Blog Hopping with Gifted Writers

Though I am new to the term “blog hop,” the way I understand it is this: It gives people a chance to dig into the mind of a writer… an interesting place to go spelunking whether or not you’re a writer yourself AND to find some cool blogs you may not have discovered otherwise.

Vivian MabuniI was invited to participate by Vivian Mabuni, author of the recently released “Warrior In Pink,” fellow Redbud writer, mentor from our UCLA days, and dear friend. Viv is on staff with Cru and speaks messages of inspiration and truth around the globe. I’m fortunate to know her and meet with her during our monthly writer pow wows, along with the talented Karen Yates. Make sure you check-out Viv’s book above; it truly is a moving and eye-opening “Story of Cancer, Community and the God Who Comforts.”

 

In regards the blog hop… how does it work? Basically, I answer 4 questions below and introduce you to bloggers I love! They, in turn, will blog the same thing the following week. So with no further ado, here are thoughts on my sometimes manic and sometimes peaceful writing life…

1. What am I writing or working on?

Monarchs and middle grade fiction (not at the same time)

I am so excited to research (like in my kitchen, hands-on kind of research) and write about monarch butterflies for the San Fernando-based “Quarterly” magazine. In between cleaning the frass (butterfly poop) off my counter and managing to keep my children fed (yuck, that should not be in the same sentence), I am also editing my middle grade novel about Fred Fu and his deceased dog come to life to help solve a mystery of missing pets and homeless boys.

I also write features and have a column “A Stone’s Throw” in the South Pasadena Review newspaper (remember those big sheets of folding paper that make your hands turn black and smell so…  journalistic!?) I’m still a bit old school in this way.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to think my Christian, Asian, family-centric, animal-loving, tea-drinking, (Tahitian) hula dancing, gardener wannabe self makes my work unique and unto itself, thought-provoking and quirky for all to behold.

3. Why do I write what I do?

…because if I don’t, I might explode (excuse me, it’s late) AND to use my God-given love for words for the benefit of community – encouraging, inspiring, informing, enjoying (especially for kids, because I’m a big one).

4. How does my writing process work?

Oh boy! I’m still trying to figure this one out. It’s currently 3:46 AM! And I’m willing myself to sleep, but my fingers press on, (no pun intended.) I write at various times, in all places (pools, schools, toilets, outlets…), under any circumstance (thunderstorms, 100 degree weather, power outages…) I write when I’m sad, mad, happy, confused… It clears my head (making space for more to flood in). I hate it. I love it. I can’t do without it.

But if I must break it down, I usually: research 80% (way more than I need). I write 10%. I pull my hair out and swear I’ll stop taking on new writing assignments (especially when on deadline) 11%.

Now for the fun part, INTRODUCING bloggers I love…

Caroline Park and I met at NewSong church and bonded quickly (we are, in fact, both ENFJ’s on the Myers Briggs personality test). We can have a deep and meaningful conversation one minute, then be completely silly the next. I have so much fun with Caroline and admire her heartfelt candor… she’s like the little sister I’ve always wanted growing up and finally have!

Caroline Park

Caroline is eternally grateful that she has been able to live a life that has been filled with stories of pain, love, and joy. The fact that she loves writing is a juicy cherry on top, since now she can share with the world what she hopes will inspire hope and encourage laughter. During the day, she works in marketing at one of the best start-ups in the country, and by night, she’s drinking whiskey and spending as much time as possible with wonderful friends. But the top three things she thinks about on a daily basis? Animals (hippos and dogs, mainly), food, and how to get that food in her mouth.

Ways to connect with Caroline:
blog – carolinehungers.com
facebook – facebook.com/carolinehungers
twitter – @carolinejaz
IG – @carorine

Stella Erbes has been a dear friend since High School. She was always the smart, God-fearing older sister I never had and am grateful to have now! Because Stella is always a few steps ahead of me in life, I know I can always look to her for guidance and a caring ear. We also happen to have a lot of fun together!

Stella ErbesDr. Stella Erbes is a teacher at heart. Her passion to teach and help others has led her to compose her blog full of lifestyle resources. Dr. Erbes is a university professor and teaches education courses which help prepare future teachers. She hopes that the entries prepared in her blog will lead her readers to exceptional food, unforgettable travel, and better living. Check out her book, What Teachers Should Know But Textbooks Don’t Show, a practical and engaging guide for any teacher.

Ways to connect with Stella:

blog – stellarstops.com

twitter – @stellarstops or @stellaerbes

email – stella@stellarstops.com

 

1st Draft Done!

On November 30, 2012, I birthed a bouncing baby novel (50,221 word, 186 pages, middle grade/YA, thank you nanowrimo!) Though a joyous moment, I was tempted to tell the doctor to tie my tubes — I am not doing this 30-day thing again, (but then again, that’s how I felt last November 30. No really, 2.5 kids and a dog is enough.)

After writing for hours a day, all I wanted to do was read. So upon penning the proverbial “The End” I did not want to write another word, which is why I haven’t blogged since, and am simply enjoying a good old fashion library book (yes, they still exist and yes, I still borrow them). I haven’t even written our family’s Christmas update, yet!

I also keep getting story ideas; so I’m tempted to jump to the next project without polishing the last. Any seasoned writers out there who can help with my pseudo-schizophrenic writing problem? (Seriously, I can use tips here.) Until there’s a solution, I shall engage in both simultaneously.

I am super excited to have pushed this baby out, I believe it has great potential! But I’ll leave it be for a few weeks, the distance is good and I can bask in the sunlight of being “done” just a little longer. But then comes the growing pains, the hard work of editing and making each sentence “sing.” Maybe one day it will grow up to be a mature young book, by God’s grace, one that will make people laugh and bless them, too.

A Month of Crazy Writing

November is National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo.com). That means if you go to the website I indicated in parens, you can join thousands (maybe even millions? who knows, I’m bad in math) of crazy writers all over the world and write a 50,000+ word novel in a month.

That breaks down to 25 days of writing (for me, because I take a break on Sundays) which equals 2,000 words, roughly 5 type-written pages, or 7 book pages per day! If I’m fast, I can write 2 pages/hour. But when I’m slow, it can take all day. So you do the math… I’m going to be busy in November — oops, that’s today! So how many words have I written? 114, just what I’ve written above and that doesn’t even count 😦

This will be my 2nd year participating. Last year, I wrote “The Gifted Zaylin” which is still being edited. At the end of last November, I said it would be my last. And here I am now, considering the task once again. I may or may not finish this time. No promises, just a goal. So why do it?… Besides being an excellent exercise in writing every day, for me, it’s like having a baby. Eventually, you forget how painful it is. You see the cute little toes of a novel, grow into a walking toddler and then the thing you created starts to talk. And you love it when it’s sleeping (or working well) and you “hate it” when it’s not listening (or not working), but it’s alive and wants to thrive. So you forget the pain of birth and you do it all over again. Why, oh why? That’s why.

So if you dare, join me (or cheer me on). Buy a book or two on writing a novel, create a loose plot, then write with wreckless abandon. Then we’ll hug and kiss on the other side of November, with a novel (good or bad) in one hand and a glass of sparkling apple cider in the other (I am writing for young adults, after all).

When the euphoria of finishing ebbs away, the real tough part begins, taking the story deeper and doing the hard work of editing. It’s all part of the wonderful process or birthing a bouncing baby book.

The Neurosis of This Writer

Recently, I was stressed (again). So I listed all I’m doing (on a daily, weekly and monthly basis). Then I listed all that I wish I were doing and all that I wish I weren’t doing. Then I listed my priorities. If I had a few more days to kill, I’d add to my already existing lists (what to blog list, how to save $ list, bucket list, fix-it list, grocery list, to do list, to read list, to watch list, to learn list, to write about list). Then I’d add lists within my lists: all the people I want to call (many of you are probably on that list), all the prayers I want God to answer, all the places I want to visit before I die… you get the point. I have a lot of things on my mind and I like lists.

The Go Go’s (and I) sang a song in the 80’s, “I am the girl of 100 lists…” Yup, that’s me, to a “T.” Lists help me feel organized and in control, except when I have so many lists, I can’t keep track anymore. I think I’m getting to that stage. Maybe I’ve gone beyond.

So why do I make these lists? Well, it is a form of writing for this writer. But I suppose there’s a deeper issue; I don’t know? Maybe you can help me here? It’s stressing me out to just think about it. I’m tempted to list the possibilities.

For now, the bottom line is this: God created me this way. He created a passion in me, to want to experience much. Often this feels like a curse; I’ve become a Jack-Of-All-Trades and master of none, a jumbled mess of wants. But more than a curse, I am trying to see it as a blessing. And to write helps me go there, to go to God with the swirl of thoughts in my head. And to live in eternity gives me time to do it all.

The key is to do things for the right reasons (for me, it’s to glorify God), prioritize, and relax. There, just a list of 3. I’m getting better already.

Writing Journal: Rejected Rhino

Recently, my first short story submission was rejected from a children’s magazine. I won’t say which one, but it’s very well-known and rhymes with “this bites.”

Honestly, I’m not bitter. I knew going in that I would have to send in 100+ submissions before getting my first acceptance; so I have at least 99 more to go. Still, this rejection stings. And I’m sure every single one thereafter will also.

Everyone gets rejected: from a choice college, a job, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a loan… Unfortunately, I’ve entered and love a field where rejection is the norm. I am (or trying to be) a fiction writer for children. And as such a writer who is finally trying to get published, I must psychologically evolve into a rhino, thick-skinned and always moving forward.

Though I’ve written for newspapers, I feel like I’m learning to write all over again. The children’s book writing world and the business around it has its own unique challenges. And I am learning.

So as I prepare to send my work to agents, I ready my rhino dermis and resolve. Right now, I am a children’s writing nobody and maybe always will be. The glimmer of hope is in knowing that other writers believe in me and in what I’ve written so far. And maybe one day, just the right acquiring editor will also believe in the works I produce.

In the mean time, I try to remember why I write: because God gave me this passion, it glorifies Him when I do it, it feeds my soul because that’s how I was made, and the stories that bubble within are worth sharing.

So bring on the rejections. It’s part of the life I’ve chosen to embrace. I consider it a privilege to enter the arena with masters who have gone before me, who were rejected more times than they can count (J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Herman Melville, George Orwell, Judy Blume, Beatrix Potter, Madeline L’Engle, Dr. Seuss…) They continue, if still alive, their rhino-like efforts to keep doing what they are good at and love and so will I.

Writing Journal: Got Critique Group?

Recently I met with three talented children’s book writers. We read each other’s works aloud, made comments and suggestions, while encouraging what worked — all over three intense days. I was the newbie trying to find my strongest voice between YA, MG, and picture books. Having the input and support of peers was invaluable (more on that later).

As a novice in the world of writing for youth, one thing I’ve learned thus far: writing quality fiction is far harder than it appears. Like in many fields, the pros make it look easy. It’s not.

And having a journalism background is good and bad. Yes, I can meet deadlines, put words together in an informative even entertaining way, and edit a little better than some. But I also have to break some common journalistic writing habits. I can’t give everything away at the beginning (crushing my inverted pyramid) and be overly descriptive (telling). I must trust the reader to follow the action and discover what they must, along the way (show). Easier said than done. I’m still trying to figure this out!

Having other sets of eyes, those who are honing their own children’s fiction writing craft, has helped me take a step further in improving my own storytelling. Experiencing feedback from a trusted critique group and giving it, gave me a vision for what I need to do in the following months.

So, E.J., Julia, and Jennifer, THANK YOU! (And you’re all so fun, too. I miss you already!) I wish we were closer to continue what we started. But at least a taste of what we had whet my appetite to want more. My goal in the next few months will be to find a local group that is going through the challenges and joys I face, as we do what we love: write for children.

Conferences and BIC

I’m a writer. To be exact, I’m a journalist. But for the past 9 months, and even more so this last weekend for 4 days, I’ve been learning that fiction writing for children is a whole ‘nother world!

Since Friday, I’ve had the pleasure of attending SCBWI’s (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) International Conference in LA. Like many conferences, it was full of information, education, and inspiration (I cried at almost every keynote.)

But for me, this conference stood out! Not only was it the first one I’ve been to, providing an opportunity to have my material critiqued by a professional in the field (a publishing house editor, agent, or published writer), but it also allowed for camaraderie between like-minded masochists. Actually, this is probably true for just about any writer: we don’t do it for the money, for fame or for our egos, lest we go insane!

But truly, this was a learned and enriching experience. One of the standout teachings, among other things, was “Show, don’t tell.” (What in the world does that really mean?) Each time this was explained in its various forms, it sunk in a little deeper.

During the critique time, my journalism background could be sniffed from a mile away! Yes, I know English grammar and diction. That’s a good start. But I’m also a little too good  at “telling,” a big “no-no” in fiction. My critiquer even indicated that I was “reporting,” even though she didn’t know my background. This old dog must learn some new tricks, happily so.

Well, at least for the beginning of my novel, where I thought I had to build the scene and “tell” the reader what it’s like, I’ll have to rewrite and “show” the environment through my protagonist’s actions. To learn this and other useful tips, I purposely filled my weekend with breakout sessions that revolved around the craft of writing for this particular market; so I can honestly say, I have been enlightened!

Equally educational and exceedingly entertaining, were the people… a wonderfully loving community of people! New friends encouraged me and gave me hope. Those who were published were once like me, searching, wide-eyed, and serious about the task at hand. I came away feeling like I can do this thing; I can write, I can share a little beauty with this world, and be content… but to show up and do it well will be a lot of work!

Award winners and others shared their journeys, their rejections, the years of honing their craft, and the victories along the way. It takes a pouring out of their guts, but it’s all worth it for them, even fun. Remember, we’re masochist – but we don’t have to endure the agony part if: we write because we’re inspired, we’re made to do it, and we create for the sheer love of doing it, then leave the fruit of our labor to God.

And we don’t create in a bubble; we write in community, cheering each other on. I have my nurturing Redbud sisters, enthusiastic blogging friends, and now I add to my community, children’s book writers. So to give a shout out to my new peeps: Victoria, Cindy, Sophia, Rita, Elizabeth, Lilliam, and Pasadena area writers… thank you for the wisdom, rides, lunches, laughter, and encouragements. Now, go forth and write. Put BIC (butt in chair) and be mad with creation, but don’t go too mad!

For a unique and inspirational perspective for the artist (in 19 minutes!), download the TED app and listen to “Elizabeth Gilbert: your elusive creative genius” (Thank you for the tip, Stella! at stellarstops.com)