14 May

BookExpo America

Posted in Conferences

 I’m super excited for BookExpo America, which is in less than two short weeks!  I’m also really looking forward to meeting other bloggers at Book Blogger Con on the Friday.

As I get ready or the trade show and the conference, I’ve been reading up on BEA so that I can make the most of this awesome week.  Although I have been to BEA before, the last time I went was for only one day and I feel like I hardly got to see any of it.

This time around, I plan to get as much as I can out of the show. Here are some posts I’ve found that give great advice for BEA: 

•  Natasha from Maw Books Blog gives great advice in her Do’s and Dont’s list and shares tons of pictures from BEA.  (Note to self: Bring camera) 

•  Girl From the Ghetto has great tips for organizing your time at BEA, like figuring out author signings and making the most of your time.  She also mentions bringing your own water (Note to self: Bring water bottle and refill throughout the day)

•  Emma Michaels of The Thirteenth Chime not only gives great advice, she also has a linky feature so you can meet other folks who are going to BEA and browse their blogs.

• Nicole at Linus’ Blanket has awesome tips about New York and BEA.  I especially like what she has to say about being comfortable and planning ahead.

• Jacqueline’s post at SmallPressWorld gives fantastic advice.  Her notes about business cards and what to pack for the day are must-reads!

If you’re going to BEA or Book Blogger Con, link to your blog in the comments.  I’d love to check it out.  Also, I got some great BEA fitness tips from Missy and will share them next week, so stay tuned!

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17 Feb

The Answer is In the Work

Posted in Conferences, Kid Lit, SCBWI, Teen Lit, Writing

All you have to do is glance at the twitter feed for the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC (#ny11scbwi) to know that Sara Zarr seriously rocked the house.  There have been numerous recap posts about her talk.  My favorites include:

Jenny Torres Sanchez [Read. Write. Suffer.Sara Zarr at SCBWI–VALIDATION!

Candy Gourlay [Notes from the Slushpile] NYC 2011: Sara Zarr gives the speech she wanted to hear.

Now it’s been two weeks since the conference and as I sit down to write this post, I can’t shake that feeling of dread… that feeling that no matter what I write here, it could never do justice to the AWESOME that was Sara Zarr’s actual speech.  With that in mind, I have come to the conclusion that I will not do a recap.  Yes, I have pages and pages of notes.  Yes, I could give you a long list of all the amazing things she said.  But I could never manage to recreate the energy that filled the room while she said it.  So rather than try and fail miserably, I will simply try something else.

“The answer is in the work.”  Even as I write this post, I realize how true Sara Zarr’s statement is.  The answer isn’t some elusive thing floating out in the ether.  The answer is in the work.  All the things Sara Zarr listed as being essential to a fulfilling creative life are simply ways of taking the focus from neurotic writer-selves and channeling it toward the work.

Here are some of the qualities that Sara Zarr mentioned that lead to a fulfilling creative life (and obstacles that get in our way):

  • Sustainable
  • Engaging (as opposed to Disenchanting)
  • Invites Company but Knows When to Send Company Away (as opposed to Inviting the WRONG Company)
  • Faith-Based (as opposed to having a Lack of Faith)
  • Gives Back (as opposed to being Self-Obsessed)
  • Practice and Craft are central (as opposed to emphasizing Process or the Commodification of Creativity)

As I look down that list, I realize that writers will tap into all of the qualities of a fulfilling creative life the moment they focus on loving the work.  If you love the work, it will sustain you and engage you even when the people around you are not supportive.  If you love the work, you’ll invite good company into your circle of trust and send the bad company away.  If you love the work, you’ll have faith that someday, good things will happen even if the present moment kind of stinks.

“The true goal to strive for is to love doing the work.”  ~Sara Zarr

Notice also that all the obstacles that oppose those good qualities of a fulfilling creative life can get knocked down the minute we start loving the work.  If we love the work, it’s hard to be self-obsessed or to commodify our creativity.  The work will have inherent meaning to us, not just meaning defined by what other people think of our work.

Ultimately, writers need to love doing the work and believe that there’s enough generosity in the universe to go around.  In the words of Flannery O’Connor: “People without hope do not write novels.”

In closing, there is a line in that movie Pushing Tin, and it sums up the writing experience for me.  This one air traffic controller is returning to work after having a meltdown and his therapist has given him a mantra: “It’s a big sky, there’s lots of room.”

I feel like that mantra captures the writing life beautifully.  This isn’t a zero-sum game.  OK, it might be if your end-goal is to have a #1 bestseller or win some prestigious award–but that doesn’t necessarily make for a fulfilling creative life (and can lead to a lot of stress and neuroses).  But if the goal is to love doing the work, then there’s plenty of good stuff in the universe to go around.  It’s a big sky.  There’s plenty of room for everybody.


16 Feb

How to Survive the Revision Process

Posted in Conferences, Craft, Process, Revision

OK, I’ll admit it.  When I was in school (and college and grad school) I was seriously guilty of turning in work before revising it.  Sure, I would do a quick spell-check and maybe give it a once-over for grammar, but rarely did I ever roll up my sleeves and do serious revision.

Now that I have a draft of my book done, I find myself in the middle of the revision process and I totally realize why I was resistant to revision before: it’s flippin’ scary.  This is why I was so thrilled to hear James Scott Bell speak about the revision process at the Writer’s Digest Conference.  I was particularly excited to attend his talk because I am a huge fan of his book The Art of War for Writers.  Here are some of the sparkly nuggets I took away from this session.

Principles of Revision

1)  Write hot, revise cool.  Revision allows you to add rational choices and strategy to the frantic bursts of creativity that came out in the first draft.  Take at least two weeks (maybe longer) after writing your draft to let it cool down before you revise.

2)  You need to finish first.  Nothing you write is etched in stone… you can always come back and make it better later on.  The only thing you can’t do is revise a blank page.  Finish first.

    3)  Do a first read-through.  Try to recreate a reading experience so that you’re not focused on the fact that you’re reading your own book.  Make minimal notes.  Tip from Gabi:  I put my book on my Kindle and have been reading it there so that it feels more like a “real book” and not just a draft on printed computer pages.  I use the footnote function on the Kindle to make my notes, and since I’m lazy about taking notes on Kindle, it forces me to make my notes short.

    4)  Summarize your changes.  Write a 2000 word summary of your draft with the new adjustments you just noted.  Tip from Gabi: You can also try extracting an outline from the first draft, as a way of getting a handle on what you have written.  Then adjust the outline according to the notes you made in your read-through and implement those changes in the draft.

    Things to Think About in Revision

    Character:  The characters need to jump off the page.  Here are a few exercises to help you with this:

    • Try creating some “off-screen” scenes where you see what the character would do in crazy situations.  
    • Do the “opposite exercise” where you have the character do the opposite of what you’d expect, then figure out why they did that.

    Remember, even at the very beginning, try to give the reader an inkling that the character has the potential for change.

    Opening:  As Bell put it: “Cut out the parts that people skip.”  Start the story where things get interesting.  Also, make trouble for your characters from the start.  Readers become engaged with the characters at the first sign of conflict.

    Dialogue:  Compress the dialogue and extend the action.  Get rid of exposition and ramp up the conflict.  Even if characters are on the “same side” they should still have some kind of conflict between them.

    Take-Home Message

    Ultimately, revision is where you add the strategic element to your story.  Now that you know who the characters are and what’s going to happen, you can plant foreshadowing moments and hint at themes that will be important later on.  You can’t do all this in your first draft because during that stage of the process you don’t know your characters or the story completely.  It’s only once you know the ending and who your characters are at their core that you can manipulate the story in a strategic way.

    Much as my brain understands all the amazing benefits of revision, I still find myself having trouble because I keep psyching myself out. 

    Help!  Do you have any revision tips I can borrow?


    06 Feb

    Updates! Exciting! Woot!

    Posted in Conferences, Info, SCBWI, Updates

    Publishers Weekly Blog: Beyond Her Book

    My dear friends!  It’s been too long, no?  I am soooo sorry to leave you in the lurch and not post with my usual somewhat-regularity this past week.  Things have been especially nuts on this small slice of the planet where I reside.  Here’s what’s been going on:

    1)  SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC!  OMG, such a fantabulous conference and sooooo much fun.  I have sooooo much to tell you.  Promise I’ll dish all the details real soon, but in the meantime, check out my guest post recap on Barbara Vey’s (of Publishers Weekly) blog: Beyond Her Book

    2)  Sooper-seekrit collaborative project shall be unveiled soon!  Actually, Ghenet and I were supposed to unveil it on Friday but an unavoidable incident made it such that I couldn’t access the internet for the latter part of the week so we decided to postpone for a week.  Don’t worry.  It’s coming…

    3)  OMG why won’t it stop snowing?  It seems like every week we get more snow dumped on the city.  Or ice.  Or sleet.  And to add insult to injury, it’s almost always on a Tuesday, which is when my writer’s group meets.  While I happen to live and work only a few short blocks from the meeting place–making the snow only a minor inconvenience for me–we have folks coming in from all over the tri-state area and for them it hasn’t been as easy.  Basically, I haven’t gotten to see some of these super-awesome writers in, like, two or three weeks and I seriously need my fix.  Enough with the snow already.  Oh, and did I mention what was in the forecast for Tuesday?

    4)  Today’s the Superbowl!  No, I don’t watch football.  No, I don’t have a favorite team.  Actually the only interest I ever have in that sport is watching the Patriots lose and they’re already eliminated so as far as I’m concerned, I don’t much mind who wins.  But after the game, they’re doing a new episode of GLEE, which is the best show EVER.

    5)  So what’s in store for iggi&gabi this February?

    •  SCBWI Winter Conference recaps
    • A few last recaps for the Writers Digest Conference
    • Other random iggi-licious things

     Are you excited?  I’m excited.  For those of you who celebrate: have a Happy Superbowl.  For those of you who prefer to watch the post-game GLEE episode… I’ve got your back.

    What’s happening in your slice of the planet these days?


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