if you want to destroy my sweater

While on the way home from school, Weezer’s “Sweater Song” came on the radio, and Z was intrigued. “Can you really destroy a sweater like that?” Not being a knitter, I don’t know the answer, but I said you could definitely do some damage. Then we brainstormed other ways to destroy a sweater. Here are three:

Run over the sweater with a car.

sweater 1

Bake the sweater in a pie.

sweater 2

Bake the sweater in a pie and feed it to an alligator.

sweater 3

When I listen to the song, I always picture the sweater as red. Not sure why that is.

NaNoWriMo continues to be fun! I’m going to run out of story before I hit my word count goal, but that’s what revision is for, I guess.

Some Ways to Recharge

We ALL need rest (although try telling that to my five-year-old). So I started thinking about what helps me relax and stock up on energy…here are my ideas.

1. I prepare for recharging like I’d prepare for a visit from a friend. Yes, this is a little counter-intuitive because I’m doing some work up front, but it’s worth it. The house doesn’t have to be spotless, but I try to get it to a decent point. Then I plan some activities and good food, clear my schedule and cut back on obligations, and it’s all worth it for the recharging time ahead.

2. Limit screen time. This is a big one. It’s easy for me to zone out in front of the computer or television, but at the end of it, I totally do NOT feel rested. There’s noise. Noise noise noise noise, like the Grinch says. So turning those off and getting into a book or a notebook or an artsy project (see 4, below) is what helps me.

3. Cat naps! Goes without saying, really.

4. I try to do something creative, but only if it doesn’t feel like “work.” Writing can fall into this category, but if I’m not having a good time, I should work on something else, like a Shiny New Idea, or…scrapbooking, or making my kids’ Halloween costumes.

5. Sort of related to the above, PLAY. If I can sit down, with or without the kids, and break out the crayons and a coloring book, I’m a happy girl. It is SO soothing. Same with Play-Do, LEGO, My Little Ponies….

There’s more, of course, but I’m going to take my own advice and relax. Well, not really. I’m in Tip 1, which is setting the scene for recharging. I’ve got a few writing-related things I need to wrap up over the next few weeks. I’m taking a month-long break from this blog, although I’ll still do my two scheduled posts at the YA Muses, and I’ll try to comment on other blogs occasionally. So, my next post here will be October 11th.

Colonel Shifty’s Haiku Made Easy – Query Critique or Poem Giveaway

Okay, so I actually used to do this when I worked in a restaurant. On my close-out envelope, I’d write a few 5- and 7-syllable options and ask a coworker to choose and voila, a ready-made haiku. Indulge me?

1st Lines
sweet peppers pungent
giraffes wear lipstick
television light
traveling rat spa
little mermaid fin

2nd Lines
winter elephant in bloom
LEGO music Clair de Lune
ice cream melts antagonist
Wichita parades at noon
lavender shoe fetishist

3rd Lines
ickle ockle blue
scented miracle
Areola’s smile
superstar panda
jealous macaroon

Post your haiku in the comments! One entry per person, but feel free to create as many as you like. And feel free to switch things up a bit (substitute words or lines of your own or whatever). Winning haiku will be chosen by Colonel Shifty on Thursday, August 29th at 1:36 pm Pacific time. (Colonel Shifty is actually a gopher, so I will help him by drawing a name out of a hat or using some kind of number generator thingie.) The prize…the prize…um. (Can you tell I’m winging this whole thing?) I’ll critique your query letter. If you don’t have a query letter, or don’t want me to critique it, I will write you a poem. A personalized poem! By me! Yay!

SCBWI Summer Conference 2013

Because I’m probably the last person to blog about the conference, this’ll be a quick-n-dirty version. For the keynotes and workshops, I took varying amounts of notes, but for each one I tried to find a take-away message – something I could refer to or apply directly to my writing. Here’s a quick compilation of my take-away messages. I tried to remember which take-aways are direct quotes & gave them the necessary punctuation; I apologize for any mistakes. In 40 handwritten pages of notes and reflections, mistakes are inevitable.

Laurie Halse Anderson: “Defend, protect, and celebrate childhood.”

Jon Scieszka: “Don’t put kids to sleep – wake ’em up!”

Veronica Rossi: Get to work on the log lines – they can help you figure out if your book is high-concept or not. (I only got to stay for half of Veronica’s talk.)

Steve Malk: Get your priorities straight, and be honest. Find a career model to follow.

Panel on YA Worldbuilding with Veronica Rossi, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Tahereh Mafi, & Ransom Riggs: How the world is, is important. How your character views the world and how the world & character interact – VERY important.

Mac Barnett: “Do bold, experimental things.”

Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler: When cowriting a novel, decide message & tone, level of humor vs. seriousness.

Matt de la Pena: “Put your head down, don’t worry about where you fit in, & work your ass off.”

Melissa Manlove: “When you want something you can’t have, it marks you in some way.”

Carolyn Mackler: Get your priorities straight. It’s okay to go slow with the writing & focus on these years when the kids are young.

Ginger Clark: do another polish on your manuscript before sending it out. The ending is probably not good enough.

David Wiesner: There are different ways to approach an idea. Don’t force what doesn’t work.

Kirby Larsen: Research combined with poetry can help you grow an appropriate vocabulary for your character.

Lin Oliver & Henry Winkler: Write the kind of humor that makes you laugh.

Jarrett Krosoczka: Try new things and see what works.

Overall, the conference was inspiring and informative. Plus I got to stay some of the nights with my BFF D-Chan, who lives nearby. She let me try on all of her wigs, which was super-fun. We went to some awesome restaurants, including Fab Hot Dogs, which I’d been looking forward to for MONTHS. And we had ramen at this place that has probably ruined me for all future ramen forever. So now I need to go back!

THANK YOU to the SCBWI California North/Central region for making my trip possible with a grant!

7 Things Your Support Network Needs to Hear

It’s me, Colonel Shifty again! (You lucky ducks.) Last week I counseled Support Network Personnel in the things their writers need to hear. This week, the message is for writers. What does your Support Network need from you? Now, I know writers are inherently selfish (at least, one in particular that I know well). However, think of it like this: If your Support Network is drained and resentful, how well can they support you? Nourishing that Support Network is in your best interest, believe me.

So what do they need? I polled* some Support Networks and got the answers for you, right here:

1. Thank you. Put it in the dedication, or put it in the acknowledgments page. Write it in the sky. Write it in a card, an email, or spell it with cookies on a daisy-patterned plate. Or just, you know, say it. Your Support Network needs to know you appreciate them. Please remember, certain methods of showing gratitude will be more effective than others, depending on circumstances of ability on the part of the writer, and tolerance on the part of the Support Network (e.g. Beth, please do not sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” to Homes. You can totally sing it to your mom, though; she’d dig it).

2. Go out! Have fun! I’ve only had twenty-nine different writer-related outings this month. Tonight’s your night! You can leave me with these two short strangers who may or may not be my children. Is it all right if I call them by the names of my main characters? In all seriousness, you writerly types can be downright selfish when it comes to sucking up all the free time for writing. Give your Support Network time to pursue their own passions, even if it might not be your idea of a good time.

3. Let’s talk about you. Some writers I know (cough*Beth*cough) can go on for days talking to their Support Network about their writing. Whether it’s plot issues, or characters, or querying, or agent drama, it can really fill up the conversation, until the Support Network is sitting on the other side of the table (or worse, trapped in a moving vehicle) looking like a blinking piece of haggis. Remember to share the conversation time, writers.

4. What kind of story do you want to read? This is a fun one, and can get you thinking of different genres, or of blending genres. Look out, though, because you might have a snarky Support Network, and you may not appreciate the answer (e.g. “How about a story where your whiny main character drowns on page ten?”). But if all goes well, cool things can happen. If your support network is heavily into magical realism and you write westerns, imagine the possibilities! Naturally, being a gopher, I don’t have a lot of time to read, but if I did, I’d be reading that.

5. Bad day? Help yourself to my emergency chocolate stash. Writers, it may seem like a big deal to give someone the key to your sanity-preserving dark chocolate peanut butter cups, but remember what I said above: Nourishing your Support Network is in your best interest. Who else will run to the store for more chocolate the next time you’re in need?

6. No, the bad guy isn’t based on you. Your mutual love of haggis is purely coincidental. Sometimes your Support Network might wonder, since you’ve stolen every good piece of dialogue they’ve uttered, what else you’re stealing. Their appearance? Their quirk of wiping their face with a napkin every time they take a bite of food? What about their childhood dreams? Are you some kind of psychic vampire, or what? Take the time to reassure your Support Network that this is FICTION and any similarity it bears to any real event or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental (or whatever that legal jargon is that writers use to save their butts).

7. This book is going to Make It Big and then you can quit your soul-sucking job and retire into the life of luxury to which you should be accustomed. As long as your Support Network realizes the minuscule chance of any book “making it big,” no matter how beautifully wrought, this message can give your Support Network hope, and an opportunity to dream with you. As long as these dreams aren’t replacing Real, Actual Writing (TM), use this for the boost in morale it can give you both.

Really, all those other things are great, but no matter what, your Support Network needs a Thank you. (Although rumor among polled* participants has it that massages, favorite foods, and other tokens of appreciation wouldn’t hurt.)

*No participants were actually polled. Sorry, there wasn’t time.

7 Things Your Writer Needs to Hear

Hi! Colonel Shifty here, reporting with another list of tips for the people who care for writers.

Maybe your writer is shy, or passive aggressive, or just so darn busy drafting Book 3 in her series that she can’t manage to tell you what she needs to hear. Granted, some of these things she needs to hear from people in the publishing business (agents, editors, whatevs), but even if they come from you, a person who cares for her, they’ll still make her feel better/keep her from throwing her manuscript into the fireplace. (Throwing her book into the fireplace just might be the best thing for her…but she has to figure that out on her own.)

1. “Your turn will come.” Your writer may have friends who have published a book. Or books. Or maybe your writer has friends with literary agents, and he’s been desperately trying to find an agent to represent his work, and he’s having a really tough time hearing about how each of those friends had multiple agents fighting over him, and he’s happy for them, he really is. But he’s also feeling a little frustrated about his own place in the process. What your writer needs now is some cheerleading in the form of, “You will have your turn, and it will be glorious.” Because he will have his turn! And it will be glorious! (Please do not mention the possibility that his turn could be, oh, fifteen years away. Or more. He doesn’t need to hear that.)

2. “Take your time.” There’s no rush. I mean, obviously, your writer shouldn’t be dominating the Twitter feeds of her six followers, but she can spend some time taking a head-clearing walk or diving into book-related research. Maybe there’s a ticking clock of needing to get a “real” job once her baby starts school. That’s okay. She can still write. And rushing through a book doesn’t help anyone. She should enjoy it – otherwise what’s the point?

3. “Write the book you need to write.” Does your writer want to tell weird stories? Or super sad stories? Or historical fiction or paranormal romance about vampires? Is he drawn to something that might not exactly be marketable? Tell your writer it’s okay. If that’s the book he needs to write, he should write it. If he’s passionate about it, that passion will shine through. And maybe it won’t be publishable, but he’ll never know unless he writes the darn thing.

4. “Define your own success.” Publication isn’t the only way. Tell your writer that. If she’s writing, and she’s happy, that is a GOOD thing. Maybe her success shouldn’t be measured by things she can’t control, like the publishing industry. Maybe it should instead be measured by the progress she CAN control, like finishing a book, or learning more about a certain format (cough*verse*cough), or getting out there and attending a workshop. Some days this one writer I know defines success by whether or not she makes the time to sit her bootie down to write.

5. “Chocolate doesn’t have calories. Nope, none. Not a single calorie. Eat as much as you want.” No explanation necessary.

6. “It’s okay to cry.” Even if your writer is defining his own success and writing the book he needs to write and taking his time…rejection can still sting. A lot. Give him a day or two to get over it. Crying’s okay, as long as he isn’t short-circuiting his laptop keyboard with the tears.

7. “You want to leave me with our two young children for how many days while you attend a conference? Okay!” I’m sure you’re already supportive in this regard, in which case you may pat yourself on the back and help yourself to one of your writer’s chocolates from her not-so-secret stash. Your writer is taking big risks putting words on the page. An even bigger risk might be attending a writing conference and putting herself out there, learning new things, and totally leaving her comfort zone. Huzzah and hooray to the support network personnel (aka YOU) who are willing to step out of your comfort zone and let her have at it!

And finally, you may kindly point your writer to next week’s Guest Post by Me, Colonel Shifty, in which I list a few of the things your writer can be saying to you, her support network.

New to being the Support Network for your writer? If you need a tutorial on lingo from the publishing world, you can visit my Handy Dandy Dictionary.

8 Random Links

Some of the way-cool places I’ve visited in the past couple of weeks:

Clark Little Photography: some awesome photos of Hawaii sent to me by Pat Kahn.

Get Genrefied: Verse Novels: an introduction to verse novels, with some excellent recommendations both new and old. Pointed out by Helene Dunbar.

Legendary Surfer Woody “Spider” Brown: biography of a really interesting surfer, one of the big wave pioneers.

Conference Commandments: I plan on adapting this list of Veronica Rossi’s for when I go to the SCBWI Summer Conference.

YA Girl, Episode 1: Kristen Held‘s hysterically funny post on what happens when your characters really talk to you.

20 Awesome Examples of Literary Graffiti: I think I found this through a tweet by Scholastic, and I keep going back to look.

Manuscript Formatting and Prep Screencasts: an extremely useful formatting tutorial. I loved it, and realize this makes me look like more of a nerd than ever. Another one sent by Pat Kahn.

The Art of the Rewrite: Heather Anastasiu’s post at Adventures in Children’s and YA Publishing. I liked it so much I actually copied & pasted it into a Word document so I wouldn’t lose track of it (because my computer file system is so foolproof…ha).