Fall Conference, here I come!

The countdown is almost over in my house…and no, not all of us are counting down to the release of Brisingr, which is the other countdown in my household. Nope, I’ve been counting the days until the 2008 RMC-SCBWI Fall Conference. Why?

  1. We have an especially great lineup of speakers coming: editors Julie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton), John Randolph (Putnam), Melissa Manlove (Chronicle); agent Barry Goldblatt; and a cadre of fantastic local and imported authors.
  2. I’m receiving a critique on the opening of Juggling from one of the afore-mentioned fantastic speakers.
  3. I’m giving my first presentation to an SCBWI gathering: “Online Critique Groups: A Busy Writer’s Best Friend”.
  4. The weekend will feed my writer’s intellect with thoughts about theme, plot, characters, book structure, and all the other fun things we writers try to figure out…
  5. …and it will feed my writer’s soul with inspiration, encouragement, time with friends, and laughter with other writers. Because let’s face it: you haven’t laughed until you’ve spent an evening with a room full of people who are kooky in all the same ways you are.

So wish me luck on the talk. I’ll be back with conference reports next week!

:) Cheryl

Extracurriculars for the busy writer

I love Heather Sellers’ writing books, Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter. They’re wonderful motivators for the writer who is having trouble making time to write.

That said, I have to disagree with her on one point: writers DO need non-writing activities in their lives.

She makes the excellent point that all the “extras” in our lives–choir, soccer club, PTA mom, volunteer work, whatever–can easily squeeze writing out of our lives. If we don’t keep writing a Priority (capital intended) then Everything Else will take precedence. There are so many demands on the modern writer’s time that we have to guard it like the precious commodity it is. Don’t let your hours be frittered away by good things because, if you do, writing tends not to happen.

But–I’ve been through the ups and downs of finding time to write and, even though I’m just as busy, I’m past that point in my writing life when I have to consciously carve out time for writing. The truth is, if I don’t write these days, I’m cranky, depressed, and unhappy. I go through writing withdrawal. So–I write. I’ve crossed that particular writer’s hurdle, and maybe Sellers is addressing people who haven’t.

See, the opposite extreme–spending time ONLY on writing–isn’t a good idea, either. The real world is where we meet people, observe places and behaviors and mannerisms, and generally re-stock our minds with the images we need to write.

If you’re at the place where you feel guilty taking your 20 minutes (or half hour or three hours) for writing, then keep hacking things out of your schedule. Keep practicing this excellent craft of writing until it earns a constant place in your life. But if you’re like me, with a busy schedule and never quite enough time to write, but only because there aren’t enough hours in the day to write, then don’t quit every great activity. A few are good for the writer’s soul!

:) Cheryl

Getting into character–not for the faint of heart!

If you’ve read my blog much, you know that I do this acting thing for my church. I play a middle school, straight-A, type-A, super-social cheerleader named Cammie. (Hee-hee…and if you know me, you know how funny that is.)

Thing is, actors and writers both have to put on the psyche of characters who are somehow different. In this case, introverted and reserved Cheryl has to figure out how to be Miss Chipper-Popular. Think Legally Blond with poms. In the words of our director extraordinaire, I need more physicality in my role.

So last night I was up late doing a bit of character research…on YouTube. Did you know that you can learn to do cheerleading moves on YouTube? Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cQg4XOkC5Y (Sorry–embedding is disabled for this one.)

I’ve found YouTube useful for other areas of writing. Need to observe a bear raiding a trashcan?

Or need to see a rattlesnake in action?

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, YouTube is an amazing resource for seeing things you can’t manage to see in your real life.

:) Cheryl

The worth of kids’ opinions….

There’s a great entry today on one of the blogs I follow–I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids): http://inkrethink.blogspot.com/2008/09/out-of-mouths-of-babes.html

Susan E. Goodman writes about her timely new book, See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House, and the corresponding KIDS SPEAK OUT! survey on her web site (http://www.susangoodmanbooks.com/). Her post is worth reading purely for the quotes she’s collected about kids and their political concerns. She raises a larger question as well when she tells of the reporter who dismissed the survey as a fine way to find out the parents’ opinions. Ouch.

It’s too true that our society tends to dismiss kids’ opinions and ideas–and yet kids often see most clearly right and wrong and injustice and priorities, without worrying about politics or practicality. We grownups could do worse than to listen to kids’ opinions.

As a writer for children, I’d like to help kids be heard. Maybe that’s why I write children’s literature first and foremost. I respect my audience. I think we have to, if we want kids to bother listening to what we have to say.