Sunday, September 28, 2008


It's been a long time since my last post. The hurricane, and life in general, made things hectic.

The hurricane had a much greater impact than has been depicted in the media. Things around us are fine, but I hear from friends that Houston is still a mess, and of course Galveston will be a mess for a long time.

At any rate, I wanted to post on a couple of things. First, I have read a remarkable book, and want you all to know about it. It's Identical, by Ellen Hopkins. This is normally not the kind of book I would pick up, but Ellen is a Regional Advisor with SCBWI, and I had heard good things about it, so I sank my teeth into it. And her book sank its very sharp teeth into me.

Dealing with numerous difficult issues (incest, bulimia, and mental illness, to name a few), Identical nevertheless features a protagonist who is deeply engaging. The form of the book is prose-poem. I found the language hauntingly beautiful, and I was so riveted by the plight of the central character that I wanted to jump into the pages and save her.

If you are or know of a teen girl who can handle this tough but incredible read, I really recommend it.

On another front, I'm slogging away on my third Vermont College packet, and trying my own hand at edgier teen fiction. This is way outside my comfort zone, but I'm trying to dig deep. I had such an idyllic childhood. So many kids don't.

So, I think it's really important that this edgier literature is out there. Maybe it will help someone deal with a tough hand.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


The good news for our area is that we weathered the storm very well. No power outages, much-needed but not torrential rains, and even the winds were not too terrible. Our house passed the test with flying colors; just minor items blown over.

But the news is not so good in Galveston and Houston, where there is no power, windows were blown out of skyscrapers, and streets are flooded. This was a devastating storm, and in the next few days we'll see just how bad it really was.

My son and I are planning a trip to the volunteer center to see what needs to be done. We have lots of evacuees here in our hotels and shelters.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hunkering Down

We are all watching Ike with trepidation around here...I've been around and around my yard, looking for anything that might fly away, and then I think "100 mph winds? I'll be lucky if the roof doesn't fly away."

Anyway, schools are closed and we've been told to stay off the roads. I provisioned earlier so I'm just watching the weather channel and keeping fingers crossed. Needless to say, not much writing is getting done today.

Although, really - isn't that the best time to disappear into a magical world that is within your control?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Slightly Askew

I've been thinking about this topic a great deal lately, because all my friends are discussing it, so hey, here goes nothing.

To self-publish or not to self-publish?

Way back when I started writing I would have done almost anything to see my name in print. It just seemed so darned hard to get the attention of editors, agents, anyone who would even read much less accept my work. Of course, I thought what I was writing was perfect, just the thing, kids would love it, and so on. I thought I just needed to get the right person's eye and - voila! I would hit the big time.

I was wrong.

For one thing, I had the wrong goal. The goal is not to be published; the goal is to be read. To be read and loved. To be read over and over again, and on into timelessness. Sure, some people come into this world with a gift that elevates them right away to a sphere of knowledge that gives them the ability to write a winner. I'm not in that camp. I needed to learn what children will read and like. I needed to learn pacing and character and scene/sequel. So getting published before I learned those things would mean a mediocre book at best.

I have friends who are self-published - several who are really great, superb, award-winning writers - and I looked on them with envy, and not a little of the, well, why not?

I'm so glad I opted "not" and here's "why".

1. I needed to become a better writer first.
2. I needed to become a better writer first.

You get the idea. Editors were not rejecting me because they didn't get my writing; they were rejecting me because my writing wasn't good. Okay, maybe, but not good. Not salable. Not re-read a million times good. Not as good as my self-pubbed friends who are good.

So, if you are considering self-publication, which in these times is all too easy, please think again. The number of self-pubbed books that make it is miniscule. That's because the number of self-pubbed books that are any good is miniscule. That's because - most - not all - of the authors who are self-pubbed jumped the gun, and didn't learn the craft of writing first. Like me, who almost went there and is very happy she did not.

Monday, September 1, 2008

For the Ages

A thread currently under discussion on the boards at Vermont College has to do with the age of the protagonist of middle grade novels.

I have a real interest in this, since I've written a middle grade novel and most reviewers tell me they have trouble with the character's age. He acts much younger than his years, at least in the world I created. He is ADD, and kids who are ADD tend to be less mature than their peers, but that's no excuse for incorrect or age-inappropriate dialogue.

So what to do? I've done a survey of contemporary books that feature characters of the same age. Boy, do they vary! One character reads Shakespeare, another goes to boot camp, a third has dyslexia and can scarcely read anything at all. Girls tend to be more mature in general; boys tend to be more active (duh).

I'd love to hear from anyone who has thoughts on this one. So much of what kids have to read in school in middle grade/early high years is OLD - like Dickens-old - and though I love Dickens, his voice is not exactly contemporary. What is it that tweens, especially tween boys, like to read (other than the obvious fantasy/science fiction)? Who do they like as characters?

As a footnote, here in Texas, we are grateful that Gustav was not what it could have been, and we are keeping fingers crossed for our neighbors in Louisiana.