Thursday, December 31, 2009













From Shannon at Book Dreaming













From Jen at unedited















From Medeia at Medeia Sharif and Tyrean at Tyrean's Writing Spot


















From Simon at Constant Revision















From Janet at It Is What It Is

















From Tamara at Chasing Dreams and Kristi at Random Acts of Writing















From Shannon at Book Dreaming














From Rhonda at Snarktastic Ramblings














From Carol at Carol's Prints















From Sarahjayne at Writing in the Wilderness
















From Carol at Carol's Prints, Christine at Christine's Journey and Lola at Sharp Pen/Dull Sword















From Nicole at One Significant Moment at a Time













From Karen at Novels During Naptime and Kelly at Kelly's Compositions













From Simon at Constant Revision













From Sarahjayne at Writing in the Wilderness














From Jemi at Just Jemi














From Crystal at Write Because You Must















From Nicole at One Significant Moment at a Time
Thursday, December 31, 2009 Laurel Garver












From Shannon at Book Dreaming













From Jen at unedited















From Medeia at Medeia Sharif and Tyrean at Tyrean's Writing Spot


















From Simon at Constant Revision















From Janet at It Is What It Is

















From Tamara at Chasing Dreams and Kristi at Random Acts of Writing















From Shannon at Book Dreaming














From Rhonda at Snarktastic Ramblings














From Carol at Carol's Prints















From Sarahjayne at Writing in the Wilderness
















From Carol at Carol's Prints, Christine at Christine's Journey and Lola at Sharp Pen/Dull Sword















From Nicole at One Significant Moment at a Time













From Karen at Novels During Naptime and Kelly at Kelly's Compositions













From Simon at Constant Revision













From Sarahjayne at Writing in the Wilderness














From Jemi at Just Jemi














From Crystal at Write Because You Must















From Nicole at One Significant Moment at a Time

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Where do you get your ideas?

It's the Grand FAQ we writers face nearly every time we meet someone new. Some writers will tell you they write from life. They're trying to process their experiences, find some closure, warn others off their path of folly. My hats off to them. Autobiographical writing scares the snot out of me. Maybe when I'm 60 I'll be gutsy and wise enough to open myself up in that way.

Other writers are escapists like me, who write to enter fully into another life, another story. To shape it and be shaped by it. Writers like this will often give the quick and easy answer that "stories are everywhere, you just have to look." They make it sound so nice, like we non-autobiographical writers are the plucky pirate heroes who know how to walk 20 paces east and 3 paces north, dig a spade into the soft dirt and unearth a treasure.

Here's a dirty secret: realizing that stories are everywhere makes you feel somewhat insane. Unweeded gardens talk to you, tell you of despondency and pain. Your neighbor's bulging recycling bin sweeps you away to a party where one-time friends snub each other and the host pukes on his dream girl's shoes. Random strangers on the train captivate you, make you start stalking them so you can capture how they walk, swirl coffee in a travel mug, high-five a classmate.

I've yet to formulate an honest response about the source of my ideas that doesn't send my new acquaintance running for the DSM-IV. Due to the curse of an overactive imagination, I can actually imagine this happening to me at a party--three pages of dialogue sprinkled with action and description. And four other alternate scenarios as well, one of which involves a dog licking the canape in my acquaintance's hand when she's not looking. That's just how my brain works. I'd invite you for a tour, but it would probably scare you.

How do you answer the question "Where do you get your ideas?" when non-writers ask it?

*this is a re-post from July, in case anyone is having a strange sense of déjà vu.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009 Laurel Garver
Where do you get your ideas?

It's the Grand FAQ we writers face nearly every time we meet someone new. Some writers will tell you they write from life. They're trying to process their experiences, find some closure, warn others off their path of folly. My hats off to them. Autobiographical writing scares the snot out of me. Maybe when I'm 60 I'll be gutsy and wise enough to open myself up in that way.

Other writers are escapists like me, who write to enter fully into another life, another story. To shape it and be shaped by it. Writers like this will often give the quick and easy answer that "stories are everywhere, you just have to look." They make it sound so nice, like we non-autobiographical writers are the plucky pirate heroes who know how to walk 20 paces east and 3 paces north, dig a spade into the soft dirt and unearth a treasure.

Here's a dirty secret: realizing that stories are everywhere makes you feel somewhat insane. Unweeded gardens talk to you, tell you of despondency and pain. Your neighbor's bulging recycling bin sweeps you away to a party where one-time friends snub each other and the host pukes on his dream girl's shoes. Random strangers on the train captivate you, make you start stalking them so you can capture how they walk, swirl coffee in a travel mug, high-five a classmate.

I've yet to formulate an honest response about the source of my ideas that doesn't send my new acquaintance running for the DSM-IV. Due to the curse of an overactive imagination, I can actually imagine this happening to me at a party--three pages of dialogue sprinkled with action and description. And four other alternate scenarios as well, one of which involves a dog licking the canape in my acquaintance's hand when she's not looking. That's just how my brain works. I'd invite you for a tour, but it would probably scare you.

How do you answer the question "Where do you get your ideas?" when non-writers ask it?

*this is a re-post from July, in case anyone is having a strange sense of déjà vu.
Check out MG and YA writer Christina Farley's big book giveaway at Chocolate for Inspiration: your chance to win one of three fabulous prizes. The deadline to enter is January 5, 2010. Good luck!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009 Laurel Garver
Check out MG and YA writer Christina Farley's big book giveaway at Chocolate for Inspiration: your chance to win one of three fabulous prizes. The deadline to enter is January 5, 2010. Good luck!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My long-overdue thanks to Shannon at Book Dreaming for the Picasso Award!

This little beauty comes with the stipulation that I pass it on to seven other blogs and share seven things about myself.

My nominees, because they make me thankful to be part of the writing blogosphere, are as follows:
Kristi Faith at Random Acts of Writing
Nickles at Who, What, When, Where and Why
Sherrinda at A Writer Wannabe
Roni at Fiction Groupie
Natalie at Natalie Bahm
Tricia at Talespinning
Rhonda at Snarktastic Ramblings

A special thanks to Kristi for my second Honest Scrap award!

My seven things:

1. While taking a long walk in 1992, I "met" the protagonist of two novels I’m currently working on. Dani seemed to fall into step beside me and tell me her story of loss, family dysfunction and struggles to hang on to her faith. I filled pages of notes at the time, then stuffed them away. Those long-buried notes came out more than a decade later, after I, too, lost my father and felt a strong pull toward this grieving girl. I don't think I could have written her all those years ago.

2. When I worked as a reporter for an energy industry publication, I went by Laura just so I wouldn’t have to spell my name thirty times a day.

3. I owe my warped optimism when things go wrong to my parents’ guiding words. Mom: “It will make a good story later.” Dad: “It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.”

4. I cannot stand the taste of honey, aka bee vomit. The whole concept is gross.

5. My stomach churns at the thought of riding a boat of any kind in the ocean. Boating on lakes and rivers? No problem. I chalk it up to disaster movies from the 70s like Jaws and the Poseidon Adventure.

6. I’ve had shingles twice, at ages 6 and 26. I’m bracing for the virus to re-emerge when I’m 46.

7. A more random aspect of my life is my checkered employment history. Some of the jobs I’ve had include tax prep clerk, Avon lady, cashier at McDonald’s, retail clerk, electronics and automotive clerk, clown, janitor, camp arts and crafts director, writing tutor, dispensing optician, reporter, graphic designer and magazine editor.
Monday, December 28, 2009 Laurel Garver
My long-overdue thanks to Shannon at Book Dreaming for the Picasso Award!

This little beauty comes with the stipulation that I pass it on to seven other blogs and share seven things about myself.

My nominees, because they make me thankful to be part of the writing blogosphere, are as follows:
Kristi Faith at Random Acts of Writing
Nickles at Who, What, When, Where and Why
Sherrinda at A Writer Wannabe
Roni at Fiction Groupie
Natalie at Natalie Bahm
Tricia at Talespinning
Rhonda at Snarktastic Ramblings

A special thanks to Kristi for my second Honest Scrap award!

My seven things:

1. While taking a long walk in 1992, I "met" the protagonist of two novels I’m currently working on. Dani seemed to fall into step beside me and tell me her story of loss, family dysfunction and struggles to hang on to her faith. I filled pages of notes at the time, then stuffed them away. Those long-buried notes came out more than a decade later, after I, too, lost my father and felt a strong pull toward this grieving girl. I don't think I could have written her all those years ago.

2. When I worked as a reporter for an energy industry publication, I went by Laura just so I wouldn’t have to spell my name thirty times a day.

3. I owe my warped optimism when things go wrong to my parents’ guiding words. Mom: “It will make a good story later.” Dad: “It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.”

4. I cannot stand the taste of honey, aka bee vomit. The whole concept is gross.

5. My stomach churns at the thought of riding a boat of any kind in the ocean. Boating on lakes and rivers? No problem. I chalk it up to disaster movies from the 70s like Jaws and the Poseidon Adventure.

6. I’ve had shingles twice, at ages 6 and 26. I’m bracing for the virus to re-emerge when I’m 46.

7. A more random aspect of my life is my checkered employment history. Some of the jobs I’ve had include tax prep clerk, Avon lady, cashier at McDonald’s, retail clerk, electronics and automotive clerk, clown, janitor, camp arts and crafts director, writing tutor, dispensing optician, reporter, graphic designer and magazine editor.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Shannon over at Book Dreaming is hosting a big book giveaway in honor of reaching 100 blog followers. Stop on over to win one of two prizes--a set of adult fiction and writing books OR middle grade and young adult books.

Good luck!
Thursday, December 24, 2009 Laurel Garver
Shannon over at Book Dreaming is hosting a big book giveaway in honor of reaching 100 blog followers. Stop on over to win one of two prizes--a set of adult fiction and writing books OR middle grade and young adult books.

Good luck!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Yesterday my family and I took a trek up to NYC for some holiday fun and a wee bit of research for me. How I landed on a New Yorker MC rather than a Philly girl (which would require less travel) is something I'll have to elaborate in another post. I thought I'd take the opportunity so share some of my best tips for day trip research travel. And, of course, share some fun pictures of my cute kid.

1. DO dress comfortably and weather-appropriately. You want to be able to chase sensations without going completely numb or limping. I highly advise waterproof hiking boots and warm clothes for winter trips.

(Side note: If your most weather-appropriate outerwear is obnoxiously bright, DON’T expect to blend into the crowd, DON'T be surprised if you get a few stares--and more importantly, DON’T care. New Yorkers are weirdly color-averse. Ditto with Londoners. But hey, I’m a Philadelphian—we’re known for being a bit outrageous and tacky a la the Mummers Parade.)

2. DO plan your trip. Have a sense of which locations you want to visit most and plan out an efficient route. Pack maps so you don’t get hopelessly lost when the spontaneous urge to tail a fascinating stranger strikes you.

We knew we wanted to see all the best holiday window displays: Macy’s, Saks, Lord and Taylor, and our perennial favorite—Bergdorf Goodman. And who could miss the madness that is FAO Schwartz three days before Christmas?

3. DO pack essential supplies: a camera with fully-charged batteries, a pocket notebook, good pens not prone to ink freeze, light refreshments. If you’re a gadget person, a sound recording device can be handy also. Video recorders I’m not so keen on. The machine gets between you and the experience.


4. DO have a reasonable agenda. To make the most of your trip, it’s best to know what sorts of information you need and how you hope to use it. Unless you’re planning a several day intensive trip, limit yourself to a few agenda items. This was my fifth or sixth NY trip and I was looking specifically for sensory images to build “memories of childhood Christmases in New York.”


5. DO be open to the spontaneous. I built my agenda around my daughter, since my focus was on developing backstory for my MC’s childhood. I paid special attention to what engrossed her, and let her lead us to side adventures. She wanted to go into the NY Public Library, and there we discovered the REAL Winnie the Pooh and all his Hundred Acre Woods friends that once belonged to Christopher Robin Milne (bequeathed to the library by Milne’s publisher). It was quite a thrill to discover something any New York kid would have grown up with, hidden away in a basement room.


Claire was also especially engrossed by the skaters at Rockefeller Center and would have gladly watched them for hours.


6. DO engage all your senses, and make sure you record at least one detail for every sense. How does this place smell? What textures do I feel here? What unique sounds can I discern? What flavors are unique to this place? What sights are ubiquitous or striking?


I was delighted by the handsome young Arab vendors selling hot dogs, pretzels and roasted chestnuts on every corner and jamming to the sinuous sounds of Middle-eastern music. One even drummed along to a song, banging on bin lids with spoons.


What are your best tips for on-location research? Any wonderful discoveries or disasters you'd like to share?

Are you planning a research trip in 2010? I'd love to hear about your plans.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 Laurel Garver

Yesterday my family and I took a trek up to NYC for some holiday fun and a wee bit of research for me. How I landed on a New Yorker MC rather than a Philly girl (which would require less travel) is something I'll have to elaborate in another post. I thought I'd take the opportunity so share some of my best tips for day trip research travel. And, of course, share some fun pictures of my cute kid.

1. DO dress comfortably and weather-appropriately. You want to be able to chase sensations without going completely numb or limping. I highly advise waterproof hiking boots and warm clothes for winter trips.

(Side note: If your most weather-appropriate outerwear is obnoxiously bright, DON’T expect to blend into the crowd, DON'T be surprised if you get a few stares--and more importantly, DON’T care. New Yorkers are weirdly color-averse. Ditto with Londoners. But hey, I’m a Philadelphian—we’re known for being a bit outrageous and tacky a la the Mummers Parade.)

2. DO plan your trip. Have a sense of which locations you want to visit most and plan out an efficient route. Pack maps so you don’t get hopelessly lost when the spontaneous urge to tail a fascinating stranger strikes you.

We knew we wanted to see all the best holiday window displays: Macy’s, Saks, Lord and Taylor, and our perennial favorite—Bergdorf Goodman. And who could miss the madness that is FAO Schwartz three days before Christmas?

3. DO pack essential supplies: a camera with fully-charged batteries, a pocket notebook, good pens not prone to ink freeze, light refreshments. If you’re a gadget person, a sound recording device can be handy also. Video recorders I’m not so keen on. The machine gets between you and the experience.


4. DO have a reasonable agenda. To make the most of your trip, it’s best to know what sorts of information you need and how you hope to use it. Unless you’re planning a several day intensive trip, limit yourself to a few agenda items. This was my fifth or sixth NY trip and I was looking specifically for sensory images to build “memories of childhood Christmases in New York.”


5. DO be open to the spontaneous. I built my agenda around my daughter, since my focus was on developing backstory for my MC’s childhood. I paid special attention to what engrossed her, and let her lead us to side adventures. She wanted to go into the NY Public Library, and there we discovered the REAL Winnie the Pooh and all his Hundred Acre Woods friends that once belonged to Christopher Robin Milne (bequeathed to the library by Milne’s publisher). It was quite a thrill to discover something any New York kid would have grown up with, hidden away in a basement room.


Claire was also especially engrossed by the skaters at Rockefeller Center and would have gladly watched them for hours.


6. DO engage all your senses, and make sure you record at least one detail for every sense. How does this place smell? What textures do I feel here? What unique sounds can I discern? What flavors are unique to this place? What sights are ubiquitous or striking?


I was delighted by the handsome young Arab vendors selling hot dogs, pretzels and roasted chestnuts on every corner and jamming to the sinuous sounds of Middle-eastern music. One even drummed along to a song, banging on bin lids with spoons.


What are your best tips for on-location research? Any wonderful discoveries or disasters you'd like to share?

Are you planning a research trip in 2010? I'd love to hear about your plans.
My sincere apologies to you all for being a big time blogland slacker. I am way, way, way behind with acknowledging all the generous blog awards bestowed in the past week and a half. I also have an overdue "editor-on-call" post waiting in the wings. There are so many new friends to be made, too. Oh dear. I do mean to escape my bubble and say hello to the nice folks who came by to enjoy my backstage snog scene. I will get to all these things as soon as I'm able.

December is not the easiest month, is it? On top of work being incredibly busy (and I can't even escape to my office--campus is locked), my youth group kids need help with college app. essays, my husband is holed up with 130 papers to grade, my bored 7-yo is bouncing off the walls now that school's out, and I'm trying to hit a critique group deadline. I'm also in charge of making Christmas happen because of the aforementioned end-of-term grading. And did I mention the pipe under the kitchen sink burst this morning? Whee!

I hope it's not bad form to preempt the promised acknowledgements with a post I'm super excited to share with you all: a research trip post about my adventures in NYC yesterday. Here's hoping I can just get persnickety Windows Vista to allow me to upload pics...otherwise I'll have to wrestle my hubby off his laptop for a bit. Stay tuned!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 Laurel Garver
My sincere apologies to you all for being a big time blogland slacker. I am way, way, way behind with acknowledging all the generous blog awards bestowed in the past week and a half. I also have an overdue "editor-on-call" post waiting in the wings. There are so many new friends to be made, too. Oh dear. I do mean to escape my bubble and say hello to the nice folks who came by to enjoy my backstage snog scene. I will get to all these things as soon as I'm able.

December is not the easiest month, is it? On top of work being incredibly busy (and I can't even escape to my office--campus is locked), my youth group kids need help with college app. essays, my husband is holed up with 130 papers to grade, my bored 7-yo is bouncing off the walls now that school's out, and I'm trying to hit a critique group deadline. I'm also in charge of making Christmas happen because of the aforementioned end-of-term grading. And did I mention the pipe under the kitchen sink burst this morning? Whee!

I hope it's not bad form to preempt the promised acknowledgements with a post I'm super excited to share with you all: a research trip post about my adventures in NYC yesterday. Here's hoping I can just get persnickety Windows Vista to allow me to upload pics...otherwise I'll have to wrestle my hubby off his laptop for a bit. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 21, 2009

In honor of mistletoe, a group of writer bloggers are participating in a Kissing Day Blogfest. To sign up, stop by Sherrinda's blog, A Writer Wannabe.

Kissing scenes are not the easiest to write. In first draft, I find that I tend to err on the side of steaminess that doesn't gibe with the characters. My WIP-1’s one and only kissing scene has gone through a good eight permutations, varying in intensity from yikes to yawn. It has finally landed at a spot that focuses far more on the emotional meaning to the characters than on the physical act. And sorry, I won’t post the steamiest draft from the cutting room floor. Too, too embarrassing!

With WIP-2, I’m still trying to figure out how to approach a long-term teen relationship in which the guy in particular is concerned about going too far. This is an excerpt from a backstory scene I may or may not use, written from the female MC’s point of view:

Two stupid sophomores kept flubbing their scene, one thing after another—blocking, lines, delivery. I was just trying to stay awake back in the fly gallery, waiting for the next cue to reel the scenic drops in and out of the stage area. About the time the director switched from annoyed to huffy, Theo slinked over to me, snaked an arm around my waist, switched off my headset. He nuzzled my neck, my hair; nipped the soft tip of my earlobe. Something inside me snapped: the careful cords that held in place my public persona.

My mouth found his in the dark and we sort of melted into each other. We stumbled over pulleys and fell onto the steel stairs to the catwalks. The metal seemed to ring beneath us. His breath was mine and mine was his and we were one intertwined mess of sweetness and sensation and hunger. There were fingers fumbling on buttons, a lot of missed cues and entrances. Then a flashlight in the face and Callie the stage manager, hissing “I should’ve known. Mating season for the Jesus freaks.”

When it’s the guy who runs off to the bathroom crying, you know you’ve got serious problems.
Monday, December 21, 2009 Laurel Garver
In honor of mistletoe, a group of writer bloggers are participating in a Kissing Day Blogfest. To sign up, stop by Sherrinda's blog, A Writer Wannabe.

Kissing scenes are not the easiest to write. In first draft, I find that I tend to err on the side of steaminess that doesn't gibe with the characters. My WIP-1’s one and only kissing scene has gone through a good eight permutations, varying in intensity from yikes to yawn. It has finally landed at a spot that focuses far more on the emotional meaning to the characters than on the physical act. And sorry, I won’t post the steamiest draft from the cutting room floor. Too, too embarrassing!

With WIP-2, I’m still trying to figure out how to approach a long-term teen relationship in which the guy in particular is concerned about going too far. This is an excerpt from a backstory scene I may or may not use, written from the female MC’s point of view:

Two stupid sophomores kept flubbing their scene, one thing after another—blocking, lines, delivery. I was just trying to stay awake back in the fly gallery, waiting for the next cue to reel the scenic drops in and out of the stage area. About the time the director switched from annoyed to huffy, Theo slinked over to me, snaked an arm around my waist, switched off my headset. He nuzzled my neck, my hair; nipped the soft tip of my earlobe. Something inside me snapped: the careful cords that held in place my public persona.

My mouth found his in the dark and we sort of melted into each other. We stumbled over pulleys and fell onto the steel stairs to the catwalks. The metal seemed to ring beneath us. His breath was mine and mine was his and we were one intertwined mess of sweetness and sensation and hunger. There were fingers fumbling on buttons, a lot of missed cues and entrances. Then a flashlight in the face and Callie the stage manager, hissing “I should’ve known. Mating season for the Jesus freaks.”

When it’s the guy who runs off to the bathroom crying, you know you’ve got serious problems.

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's less than a week till Christmas and chances are the holiday hubbub is upon you: attending and hosting parties, decorating, cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping, attending school programs, entertaining out-of-town guests, participating in worship services and perhaps preparing to travel. Many of you, like me, have day jobs (mine, thankfully, is 3/4 time). You have normal day-to-day responsibilities with maintaining a home and caring for family.

How do you maintain a writing routine at a time like this? Do you set writing on the back burner? Or do you steal a few minutes while the wassail's on the back burner? Do you decline invitations? Sleep less? Lower your expectations? Trim the to-do list to clear "essentials"?

How are you coping (0r not) with having a writing life in a busy season?
Friday, December 18, 2009 Laurel Garver
It's less than a week till Christmas and chances are the holiday hubbub is upon you: attending and hosting parties, decorating, cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping, attending school programs, entertaining out-of-town guests, participating in worship services and perhaps preparing to travel. Many of you, like me, have day jobs (mine, thankfully, is 3/4 time). You have normal day-to-day responsibilities with maintaining a home and caring for family.

How do you maintain a writing routine at a time like this? Do you set writing on the back burner? Or do you steal a few minutes while the wassail's on the back burner? Do you decline invitations? Sleep less? Lower your expectations? Trim the to-do list to clear "essentials"?

How are you coping (0r not) with having a writing life in a busy season?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

While washing my hands at work this morning, I realized my left hand looked a little strange. Naked. The spot where my engagement ring and wedding band usually sit was empty. Stranger still, the now-exposed skin was shiny with scar tissue. The finger seemed atrophied below the knuckle, slimmer than its neighbors. Twelve years of ring wearing had left its mark.

I'll return the rings to their rightful spot this afternoon; my winter-dry skin is better today. Seeing that strange indentation and scarring got me thinking. Long habits mark us, and absence can become as palpable as presence.

A powerful way to portray a character might indeed involve showing the traces of what is not there. Virginia Woolf ends Jacob's Room with a pair of empty shoes, a powerful image of loss in wartime. Artist Sophie Calle photographed places in Berlin where the traces of its communist history had been effaced. Her book Detachment: A Berlin Travel Guide catalogs those images, as well as remembrances--real and imagined--from those who pass by the spots where monuments of the GDR once stood.

Where have you seen in books or life the traces of what is not there? Have you used this idea in your own work? Where might this idea deepen one of your characterizations?
Thursday, December 17, 2009 Laurel Garver
While washing my hands at work this morning, I realized my left hand looked a little strange. Naked. The spot where my engagement ring and wedding band usually sit was empty. Stranger still, the now-exposed skin was shiny with scar tissue. The finger seemed atrophied below the knuckle, slimmer than its neighbors. Twelve years of ring wearing had left its mark.

I'll return the rings to their rightful spot this afternoon; my winter-dry skin is better today. Seeing that strange indentation and scarring got me thinking. Long habits mark us, and absence can become as palpable as presence.

A powerful way to portray a character might indeed involve showing the traces of what is not there. Virginia Woolf ends Jacob's Room with a pair of empty shoes, a powerful image of loss in wartime. Artist Sophie Calle photographed places in Berlin where the traces of its communist history had been effaced. Her book Detachment: A Berlin Travel Guide catalogs those images, as well as remembrances--real and imagined--from those who pass by the spots where monuments of the GDR once stood.

Where have you seen in books or life the traces of what is not there? Have you used this idea in your own work? Where might this idea deepen one of your characterizations?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

...or maybe Easter, is this Gilmore Girls book! The university presses are rolling out their spring catalogs and this particular title made me squee with delight:

Screwball Television: Critical Perspectives on Gilmore Girls
David Scott Diffrient and David Lavery, eds.
Syracuse University Press, 2010
Cloth $39.95

"Bringing together seventeen original essays by scholars from around the world, Screwball Television offers a variety of international perspectives on Gilmore Girls (WB/CW, 2000–2007). Adored by fans and celebrated by critics for its sophisticated wordplay and compelling portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship, this contemporary American TV program finally gets its due as a cultural production unlike any other— one that is beholden to Hollywood’s screwball comedies of the 1930s, steeped in intertextual references, and framed as a “kinder, gentler kind of cult television series” in this tightly focused yet wide-ranging collection.
This volume makes a significant contribution to television studies, genre studies, and women’s studies, taking Gilmore Girls as its focus while adopting a panoramic critical approach sensitive to such topics as serialized fiction; elite education; addiction as a social construct; food consumption and the disciplining of bodies; post-feminism and female desire; depictions of journalism in popular culture; the changing face of masculinity in contemporary U.S. society; liturgical and ritualistic structures in televisual narrative; Orientalism and Asian representations on American TV; Internet fan discourses; and new genre theories attuned to the landscape of twenty-first-century media convergence. Screwball Television seeks to bring Gilmore Girls more fully into academic discourse not only as a topic worthy of critical scrutiny but also as an infinitely rewarding text capable of stimulating the imagination of students beyond the classroom."

--Syracuse University Press Spring 2010 catalog, page 22.

What could be better than Gilmore Girls through the lens of media studies and English lit crit? Seriously folks, I so, so, so want this book that comes out in March. But it's reeeeealy expensive for a paperback. Would it be completely evil to request a review copy for the journal, even though our focus is modern period rather than contemporary?

All right, it would be unethical. Sigh. Better start saving my pennies.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009 Laurel Garver
...or maybe Easter, is this Gilmore Girls book! The university presses are rolling out their spring catalogs and this particular title made me squee with delight:

Screwball Television: Critical Perspectives on Gilmore Girls
David Scott Diffrient and David Lavery, eds.
Syracuse University Press, 2010
Cloth $39.95

"Bringing together seventeen original essays by scholars from around the world, Screwball Television offers a variety of international perspectives on Gilmore Girls (WB/CW, 2000–2007). Adored by fans and celebrated by critics for its sophisticated wordplay and compelling portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship, this contemporary American TV program finally gets its due as a cultural production unlike any other— one that is beholden to Hollywood’s screwball comedies of the 1930s, steeped in intertextual references, and framed as a “kinder, gentler kind of cult television series” in this tightly focused yet wide-ranging collection.
This volume makes a significant contribution to television studies, genre studies, and women’s studies, taking Gilmore Girls as its focus while adopting a panoramic critical approach sensitive to such topics as serialized fiction; elite education; addiction as a social construct; food consumption and the disciplining of bodies; post-feminism and female desire; depictions of journalism in popular culture; the changing face of masculinity in contemporary U.S. society; liturgical and ritualistic structures in televisual narrative; Orientalism and Asian representations on American TV; Internet fan discourses; and new genre theories attuned to the landscape of twenty-first-century media convergence. Screwball Television seeks to bring Gilmore Girls more fully into academic discourse not only as a topic worthy of critical scrutiny but also as an infinitely rewarding text capable of stimulating the imagination of students beyond the classroom."

--Syracuse University Press Spring 2010 catalog, page 22.

What could be better than Gilmore Girls through the lens of media studies and English lit crit? Seriously folks, I so, so, so want this book that comes out in March. But it's reeeeealy expensive for a paperback. Would it be completely evil to request a review copy for the journal, even though our focus is modern period rather than contemporary?

All right, it would be unethical. Sigh. Better start saving my pennies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

(My apologies to the Beatles. I've listened to far too much Weird Al in my lifetime, and seem to hear parody potential everywhere.)

As the calendar year wraps up, my mind leaps to the coming year. What will 2010 bring? Many of my new-found friends will take a giant step forward, armed with agency representation. Some will lose heart, set aside the manuscript they've sweated and bled for...and will discover new characters they love even more.

My writerly goals for 2010 include:
- publish another short story
- complete trimming and revising and gathering critiques on WIP 1
- rewrite the query and synopsis for WIP 1
- test market WIP 1 to another dozen agents
- draft the first third of WIP 2
- apply to the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference
- attend an SCBWI event (conference or workshop)
- encourage the socks off some of my crit partners till they start regularly submitting work for critique.

What about you? Does making goals motivate or overwhelm you? What are your goals for 2010? Will you dream big or take the conservative route like me?
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 Laurel Garver
(My apologies to the Beatles. I've listened to far too much Weird Al in my lifetime, and seem to hear parody potential everywhere.)

As the calendar year wraps up, my mind leaps to the coming year. What will 2010 bring? Many of my new-found friends will take a giant step forward, armed with agency representation. Some will lose heart, set aside the manuscript they've sweated and bled for...and will discover new characters they love even more.

My writerly goals for 2010 include:
- publish another short story
- complete trimming and revising and gathering critiques on WIP 1
- rewrite the query and synopsis for WIP 1
- test market WIP 1 to another dozen agents
- draft the first third of WIP 2
- apply to the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference
- attend an SCBWI event (conference or workshop)
- encourage the socks off some of my crit partners till they start regularly submitting work for critique.

What about you? Does making goals motivate or overwhelm you? What are your goals for 2010? Will you dream big or take the conservative route like me?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Apostrophe anxiety in the digital age
Roots of the problem--the demise of gatekeepers

For generations, the humble apostrophe has been quietly helping us keep track of who owns what and acting as a placeholder for omitted letters. Yet more and more I see this little curl popping up where it never belonged: in plural nouns and possessive pronouns. How did this error become so widespread?

I think it is fair to blame the democratization of design and publication. Prior to the digital age, we had a layer of gatekeepers--sign shops, publishing companies, well-trained secretaries--whose reputations depended upon accuracy. They made sure errors never hit the public eye. Now that anyone with a computer can create documents and signage, the gatekeepers that would have caught and repaired errors are largely bypassed.

The digital age also encourages reliance on technology over human knowledge. Many times spell check won't help you use apostrophes correctly, however; who's might be a correct spelling, but it doesn't mean the same thing as whose. Grammar checkers will flag similar sound-alike errors sometimes. But even these tools will get hung up on unusual plurals, such as the one in An Abundance of Katherines.

Finally, I blame Dan Quayle's very public gaffe in 1992--insisting at a spelling bee that potato is spelled potatoe--for creating heightened anxiety about spelling rules for words ending in vowel sounds. Slapping on an apostrophe has become the strange default. (I imagine the inner monologue goes like this: "Is it tacos or tacoes? Oh, heck, I'll just write taco's, everyone will understand.") Words ending in Y trip folks up, too. While pony becomes ponies and contingency becomes contingencies, joy does not become joies, but joys. Apostrophes seem to act as duct tape when these anxieties surface--a good-enough quick fix for those in a hurry. My advice for handling thus particular anxiety: When in doubt, look it up. Merriam-Webster online has an easy-to-use interface.

Thanks for bearing with my analytical rant. Here's the goods you really came for: a reliable guide to using, not abusing, our humble friend the apostrophe.

Mine! Mine!
Apostrophes and possessives

To indicate ownership, add an apostrophe and s to singular nouns (no matter what the ending consonant) and plurals that don't end in s. Some examples are below.

John's box
Yeats's poems
Inez's marimba
Children's menu
Men's restroom

With plural nouns ending in s, indicate ownership by adding an apostrophe alone. Be sure that the plural is correctly formed first. (When in doubt, look it up.) Errors creep in with names especially. Names ending in y simply take an s. Names ending with s, sh, ch, x or z take an es when made plural. Some examples are below.

Girls' first win
Grants' party
O'Reillys' bar
Collinses' house

Beware the masqueraders! PROnouns, those handy stand-in words that keep us from sounding incredibly redundant, do not use apostrophes in their possessive forms. Some examples are below.

She had her cat spayed. That tabby is hers.
They drove me in their car. Yes, the Audi is theirs.
You want me to come to your house? Which one is yours?
Who left this here? Whose magazine is this?

Pronouns take apostrophes only when forming contractions (more on this below). NO EXCEPTIONS. If you see who's, it means "who is" or "who has" or "who was." It's means "it is" or "it has" or "it was."

Bridging the gaps
Omitted letters and contractions

Apostrophes play another important role: as a placeholder. They stand in for omitted letters in a single word or combined words (a.k.a. contractions). Some examples are below.

Ma'am = madam
'cause = because
don't = do not
could've = could have
who's = who is / who was / who has
they're = they are / they were

Oddball plurals
a soon-to-be extinct exception

It was once the rule that numbers, letters, abbreviations and acronyms always took an apostrophe and s in their plural forms. For example: In the 1940's, C.P.A.'s minded their P's and Q's. This "rule" is currently in flux and appears to be headed for extinction.

Most of the newest style manuals have eliminated this practice. MLA 7th edition section 3.2.7g says "Do not use an apostrophe to form the plural of an abbreviation or a number." The Associated Press applies the oddball apostrophe plural rule only to single letters (for example, M's), while numbers and abbreviations/acronyms go without the curl.

The trend seems to be apostrophe minimalism. So go ahead and write it like this: "In the 1940s, CPAs minded their Ps and Qs." The Modern Language Association will back you all the way.

**A brief disclaimer
I am not a grammarian. I'm just a workaday editor with degrees in English and journalism who has been copy editing professionally since 1991. All the advice I give above came from reliable grammar manuals. If you think I got it wrong at any point, please let me know in the comments or at lonexylophone (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Monday, December 14, 2009 Laurel Garver
Apostrophe anxiety in the digital age
Roots of the problem--the demise of gatekeepers

For generations, the humble apostrophe has been quietly helping us keep track of who owns what and acting as a placeholder for omitted letters. Yet more and more I see this little curl popping up where it never belonged: in plural nouns and possessive pronouns. How did this error become so widespread?

I think it is fair to blame the democratization of design and publication. Prior to the digital age, we had a layer of gatekeepers--sign shops, publishing companies, well-trained secretaries--whose reputations depended upon accuracy. They made sure errors never hit the public eye. Now that anyone with a computer can create documents and signage, the gatekeepers that would have caught and repaired errors are largely bypassed.

The digital age also encourages reliance on technology over human knowledge. Many times spell check won't help you use apostrophes correctly, however; who's might be a correct spelling, but it doesn't mean the same thing as whose. Grammar checkers will flag similar sound-alike errors sometimes. But even these tools will get hung up on unusual plurals, such as the one in An Abundance of Katherines.

Finally, I blame Dan Quayle's very public gaffe in 1992--insisting at a spelling bee that potato is spelled potatoe--for creating heightened anxiety about spelling rules for words ending in vowel sounds. Slapping on an apostrophe has become the strange default. (I imagine the inner monologue goes like this: "Is it tacos or tacoes? Oh, heck, I'll just write taco's, everyone will understand.") Words ending in Y trip folks up, too. While pony becomes ponies and contingency becomes contingencies, joy does not become joies, but joys. Apostrophes seem to act as duct tape when these anxieties surface--a good-enough quick fix for those in a hurry. My advice for handling thus particular anxiety: When in doubt, look it up. Merriam-Webster online has an easy-to-use interface.

Thanks for bearing with my analytical rant. Here's the goods you really came for: a reliable guide to using, not abusing, our humble friend the apostrophe.

Mine! Mine!
Apostrophes and possessives

To indicate ownership, add an apostrophe and s to singular nouns (no matter what the ending consonant) and plurals that don't end in s. Some examples are below.

John's box
Yeats's poems
Inez's marimba
Children's menu
Men's restroom

With plural nouns ending in s, indicate ownership by adding an apostrophe alone. Be sure that the plural is correctly formed first. (When in doubt, look it up.) Errors creep in with names especially. Names ending in y simply take an s. Names ending with s, sh, ch, x or z take an es when made plural. Some examples are below.

Girls' first win
Grants' party
O'Reillys' bar
Collinses' house

Beware the masqueraders! PROnouns, those handy stand-in words that keep us from sounding incredibly redundant, do not use apostrophes in their possessive forms. Some examples are below.

She had her cat spayed. That tabby is hers.
They drove me in their car. Yes, the Audi is theirs.
You want me to come to your house? Which one is yours?
Who left this here? Whose magazine is this?

Pronouns take apostrophes only when forming contractions (more on this below). NO EXCEPTIONS. If you see who's, it means "who is" or "who has" or "who was." It's means "it is" or "it has" or "it was."

Bridging the gaps
Omitted letters and contractions

Apostrophes play another important role: as a placeholder. They stand in for omitted letters in a single word or combined words (a.k.a. contractions). Some examples are below.

Ma'am = madam
'cause = because
don't = do not
could've = could have
who's = who is / who was / who has
they're = they are / they were

Oddball plurals
a soon-to-be extinct exception

It was once the rule that numbers, letters, abbreviations and acronyms always took an apostrophe and s in their plural forms. For example: In the 1940's, C.P.A.'s minded their P's and Q's. This "rule" is currently in flux and appears to be headed for extinction.

Most of the newest style manuals have eliminated this practice. MLA 7th edition section 3.2.7g says "Do not use an apostrophe to form the plural of an abbreviation or a number." The Associated Press applies the oddball apostrophe plural rule only to single letters (for example, M's), while numbers and abbreviations/acronyms go without the curl.

The trend seems to be apostrophe minimalism. So go ahead and write it like this: "In the 1940s, CPAs minded their Ps and Qs." The Modern Language Association will back you all the way.

**A brief disclaimer
I am not a grammarian. I'm just a workaday editor with degrees in English and journalism who has been copy editing professionally since 1991. All the advice I give above came from reliable grammar manuals. If you think I got it wrong at any point, please let me know in the comments or at lonexylophone (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Last night, one of my critique group friends called with an urgent punctuation question. It was something pretty simple about quotes within quotes.

This got me wondering if any of you have burning questions about some matter of grammar, usage or style. If so, please drop me a line at lonexylophone (at) yahoo (dot) com. I'll address your questions in future posts.

My first editor-on-call post will address one of the more abused forms of punctuation, the apostrophe. Stay tuned!
Saturday, December 12, 2009 Laurel Garver
Last night, one of my critique group friends called with an urgent punctuation question. It was something pretty simple about quotes within quotes.

This got me wondering if any of you have burning questions about some matter of grammar, usage or style. If so, please drop me a line at lonexylophone (at) yahoo (dot) com. I'll address your questions in future posts.

My first editor-on-call post will address one of the more abused forms of punctuation, the apostrophe. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The lovely, soon-to-be published Tamara over at Chasing Dreams bestowed my second blog award--The Honest Scrap. I blush, I swoon.... Seriously though, it was a wonderful treat to be so honored when I'm the new kid in this corner of the blogosphere.

That said, I'm going to bend the award rules a bit and name just a handful blogs, largely because I haven't yet ventured terribly far in writer-blog land. I'm working on it, folks. The introvert in me has a hard time doing something so forward as commenting.

So here goes. My nominees for the Honest Scrap are:

Candice, Suffering from Writer's Blog. She only posts weekly, but doggone is she hilarious and often touching, too. This post on the misuse of "literally" had me laughing so hard my ribs ached.

Heidi, Some Mad Hope. Her debut novel launches next week, and it looks riveting--a family's diabetic daughter develops an insulin allergy, and their best hope for a cure puts them at odds with their small town's conservative religious community.

Robyn, Putting Pen to Paper. I enjoy hearing about Robyn's life as much as her musings on writing and faith. I'll go dust off my Breyer models now and try to stop jonesing her horses.

Shannon, Book Dreaming. I think this is her third nomination, and deservedly so. She is a terrific encourager and asks great questions on her posts that spark some lively interactions. I've met a number of my most recent followers through her.


Apparently this award stipulates that I also share ten things about myself. So here goes.

1. I'm managing editor of a scholarly journal on modernist literature. This means I get to read some pretty cool scholarly work on the greats of the 20th century: Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, Hemingway, Pound, Yeats, Beckett. I also have to copy edit the most egregious run-on sentences imaginable. And I get lots of e-mail calling me Dr. Garver, which is my philosophy professor hubby, you silly people.

2. I've nearly forgotten how to cook, because my husband has been the chef for the past 11 years.

3. My gateway drug to writing was...Dungeons and Dragons. Eek, gasp, run for the hills! I started playing in 7th grade--it was an enrichment activity we did in the gifted program at school. I continued to play on and off over the years, up until about two years ago. I liked to cross-stitch between bouts of smiting evil.

4. I played mallet percussion in high school (xylophone, bells, marimba, etc.) and marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin my junior year.

5. Besides being a band geek, I was also a choir geek, art club geek, lit mag geek and theater geek.

6. Speaking of geeking out, I love geeky TV like Dr. Who (especially the most recent incarnation) Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. However...

7. I haven't read much Sci Fi or fantasy in about 15 years. Back in the day, I was ga-ga over Frank Herbert's Dune series and Anne McCaffrey's Pern books. At the moment, I prefer realistic fiction with psychologically complex characters and relationships.

8. I've only been a bridesmaid once, but I've sung in almost a dozen weddings.

9. From just a few bars of music, I can "name that tune"--and artist--for just about any pop song from the early to mid 80s. I was a "Top 40 countdown" addict in my teen years.

10. My favorite author is Susan Howatch. Her most recent St. Benet's series (The Wonder Worker, The High Flyer, The Heartbreaker) has intense plots and deep characterization, pulls no punches about the nature of evil and our own capacity for self-deception, and delivers mind-blowingly redemptive denouements. I want to write books for teenagers that are like hers.
Friday, December 11, 2009 Laurel Garver
The lovely, soon-to-be published Tamara over at Chasing Dreams bestowed my second blog award--The Honest Scrap. I blush, I swoon.... Seriously though, it was a wonderful treat to be so honored when I'm the new kid in this corner of the blogosphere.

That said, I'm going to bend the award rules a bit and name just a handful blogs, largely because I haven't yet ventured terribly far in writer-blog land. I'm working on it, folks. The introvert in me has a hard time doing something so forward as commenting.

So here goes. My nominees for the Honest Scrap are:

Candice, Suffering from Writer's Blog. She only posts weekly, but doggone is she hilarious and often touching, too. This post on the misuse of "literally" had me laughing so hard my ribs ached.

Heidi, Some Mad Hope. Her debut novel launches next week, and it looks riveting--a family's diabetic daughter develops an insulin allergy, and their best hope for a cure puts them at odds with their small town's conservative religious community.

Robyn, Putting Pen to Paper. I enjoy hearing about Robyn's life as much as her musings on writing and faith. I'll go dust off my Breyer models now and try to stop jonesing her horses.

Shannon, Book Dreaming. I think this is her third nomination, and deservedly so. She is a terrific encourager and asks great questions on her posts that spark some lively interactions. I've met a number of my most recent followers through her.


Apparently this award stipulates that I also share ten things about myself. So here goes.

1. I'm managing editor of a scholarly journal on modernist literature. This means I get to read some pretty cool scholarly work on the greats of the 20th century: Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, Hemingway, Pound, Yeats, Beckett. I also have to copy edit the most egregious run-on sentences imaginable. And I get lots of e-mail calling me Dr. Garver, which is my philosophy professor hubby, you silly people.

2. I've nearly forgotten how to cook, because my husband has been the chef for the past 11 years.

3. My gateway drug to writing was...Dungeons and Dragons. Eek, gasp, run for the hills! I started playing in 7th grade--it was an enrichment activity we did in the gifted program at school. I continued to play on and off over the years, up until about two years ago. I liked to cross-stitch between bouts of smiting evil.

4. I played mallet percussion in high school (xylophone, bells, marimba, etc.) and marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin my junior year.

5. Besides being a band geek, I was also a choir geek, art club geek, lit mag geek and theater geek.

6. Speaking of geeking out, I love geeky TV like Dr. Who (especially the most recent incarnation) Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. However...

7. I haven't read much Sci Fi or fantasy in about 15 years. Back in the day, I was ga-ga over Frank Herbert's Dune series and Anne McCaffrey's Pern books. At the moment, I prefer realistic fiction with psychologically complex characters and relationships.

8. I've only been a bridesmaid once, but I've sung in almost a dozen weddings.

9. From just a few bars of music, I can "name that tune"--and artist--for just about any pop song from the early to mid 80s. I was a "Top 40 countdown" addict in my teen years.

10. My favorite author is Susan Howatch. Her most recent St. Benet's series (The Wonder Worker, The High Flyer, The Heartbreaker) has intense plots and deep characterization, pulls no punches about the nature of evil and our own capacity for self-deception, and delivers mind-blowingly redemptive denouements. I want to write books for teenagers that are like hers.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I was mercilessly flogging revising chapter six last night and hit a paragraph where my MC cues up Mozart's Requiem on her iPod in what should set up a totally Emo, wallowing-in-self-pity moment. But alas, she pauses with a flashback about singing the piece in chorale.

Oh dear, dear, dear. First drafting self, what were you thinking? That no self-respecting teenager could possibly like classical music, unless it's forced upon her by a music teacher? That there has to be some explanation to make the scene at all plausible?

It looks like explain-itis struck again. A choice my gut told me was spot-on for showing my character I immediately second guessed. Insecurity attacked and explanations and justifications started pouring out. But the attempt to justify a choice often yanks my reader out of the moment and that's not good. Really, does it matter if my girl sang Mozart or not? The Pixar animated short "Jack-Jack Attack" features the "Dies irae" movement to great effect. The Requiem is a fabulous piece of music that's sad, sweet, at times poundingly angry and all about death (kinda like my novel). Enough said, right?

One of my critique groups regularly calls me out for explain-itis. "If your character's actions and thoughts and words flow out of who she is and what she wants or fears," they tell me, "let it stand. Refrain from over-explaining." However...they all write for adults. Is it really, truly safe for me to use cultural references most adults get when writing for teens? I want to trust teen readers to be able to get it or google it. Still, that niggling insecurity creeps in that I'm going over their heads.

How about you? Do you struggle with the temptation to over-explain? To what degree do we need to explain certain things to younger readers?
Wednesday, December 09, 2009 Laurel Garver
I was mercilessly flogging revising chapter six last night and hit a paragraph where my MC cues up Mozart's Requiem on her iPod in what should set up a totally Emo, wallowing-in-self-pity moment. But alas, she pauses with a flashback about singing the piece in chorale.

Oh dear, dear, dear. First drafting self, what were you thinking? That no self-respecting teenager could possibly like classical music, unless it's forced upon her by a music teacher? That there has to be some explanation to make the scene at all plausible?

It looks like explain-itis struck again. A choice my gut told me was spot-on for showing my character I immediately second guessed. Insecurity attacked and explanations and justifications started pouring out. But the attempt to justify a choice often yanks my reader out of the moment and that's not good. Really, does it matter if my girl sang Mozart or not? The Pixar animated short "Jack-Jack Attack" features the "Dies irae" movement to great effect. The Requiem is a fabulous piece of music that's sad, sweet, at times poundingly angry and all about death (kinda like my novel). Enough said, right?

One of my critique groups regularly calls me out for explain-itis. "If your character's actions and thoughts and words flow out of who she is and what she wants or fears," they tell me, "let it stand. Refrain from over-explaining." However...they all write for adults. Is it really, truly safe for me to use cultural references most adults get when writing for teens? I want to trust teen readers to be able to get it or google it. Still, that niggling insecurity creeps in that I'm going over their heads.

How about you? Do you struggle with the temptation to over-explain? To what degree do we need to explain certain things to younger readers?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Thanks to Simon over at Constant Revision for naming me a Superior Scribbler! He must've gotten wind of my love of jotting notes on ATM receipts and in el-cheapo spiral notebooks. I feel honored to be named among his fave blogs and so thankful to know him IRL. If you haven't read his blog, drop everything and go now!

With this award comes responsibility: I get to share the love with some blogs I enjoy, but, alas, only five. I thought I'd draw attention to a few you might not have heard of. Here goes, in alpha order:

Carolina at Carol's Prints writes YA fantasy and paranormal romance and blogs with feeling and wit about craft and how our imaginations run with us as writers. Plus, she's lived in Britain, which makes her all kinds of awesome in my book.

Elle Strauss - Author, writes YA chicklit and is fairly new to the blogosphere. I've enjoyed her posts on craft and her book reviews as well.

EspressoLatteMocha is a group blog of three writers, including two wonderful women from my children's critique group, Chrysa and Carmen. All three have loads of pointers for pursuing different paths toward becoming published. Carmen's Two Moon Princess was published with a traditional publisher, Chrysa started her own publishing venture, the Well Bred Book, and their friend MaryFran took the print-on-demand route.

Mindy Withrow has published five YA nonfiction books, co-written with her husband, that bring church history to life. She's an insightful reader and book reviewer and is working oh-so quietly on her first novel.

Scathing Reviewer reads widely in YA and has a no-holds-barred approach to reviewing I find refreshing. She'll be swinging by soon to do a guest Q&A that should be informative for YA writers hoping to engage even the toughest YA audience members.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009 Laurel Garver
Thanks to Simon over at Constant Revision for naming me a Superior Scribbler! He must've gotten wind of my love of jotting notes on ATM receipts and in el-cheapo spiral notebooks. I feel honored to be named among his fave blogs and so thankful to know him IRL. If you haven't read his blog, drop everything and go now!

With this award comes responsibility: I get to share the love with some blogs I enjoy, but, alas, only five. I thought I'd draw attention to a few you might not have heard of. Here goes, in alpha order:

Carolina at Carol's Prints writes YA fantasy and paranormal romance and blogs with feeling and wit about craft and how our imaginations run with us as writers. Plus, she's lived in Britain, which makes her all kinds of awesome in my book.

Elle Strauss - Author, writes YA chicklit and is fairly new to the blogosphere. I've enjoyed her posts on craft and her book reviews as well.

EspressoLatteMocha is a group blog of three writers, including two wonderful women from my children's critique group, Chrysa and Carmen. All three have loads of pointers for pursuing different paths toward becoming published. Carmen's Two Moon Princess was published with a traditional publisher, Chrysa started her own publishing venture, the Well Bred Book, and their friend MaryFran took the print-on-demand route.

Mindy Withrow has published five YA nonfiction books, co-written with her husband, that bring church history to life. She's an insightful reader and book reviewer and is working oh-so quietly on her first novel.

Scathing Reviewer reads widely in YA and has a no-holds-barred approach to reviewing I find refreshing. She'll be swinging by soon to do a guest Q&A that should be informative for YA writers hoping to engage even the toughest YA audience members.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Ah, holiday parties, when well-meaning friends inevitably ask, "how's the book coming?" and I have to admit I'm revising AGAIN.

"But I thought you were trying to find an agent."

"Well, that wasn't working out too well, so I'm doing more revisions."

"Huh. So how did you know you needed to revise more?"

How did I know? It's a great question. There's abundant advice online about how many agents one should query, and it's a very high number. I went back to the editing room after just a dozen rejections, one of which came after a request for a full. Why? Some would argue I should plow ahead and query like crazy.

Call me a cautious, hedge-your-bets kind of gal, but I didn't want to exhaust every possibility for representation when I didn't know with deep certainty that it's NOT me and my manuscript that's the problem. There are a number of reasons I didn't feel certain, which I'll explain.

1. I can't yet "elevator pitch" the story (give a pithy description in under 30 seconds). If I don't have a clearly articulated description of my own story in my mind yet, an agent isn't going to be able to pitch it to publishers, either. It suggests I have work to do still, and possibly deep flaws in the plot.

2. Writing a synopsis was unparalleled torture. Pre-epidural back labor was less painful. This tells me the most pivotal plot points aren't yet clear. It also suggests plot flaws and pacing issues. This was probably my biggest red flag.

3. I'm not happy with the comparison authors I chose to cite in my query. This tells me I need to read more widely yet. In so doing, I should gain a better idea of how to niche my work, which will affect the voice of my query and which incidents I highlight in the synopsis.

4. I discovered, after the fact, that I'd broken a genre "rule" on word count. Sure, tons of books for teens exceed 75K words, but they generally aren't first books by an unpublished author, or they're a subgenre like fantasy, where the norm is higher word counts.

5. My critique group hadn't taken a crack at the manuscript. I had 14 people read and give critiques on the first draft back in 2008, but most weren't themselves writers. I also had niggling fears that I hadn't adequately addressed some of the problems those first readers identified.

6. I'm all kinds of impatient about all kinds of things. My instinct on timing is thus suspect!

How do you approach the "Is it them or is it me?" question with some of your rejections? How do you (or will you) know when your manuscript is ready--really, truly, verily and forsooth ready?
Monday, December 07, 2009 Laurel Garver
Ah, holiday parties, when well-meaning friends inevitably ask, "how's the book coming?" and I have to admit I'm revising AGAIN.

"But I thought you were trying to find an agent."

"Well, that wasn't working out too well, so I'm doing more revisions."

"Huh. So how did you know you needed to revise more?"

How did I know? It's a great question. There's abundant advice online about how many agents one should query, and it's a very high number. I went back to the editing room after just a dozen rejections, one of which came after a request for a full. Why? Some would argue I should plow ahead and query like crazy.

Call me a cautious, hedge-your-bets kind of gal, but I didn't want to exhaust every possibility for representation when I didn't know with deep certainty that it's NOT me and my manuscript that's the problem. There are a number of reasons I didn't feel certain, which I'll explain.

1. I can't yet "elevator pitch" the story (give a pithy description in under 30 seconds). If I don't have a clearly articulated description of my own story in my mind yet, an agent isn't going to be able to pitch it to publishers, either. It suggests I have work to do still, and possibly deep flaws in the plot.

2. Writing a synopsis was unparalleled torture. Pre-epidural back labor was less painful. This tells me the most pivotal plot points aren't yet clear. It also suggests plot flaws and pacing issues. This was probably my biggest red flag.

3. I'm not happy with the comparison authors I chose to cite in my query. This tells me I need to read more widely yet. In so doing, I should gain a better idea of how to niche my work, which will affect the voice of my query and which incidents I highlight in the synopsis.

4. I discovered, after the fact, that I'd broken a genre "rule" on word count. Sure, tons of books for teens exceed 75K words, but they generally aren't first books by an unpublished author, or they're a subgenre like fantasy, where the norm is higher word counts.

5. My critique group hadn't taken a crack at the manuscript. I had 14 people read and give critiques on the first draft back in 2008, but most weren't themselves writers. I also had niggling fears that I hadn't adequately addressed some of the problems those first readers identified.

6. I'm all kinds of impatient about all kinds of things. My instinct on timing is thus suspect!

How do you approach the "Is it them or is it me?" question with some of your rejections? How do you (or will you) know when your manuscript is ready--really, truly, verily and forsooth ready?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Meeting for writer's group is always a highlight of the month. We're an exceptionally diverse group genre-wise: literary fiction, fantasy, magical realism, young adult, memoir and nonfiction features. The main connecting thread is we've had relationships in some church setting, so there's an underlying faith tradition we share, even if it doesn't come out explicitly in each person's work. Many writers would consider this diversity to be a less-than-ideal situation. They want to stay in their own genre ghetto, so to speak, where everyone knows all the rules. But sometimes sticking to the genre rules too strictly will keep your from taking risks that could make your story something truly breakthrough.

As we critiqued four very different pieces last night, one of the guys piped up,"You know, I think I learn as much or even more hearing you all critique someone else's piece as I do getting my own stuff critiqued. I realize I've been making the same mistake, or I see new ways to handle a problem or good deeper in my own work."

Amen to that, Bryan (whose Harvey Award win we toasted with great huzzahs). Being generous with your time in offering critiques will pay back dividends beyond getting a few more sets of eyes on your work. Interacting with other writers, struggling with them and building them up will shape you as a craftsperson in the rag-tag guild of writers.

What are some of the unexpected rewards you've discovered in your critique groups?
Thursday, December 03, 2009 Laurel Garver
Meeting for writer's group is always a highlight of the month. We're an exceptionally diverse group genre-wise: literary fiction, fantasy, magical realism, young adult, memoir and nonfiction features. The main connecting thread is we've had relationships in some church setting, so there's an underlying faith tradition we share, even if it doesn't come out explicitly in each person's work. Many writers would consider this diversity to be a less-than-ideal situation. They want to stay in their own genre ghetto, so to speak, where everyone knows all the rules. But sometimes sticking to the genre rules too strictly will keep your from taking risks that could make your story something truly breakthrough.

As we critiqued four very different pieces last night, one of the guys piped up,"You know, I think I learn as much or even more hearing you all critique someone else's piece as I do getting my own stuff critiqued. I realize I've been making the same mistake, or I see new ways to handle a problem or good deeper in my own work."

Amen to that, Bryan (whose Harvey Award win we toasted with great huzzahs). Being generous with your time in offering critiques will pay back dividends beyond getting a few more sets of eyes on your work. Interacting with other writers, struggling with them and building them up will shape you as a craftsperson in the rag-tag guild of writers.

What are some of the unexpected rewards you've discovered in your critique groups?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It's been sooo hard to keep this under wraps, but one of my pieces was published today in the Winter 09-10 issue of Flashquake! "Wedding Singer" is the true story of one of my stranger experiences as a vocalist. Click the linked title to go directly to the piece.

It might be an encouragement to others of you seeking publication to know the history of this piece. It's had a very slow journey to the public eye. The wedding portrayed in the piece happened in November 1991 and I journaled it at the time.

Flash forward to the mid-1990s when I took a feature-writing journalism course in grad school. I'd turned in an early draft of this piece for an assignment--a short nonfiction piece expressing point of view. I don't recall the teacher having an especially positive response, probably due to the complete lack of "newsworthiness" of my topic. (A downside of having your employer foot the bill for your master's coursework is they dictate you study something "job-related," thus I got stuck somewhat unhappily in journalism school, where it's all about newsworthy facts.)

Flash forward yet again to last winter. I'd been cleaning out a file drawer and unearthed a folder of random grad school papers. I came across this assignment and got a chuckle out of it. I sent it to some friends on Facebook and got a huge response. The idea of submitting it for publication hadn't occurred to me, partly because it's such a short piece. Enter my friend and critique partner Simon, who got me up to speed on the whole "flash fiction" phenomenon last spring. As I experimented with writing the flash fiction form and started looking to submit pieces, I found that some magazines, like Flashquake, also take nonfiction. Remembering the positive response to the draft, I gave it a dusting down and sent it out. I got an acceptance on the first try.

Moral of the story: look through those files of random stuff every so often. You might have the germ of something publishable in there.

And speaking of Simon, I'd be remiss if I didn't share his good news: he ALSO got published in the same issue of Flashquake, and his fiction piece "Rise, Lazarus," which I'd had the privilege to critique, is one of the editors' picks! Way to go, Simon! You are an inspiration!
Tuesday, December 01, 2009 Laurel Garver
It's been sooo hard to keep this under wraps, but one of my pieces was published today in the Winter 09-10 issue of Flashquake! "Wedding Singer" is the true story of one of my stranger experiences as a vocalist. Click the linked title to go directly to the piece.

It might be an encouragement to others of you seeking publication to know the history of this piece. It's had a very slow journey to the public eye. The wedding portrayed in the piece happened in November 1991 and I journaled it at the time.

Flash forward to the mid-1990s when I took a feature-writing journalism course in grad school. I'd turned in an early draft of this piece for an assignment--a short nonfiction piece expressing point of view. I don't recall the teacher having an especially positive response, probably due to the complete lack of "newsworthiness" of my topic. (A downside of having your employer foot the bill for your master's coursework is they dictate you study something "job-related," thus I got stuck somewhat unhappily in journalism school, where it's all about newsworthy facts.)

Flash forward yet again to last winter. I'd been cleaning out a file drawer and unearthed a folder of random grad school papers. I came across this assignment and got a chuckle out of it. I sent it to some friends on Facebook and got a huge response. The idea of submitting it for publication hadn't occurred to me, partly because it's such a short piece. Enter my friend and critique partner Simon, who got me up to speed on the whole "flash fiction" phenomenon last spring. As I experimented with writing the flash fiction form and started looking to submit pieces, I found that some magazines, like Flashquake, also take nonfiction. Remembering the positive response to the draft, I gave it a dusting down and sent it out. I got an acceptance on the first try.

Moral of the story: look through those files of random stuff every so often. You might have the germ of something publishable in there.

And speaking of Simon, I'd be remiss if I didn't share his good news: he ALSO got published in the same issue of Flashquake, and his fiction piece "Rise, Lazarus," which I'd had the privilege to critique, is one of the editors' picks! Way to go, Simon! You are an inspiration!