Archive for January, 2011

One More Personal Note

January 31, 2011

I’m happy to report that things have settled down in my sister’s Cairo suburb.  The people of Maadi have essentially taken their neighborhoods back with a little assistance from the Egyptian army.  Undoubtedly, sentiments about Westerners vary widely throughout Egypt, but one stranger came up to a friend of my sister’s on the street and said: “Don’t worry. We protect you.” 

I’m updating friends and family daily, but any readers of the blog can assume that no news is good news.


Friday of Wrath

January 28, 2011

I tend to stick to thoughts about writing on this blog.  But when I had a request for a school visit this morning, I couldn’t help thinking about the ones that I did in Egypt a couple of years ago at my sister’s school, Cairo American College.  These were unpaid events for my sister’s friends.  But they also doubled as research since a couple of the characters in my work-in-progress attended that school. 

Those kids, teachers and my sister are all hunkered down today as events unfold in Cairo.  I’m keeping them in my prayers.  May the demonstrations be peaceful and effective.


January 26, 2011

In the latest round of revisions, I’ve been dealing with issues of story logic.  Why this? Why that?  Sometimes people agree that there’s a problem, but I’ve noticed that different people are often stumbling over different things.  Stephen King once wrote: “…if a lot of people are telling you something is wrong with your piece, it is.  But if everyone–or even most everyone–is criticizing something different, you can safely disregard what all of the say.” 

But if I can see why a reader might very well come away from a section with a reaction that I didn’t expect,  I am often quite ready to ditch it even if other people skimmed right past it without the slightest burp or bump.

The Things that Still Aren’t on the Page

January 19, 2011

Author and writing teacher Darcy Pattison has observed that writers have two stories when they finish a manuscript: the one on the page and the one in their heads.  The challenge is bringing the two into alignment.  (That’s not quite a quote, but it’s really close.) 

Today, that was brought home to me again as one of my local groups today critiqued Calyn’s story. As different points came up, I would sometimes find myself saying, “I know that this must not have come through on the page, but this is what I was trying to do.”  And these thoughtful people helped me see where and how I could slip in expansions and clarifications.  I feel tremendously blessed to have had the help of this group and others.  And I’ll be relying on some other readers/writers to check out the latest upgrade soon.

The 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards

January 19, 2011

The Edgars Awards are given out by the Mystery Writers of American.  The nominees for titles from 2010 came out today on the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe.  I’m delighted to report that my friend and fellow writer Dori Butler was nominated in the best juvenile category for THE BUDDY FILES: THE CASE OF THE LOST BOY.  You can find the entire list here.

Wrestling with Transitions

January 17, 2011

Transitions.  How do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways.  The first would be that I’ve just spent a half an hour struggling with a chapter opening and still haven’t found anything that works to my satisfaction.  Ordinarily, this is the point where I would decide to march past this section and attack it another day, but I’m trying to fix issues before sending this project onto another other writers for feedback.  I remember feeling quite relieved to know that I’m not the only author who struggles with moving my characters through time and space.  But I know that one famous English writer (Thomas Hardy?) complained to a friend that he was having the worst time moving a character from the front steps down to the gate.

Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011

January 12, 2011

Alas and alack, SUSPECT did not win through to the final list of 99 titles.  But then, I didn’t really expect it to.  A quick tour through the nominations assured me back in November that my book was quite light  by comparison without having the high concept of something like Natalie Standiford’s CONFESSION OF THE SULLIVAN SISTERS.  But I still feel like I’m in wonderful company since Richard Peck and Robin McKinley didn’t make the final cut either. I was delighted, however, to see the most recent fantasies by Megan Whalen Turner and Elizabeth Bunce on the list.

Luxor Temple by Night

January 8, 2011

Sometimes beautiful things can emerge when you clean your desk.  In this case, I rediscovered my CD of the photos from Egypt. I’d been meaning to share more of them, but got behind with one thing and another.  I can’t take credit for either of these shots.  My husband was the man in charge of the camera.  They were both taken on the same day, but the first one was in early evening.

View of Luxor Temple from the Corniche

Coming back after visiting the Luxor Museum

Not Wrecked!

January 7, 2011

One of the things that haunts writers when they revise is whether they are making things better or worse.  My kids all liked Calyn’s story the best out of everything I’d written.  So I’ll admit to being a bit nervous about how my daughters would react to the new version they read it over Christmas break.  They still liked it!  That’s a good thing.  If anything, they’re probably more discerning readers than when they went through it the first time. 

Writers are often told not to rely on family members for feedback.  I actually think relatives can be helpful as long as they’re not your only source.  It helps that my daughters both understand that I’d rather hear it from them now than from an editor later, so each of them shared parts that puzzled them as well as parts that they liked.  (Never underestimate the power of know what IS working.)  I had thought that I’d be able to get Calyn’s story out to a few more people this week, but I have a feeling that I’m going to need to spend over a week on these fixes.

The Call

January 6, 2011

While acceptances from children’s magazines usually come through the mail, acceptances from publishers usually come in the form of a phone call from the editor or the author’s agent.  Struggling writers often wonder if they’re ever going to make it to that point. 

Eight writers from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency have joined together to start a blog called Emu’s Debuts.  It launched this week. They’re tracing the process for writers as the manuscripts move from being accepted to publication.  Right now, they’re ataking turns sharing that moment when they got the call. It definitely shows that perseverance can pay off.