More than a few readers have written to tell me they’re surprised by the vocabulary in Birthmarked, enough so that I was unsurprised to be in another conversation about “avuncular” last Friday. We love our words, don’t we? Especially the fun and pithy ones.
When I’m writing and revising, I consult a couple of dictionaries and a thesaurus regularly. Often I have the meaning of something in mind but the first word that surfaces doesn’t have… Continue reading
One torture for me as a teacher would happen when I wrote with my students. I’d put three choices on the board, let everyone get their paper and pencils ready, note the time on the clock, and count down “On your mark, get set, go.” We’d write for fifteen minutes in silence, with only the sound of our pencils to accompany us.
The responsible teacher part of me had to glance around the room now and then to see who all was on task, but in good classes… Continue reading
Birthmarked wasn’t in the slush pile for long—two months—but that’s where it started. What I knew about the process of trying to sell a novel was based on my failures with my literary novels (see previous post: Slush Pile Code) and my success with six romances I’d published (agentless) before I became a teacher. I had no experience with children’s publishing whatsoever and no contacts, but there’s a way in for unknown people like me: through the slush pile.
I knew one thing for certain: the only… Continue reading
Warning. This is not an inspirational post for the faint of heart.
I believe in the slush pile. It’s one of the purest forms of meritocracy left to us. You don’t get credit for effort. It doesn’t count that your work shows promise. It doesn’t matter that your teacher gave it an A or that you earned your MFA. The slush pile makes no apologies and accepts no excuses: if your manuscript isn’t good enough, it doesn’t get out of the pile.
The clear simplicity… Continue reading
No one prepared me for the day strangers would be unfriendly to me, and it happened when I most needed a smile. I was a young mom, haggard, sleep-deprived, and hauling my newborn in an awkward child-seat-carrier that looked like a piece of space-age armor. It happened in some innocuous, anonymous setting like a bank or a grocery store, when I needed to make some uneventful transaction. The person behind the counter was not especially rude—I’d certainly encountered bluntly rude people before and I knew what that… Continue reading
When you keep erasing as many pages as you write each day, and you keep going in wrong directions, don’t think that you’re not making progress, because you are. It’s just thinking progress, not pages progress, and when you eventually identify that you’ve put your main character in a position of power and influence where her problems are global rather than personal, then add in some guards and get someone arrested, preferably her.
You might think you would know by now the absolute basic rule of fiction: make things… Continue reading