Thursday, April 24, 2014

Writer's Retreats

I'm looking forward to going to a Writer's Retreat in a month or two.
Many reasons.

1. No Internet
Yes, there is internet in the lobby of the place we are staying, but supposedly not in the rooms. And probably not in some of the gathering places. (we like to compute/ wordprocess together, even tho we are not talking together.)  This means No Distractions.  Focus.  I will be able to focus on the work at hand.

2. Food.
Someone else will be doing the cooking.  I won't have to have that little voice in the back of my head nagging, "have you put out the meat to thaw, yet?  What is it you plan to serve, anyway? Do you think we are out of canned veggies?  Did you empty the dishwasher?"
and so on.

3. No family
Nobody to roust up and take to school. No need to stop writing and go pick the kid up from school.  And then keep reminding her to do her homework.  I can sleep when I want and get up when I want. (I know, if I want breakfast, I will have to get up at a certain time for that.)

4. A different place
Sometimes writing in a different place, different from my office (did you file those papers? What's in that box over there?) makes it easier to focus and write.  I wonder if that's why so many writers go to coffee shops to write?

All these things make my mind sharper, better able to focus.
What about you?
What helps you kick-start your writing -- or other projects you want to work on?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

No Easter Eggs?

The 14 year old had no desire to color eggs this year.  (yea. No mess in the kitchen. No colored fingers when we open the shells.)  I boiled some anyway yesterday so that we could have the traditional Saturday hot hard boiled egg breakfast.

Therefore, today I didn't hide any eggs.  But I did make up a basket and hid it.  She's been awake almost an hour and still has no urge to vacate her room and hunt for the basket.  Such a change from years ago when she couldn't wait to do all those things. Today, while she's off at a friend's house participating in their Easter Egg hunt, I'll turn the hard boiled eggs into traditional deviled eggs.  I know she loves those.

Oooooo.  Found another basket (online). Pretty:

(added later)
I did hide a basket with Reese's Cups Easter eggs -- her favorite candy. (not pictured above)
She complained during the whole the time she looked for it saying, "You're really getting a kick out of this, aren't you?"
Yes, I laughed to myself every time she passed the basket without seeing it.  I was a meanie and gave her no hints. Finally she collapsed in the living room chair, looking right at it.  Even so, it took her a moment to actually see it on the bookshelves.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Researching background for books

Here are a few thoughts about researching for both fiction and nonfiction:

There's nothing like actually going where your subject lived to observe the setting and walking in your subject's shoes.  I always do it.  
 (or to follow your living subject around at a convention she is running.)

While there I discover fascinating tidbits that help extend my knowledge of the people and the place.  Plus I take photographs to help me with describing the setting later.  (when books had black and white photos, I would put those photos into the books.)

Also, just talking about your research adventures on the internet pulls out lurkers who know somebody who know somebody.
--The man who was the paperboy of the Wright Brothers.  (he never saw them -- just the housekeeper)
--The man whose uncle saw the first flight.  (he didn't actually see it. He attempted to spy on the one that crashed several days before the first flight actually happened.  He and a group of boys climbed a sand dune to spy on the crazy men, but when the motor began to rumble and pop, they slid down the dune and ran like h*ll away from the devil sound.)  

I couldn't use either of these tales, but they certainly were fascinating, don't you agree?

That's the first thing I ask people who ask me to look over their nonfiction or fiction manuscript.  Have you ever been there?  What is the landscape like?  (one guy never mentioned how hilly Pittsburgh is -- and that's a vital part of the landscape there.  That and the juncture of the two rivers.)

Once you are on the hilltop where Jefferson built his dream house, it hits you -- there is  no access to water.  The closest spring is halfway down the hill. Someone had to go get and carry water there.  They had to collect rainwater -- so Jefferson made his whole rooftop a water collector and directed the water into huge storage tanks beside the house and built a porch or deck over it for the family to use.  The water tank was right beside the kitchen, so the cooks had ready access to water for cooking and heating for bringing up to the family to bathe.
-- The stables were down the hill, too.  Someone had to run down the hill and bring whatever horses the family needed for the day -- or the workhorses or mules for the garden.

Besides -- Research field trips are Fun!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Writing Picture Books?

When you write a picture book, should you "play it safe"with your plot, or should you go wild?

Editor Emma Dryden, who now runs an editorial service,  explains why Playing it safe may be the most dangerous game of all.  Click on over and read and think about how it may apply to your current manuscript.  (The same may be true of your middle grade or young adult manuscript.)

Lots of good information in the comments as well.