense about the show. 
4. If you do happen upon it, roll your eyes at the fact that those who write it don't choose to pursue activities better suited to their bombastic talents, and move on.
5. If your relative makes it to the finale, wear a bright orange shirt. It'll be easy for your family to spot you on TV.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Different Kinds of Secrets

Keeping a secret can be hard, or easy.
Depends on the secret.

My secret was hard to keep: Technically I didn't know Sam made it to the finale of Under the Gunn...but a certain family member told me back in January that Sam's mom, dad, and sister had taken a quick trip to LA right before Christmas.
Why would they do that? Duh.
I didn't say a word to anyone.

I didn't even tell my husband.

Sure enough, last night, SAM MADE IT TO THE FINALE! And just as we thought they were going to choose Sam over his friend Asha, SHE MADE IT TOO!
See how Sam and Asha are standing so close? #bffs
The other finalists are Shan, who seems like a nice, normal person, and Oscar. Wacky, cha-cha, clueless Oscar.
Last night was a big deal--getting to the finale. Superheroes and whatnot. In interviews, Sam, Asha and Shan all said something like: I am thrilled I've made it this far. I really want to do my best in this challenge and make it to the finale.

Honest to goodness quote from Oscar: "This is the last step to really fight in the biggest battle ever. I mean, this is like pirates fighting with Hunger Games style with scissors and fabric--I mean, this is Iraq, this is Chernobyl bomb. It's really intense."
Um, Oscar, it's a fashion design reality show, not a dystopian YA (lol).
Certainly not a war. 
FYI Oscar, there was no bomb at Chernobyl. It was a radiation leak at a nuclear power plant and it gave a lot of kids cancer.
Someone give that man a magic phone to research metaphors before he goes on TV.

Other secrets were easier to keep--Sammy. Oh my God, Sammy. Thank you to Sam for being brave enough to share the tale about the horrible bus rides, and how you thought when you were 13 that you were worthless. 
He told me last night on the phone that by getting into Parsons and then being on Project Runway, he'd proved to that old version of himself that he was never worthless, because he'd achieved his dreams. 
And I thought to myself, Wow. This kid needs some more dreams. He is capable of so much wonderful.
But I didn't say that because I didn't want to get teary and go on and on about how much I love him, and how he is such a beautiful soul in this world...Peter was pulling at my sleeve--"Can we FaceTime Sammy? I want to show him my new karate move."