Since I’m working a book for middle grade kids right now, I have the irresistible urge to spy on…I mean, pay attention to…my 11-year-old and his friends.

What do 11-year-olds spend their time doing? It’s an excellent question for the children’s writer to ask, so I thought I would share my research with you.

Eleven-year-olds train their boxers to lie in the hammock:Photo_051310_002

They climb trees, spend hours online researching the best cards for their next Magic: the Gathering deck, ambush their older brothers with homemade rubber band guns, work on their tree houses, and create elaborate ropes courses in the back yard.


Ah, gotta love summer….

:) Cheryl

Hope and Inspiration on the Writing Road

laura My friend Laura just showed me the new-new-new-new-new beginning for her YA novel Bone Temple. It’s the result of much soul-searching (and head-banging?) after reviewers at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference pronounced the old opening unsatisfactory. (I disagreed :).)

The new opening—the one I didn’t think she needed to write—is magical. It’s engaging, curiosity-inspiring, and absolutely perfect.

Laura is one of my favorite YA fantasy writers, which is unfortunate for most of the world because she hasn’t yet “broken into” the YA publishing scene. Luckily for me (and my kids, who occasionally kidnap her manuscripts when I bring them home for critique), I’m in her critique group and get to enjoy her stories. I’ve gotten to watch over the years as her writing—always very good—deepened and became more magical.

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m an avid Laura fan. If her books were in print, I’d own every single one…and this latest surpasses them all, with words, character, setting, and story twining together like strands in a cord. It’s the kind of book that makes your heart ache with both sympathy and joy, the kind of book that takes you for a gripping ride and ultimately satisfies.

Laura exemplifies the many reasons that my writing friends are so dear to me. It’s not just that we get each other (which we do) or that we’re crazy in many of the same ways (which we are); it’s also that, as I watch Laura’s writing journey, her ups and downs along the way and her amazing growth as a writer—it gives me hope as I travel my own writing path.

:) Cheryl

Food for the Soul

soup Does food affect your mood? It does for me, but I didn’t realize how much until I thought to ask the question. Beyond its obvious ability to taste good, provide energy, or give me a stomach ache, food can trigger a remarkable number of emotions and mental states. Popcorn makes me think of drive-in movies (happy); corned beef and cabbage brings back unpleasant childhood memories, even though I think the stuff is tasty (now. Not then). Particularly salty or greasy foods prompt me to eat quickly, whereas particularly flavorful foods, of any sort, trigger me to slow down and savor—an attitude that tends spill into areas of my life beyond eating.

I’m thinking these things for two reasons:

  1. Sometimes my mental state distracts me from writing (a bad thing), and
  2. I just ate a scrumptious bowl of split pea soup that leaves me feeling warm, well-fed, and content (good things).

I’m fully cognizant of the fact that if I eat junk food for lunch, my energy will crash an hour or so later and I’ll get nothing done, but I hadn’t considered the possibility that a simple bowl of soup could stoke my mental energy as well as recharge me physically.

Next time I’m tempted to slide through lunch on coffee and a few chips, I’ll remember this.

As for the soup—it’s a recipe from my new favorite cookbook, Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure, by Lorna Sass. She takes a standard recipe for split pea soup, takes out the ham, adds lots of herbs and spices (fennel is the most surprising and works really well with the other flavors) and adapts it to the pressure cooker, so cooking time is only 7 minutes even at Boulder’s higher elevation.

If you’d like to try some of her other recipes,  check here for a scrumptious selection she’s posted online.

Collaging the Subconscious

Yesterday, two of my critique group friends and I got together to make collages for our current book writing projects.





This is one of my favorite creative thinking exercises, because I always learn more about my story in the process. This board leans against the wall above the desk where I write, where it will provide encouragement, inspiration, and a continuing reminder to take a little time each day to spend time with this book.

…speaking of which, I think it’s time for me to go get started!

Happy writing!

:) Cheryl