Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Do you journal?

Keeping a journal is a great way to write regularly and create potential aspects of future works. A journal can be a fancy leatherbound type, but it's just as effective in a cheap spiral notebook. The important thing is that it doesn't simply sit on your bedside table or get covered in candybar crumbs at the bottom of your backpack--it should be filled with ink. And writing isn't all you have to do. Many creative people find it just as inspiring for future reference to draw or paste pictures in the pages. I find that magazines are great for finding a character. They're easy to describe since you already know exactly what they look like, plus you can refer back to them later and your memory of the color of her hair or the slant of his smile is immediately sharpened.

The only rule about your journal is to make it truly yours.

When I taught creative writing I often gave daily journal assignments. Do what you like, but I'll offer you the same guidelines I gave my students:

For the fifteen minutes or so that we've set aside for journaling, just write. Take my journal topic as a jumping off point and go from there. It can be true or totally fictionalized. If your story takes the shape of a play, that's fine. If it is a character sketch, great. If it's simply a description of a setting, perfect. Listen to your creative voice.

Your journal is your gym. It's where you exercise. Most gyms are stinky places covered in sweat and people pushing themselves to become their physical best. Journaling doesn't have to be pretty. Just push yourself to go beyond your comfort zone.

You'll be surprised at what you learn you can do.

In fact, the prologue of my novel Glamour was a journal entry. My character Kat just arrived in my classroom as I journaled with my students. True, she was inspired by some boys (that I usually adored) who were excited about something that happened at lunch and insited on whispering, gigging and disturbing the others who wanted to journal. I'm thankful to them, though, because when we all managed to settle down, I had the first line of my novel: She liked to keep their tongues in her pocket.

Try out the journal topic for yourself and see what you come up with.

Journal topic: What do you have in your pocket?

Monday, March 24, 2008

I love my library

I only recently moved to New Jersey. Since then, a lot of money has left my wallet to find its home with bookstores. Buying books is a good thing, but I also like checking them out for free at the library. Last Friday I finally got my new library card.

This weekend I went to the Jersey Shore, celebrated Easter with friends, and read those four books. It felt great. None of them were deep or depressing books; they were delightful escapism.

Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series is always light and fun. I'm a little behind, so I read Volume VIII, Princess on the Brink. The ending was like one of those to be continued tv shows, so I went to her website and read the beginning of the next one.

Then, to continue my reading marathon that was the equivalent of eating one chocolate after another, I read Janet Evanovich's Plum Lucky. Sure, she's formulaic, but do I care? Nope. The comedic timing is brilliant. Stephanie Plum and Lula always make me laugh. (And I swear I saw Lula's cousin on the train a couple of weeks ago headed to Trenton!) The Between-the-Numbers novels bother me a bit, though, because Ranger isn't featured. Every gal's life is better with Ranger.

I'd read a lot about Ally Carter's series I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You. Mostly on her agent's blog. So, I checked it out. Good times. It's Hogwarts for female spies. I must be in the right genre for the weekend because the last person who checked out the book had also checked out Princess at the same time. (I found the library receipt stuck in the book jacket.)

Lastly I read Lisa Fiedler's Romeo's Ex: Rosaline's Story, which pretty much follows Shakespeare's play to the extent that anybody who is having trouble in class can read this and understand the plot and characters better. She even lifts lines straight from the play and creates her own rhyming couplets in an attempt to emulate Will's style. However, she cleverly weaves a love story between Rosaline and Benvolio. Really, they're the only characters in the play who exhibit true honor and virtue, so it's easy to want them to be together.

It's time for me to go back to the library.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

American Idol

I'm an on again/off again American Idol fan. This season, I'm on. Once they weed out the people who should know better than to embarrass themselves by auditioning for a singing competition, I'm all ears. This season's talent is really incredible.

For the most part.

But was booting off Amanda really the right choice last night? Granted, her performance was not stellar, but was she the worst?

Why, oh, why does the Cook girl make it through to the next level every week even though she's repeatedly ranked in the bottom? No, wait... I know.

She's cute.

Even my hubby will pause in whatever he is doing to watch a bit of the show if she's singing.

However, this week decided who gets to go on tour. So, America, when you pay to see her in concert, remember you voted off the girl with the blues-y soul in favor of a an adorable girl who struggled with "pitch" as well as rhythm in a popular Beatles song. Now, on the tour, ticket payers will have to endure similar torture "Eight Days a Week."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Blogger Blech

I'm new to the blogging arena.

No, wait, that's not true.

I'm well acquainted to the blog world and am quite addicted to several. Fashion blogs call to me like sirens. I can't go through my day without checking my faves:
Alas, I do not have a handle on the details on running my own blog. So, go ahead and laugh whenever I do something silly. And if you know how to fix it, please let me know.

One thing that's driving me bonkers is the stupid dateline that shows up on the day an entry is drafted. Sure, if I did this blog thing properly and typed on the day that I want to publish it, there'd be no problem. However, I have a life beyond my computer. (Admittedly, one in which more adventure would be welcome.) So, what about when I want to draft something for later because I plan to while away the hours that day with a delicious new novel or Fashion Week in Bryant Park or the sand at any beach?

I guess I can't cheat...unless you tell me how.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Animal Rescue Site

Each morning I wake up and go to my laptop. Check my email. Read my blogs. Eat some cereal.

Before I do any of that, though, I click on The Animal Rescue Site.

Growing up, we always had dogs and cats even though my mom refused to let us have hamsters or gerbils. "I will not have a rat in my house!" I don't have a pet now, so I feel like this habit must be from my dad's rule of feeding the animals before we ate because they can't fend for themselves.

A former student and later fellow classmate in a college writing course recommended this site. Andrew is passionate about animals--I heard he has everything from dogs to rare lizards in his house. Even if someone isn't as enthusiastic as he is, it doesn't take much effort to click. With each daily click, I help fill .6 of a bowl for a rescued animal. If you click, too, we'll be able to help more than one.

Glamour on the go

Glamour, my first YA novel, has moved out of my hands to the good people at HAWK.

Glamour was a fun book to write. Remembering what it was like to be a teenager wasn't difficult because I feel like I've spent most of my life there--either as a kid or a teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and editing.

The hard part was AFTER I wrote the book. Learning how to pitch it to agents and editors was mind numbing and almost enough to make me think I was content to have it just for myself thankyouverymuch. I'm glad I didn't, though. My writing group and other friends encouraged me and my own little fairy tale came true.

Once the amazing Bill Bernhardt from HAWK expressed his interest in publishing the manuscript, I felt like I was in some sort of surreal world. Maybe not Salvador Dali with all his melting clocks but more like the Willy Wonka's area with the chocolate river, edible daffodil teacups, and the Oompa Loompas. I feared I'd be like one of the naughty children in the story and mess up everything.

And there were things for me to mess up. I had to supply a photo for the book jacket. How do you decide what that should be? People might just look at the pic and think, "No WAY am I reading anything by this chica." Um, not that I've done anything so shallow before.

And then there's a bio. Seriously, I know common sense indicates that I'm the prime person to write about me, but I didn't know what to include. Did I mention that I began writing in the first grade? Did I mention that I grew up in Oklahoma in the Creek Nation Captial and my family was from the Cherokee Capital--both of which influenced the American Indian aspect of my story? Did I mention that unlike most people I loved high school--even though middle school was about as painful as the first few weeks of American Idol? Nope. I mentioned none of these things. Brevity seemed best.

And now I wait semi-patiently as some creative superhero designs the cover of what will be my first published novel. I am so excited to see how someone else interprets my story! I'll share it with you as soon as I can.