I’ve written before about how I can’t adhere to the writer rule: Thou Shalt Write Every Day! I can’t do it. I’m a full-time teacher, single mom to a young child and old dog, house owner, the list goes on and on. Instead, I write notes everywhere, I research during my lunch breaks, and I visualize scenes until they’re like movies in my head. When I have the time to write, watch out!
As a teacher, there is no better time to write than summer vacation. School is out (finally) and my daughter started day camp today. She loved it, so yay to that! My daily plan is to drop her off at day camp and then come home and write. My goal is to have my novel revised completely by the end of the month. I’m calling it MyNoReMo–My Novel Revising Month–which is a twist on NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month program that runs every November.
Turns out they have a summer camp for NaNoWriMo that started July 1. The goal there, however, is to complete an entire novel from scratch in 30 days. It’s like the X-Games of writing. Just you, a computer, coffee, and thirty days. Bring it!
Yeah…um…I can’t do that. No way. I’m slow and I clean up as I go and there’s the aforementioned lack of free time in my life. I can’t do a novel from scratch in a month, but I can do a revision. I’ve already created the material and I mulled over my editorial letter the last few weeks of school. I’m ready. I may feel like this guy when it’s over…
…but I’ll be one step closer to being a published author!!!!!
I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Does anybody else have summer writing goals?
I received my editorial letter recently and have been planning my revisions. Since today was the last full day of classes, my mind is shifting from teacher mode to full-time writing mode. The new scenes are playing out in my head, and I’m itching to get them on paper. One thing that will change is the title.
The working title has been RESURRECTING EMILY. The reasons? you ask.
Well, I have a thing for Emily Dickinson (I love her), and she has a strong influence throughout the story. In some ways, I want to help “bring her back” to the forefront with young readers (most of my students know nothing about her). Also, the two main characters are named Emily, although one always goes by her middle name, Elizabeth. One of the Emilys attempts suicide. Which one? you ask. Well, you’ll have to buy the book to find out.
The title, however, has an obvious religious reference and my novel is not about traditional faith. So, I need a new title, preferably a first line or other phrase from a Dickinson poem since her work is featured in the book. I have some possibilities, and I would love for you to chime in and vote. I’d like to send my editor the best ones.
I was able to shorten the list with the help of my family. If you know them, this exchange will not surprise you. If you don’t, then welcome to my world. (All in good fun here. We’re a tight crew.)
Me: How about A CLEAVING IN THE MIND?
Sister: Cleaving sounds like cleavage and it’s on teens’ minds. No.
Me: How about A PAIN SO UTTER?
Sister: It makes me think of cows. No.
Me: How about A FUNERAL IN MY BRAIN.
Brother: Geez, what kind of book are you writing?
Me: You’d know if you bothered to read an early draft.
Brother: I thought it was about high school.
Me: It is, but it’s not a romantic comedy. It’s about more serious issues in high school–teen depression and attempted suicide.
Brother: I missed that part in high school.
Sister: They covered that in health class when you were skipping.
Mom: How about WHEN PAIN HURTS?
Me: It’s not from a Dickinson poem. And, when doesn’t pain hurt?
Brother: Well, I guess if you’re into that kind of thing.
We all look at my sister-in-law.
Sister-in-law: Don’t look at me.
Brother: Call it FIFTY SHADES OF HIGH SCHOOL!
Me: Why do I bother?
Dad: Come on, guys, when you write a book, it’s like your baby. You put a piece of yourself out there. This is serious.
Everyone is laughing too hard to hear him.
Anywho…..please help me. Here are the ones that survived the family get-together. Trust me–they all “fit” the story. Comment here, on my Facebook Page, or on Twitter. If you could rank them in the order you like them (first being the best), that would be awesome!! Thanks in advance for your thoughts!!
Earlier this week, I found out that my debut novel, RESURRECTING EMILY, will be on Walker’s Fall 2014 list, if all goes according to plan. This may seem like a long time from now, but it really isn’t. So, I’m now panicking…I mean, preparing…and trying to get my name and face on as many social media sites I think I can handle (which isn’t many. Pinterest is so tempting, but I can’t! Not yet!)
So…this is a quick post to let people know that I now have a Facebook Page that can be liked. I added an icon thingie on the sidebar of this blog, and I’ve programmed it so that whatever I post here will go to my FB page and my Twitter account. (Let’s see if all of this actually works.)
My hope is that my original FB account will be more personal and the page will be all things book-related. I’m sure there will be some cross-pollination, but in general, I want to post pictures of my daughter, dog , etc. on my personal account, not the public FB page. (Although Rusty is an attention monger and would love his furry mug posted everywhere.)
See, there he goes again! But, isn’t he cute?
So, go ahead and “like” me if you want ongoing book news. The page is bare-bones right now, but I promise to post all sorts of scandalous stuff there soon (not really).
So, it’s been almost a month since my novel RESURRECTING EMILY was bought by Mary Kate Castellani at Bloomsbury/Walker, and I have been……exhausted. Weird, right? I mean, I screamed and danced and told just about everyone I spoke to, and then I was like, Whew! (wipes brow), and I’ve been napping a lot since. I like to think I’m recharging during this calm before what comes next.
When I think about it, I tend to work this way. I push myself for an extended time, and then when a goal is reached, I crash. I remember once coming home from college after finals and a year as managing editor of The Daily Campus. I fell into a dead sleep for so long that my mom came in and put her finger under my nose to check if I was still breathing.
Now, I work full-time as a teacher, I’m raising a 6-year-old daughter and caring for a 15-year-old mutt, I’m writing and attending my monthly critique group, and I’m doing a mediocre job with Weight Watchers (stuck at 11 pounds). So, yeah, I’ve got a lot going on, and I’m generally sleep-deprived.
On top of all this was the brewing book deal. When emails were being exchanged about the acquisitions process, I thought I was cool, but I was so not cool. I was freaking out inside. So when the deal was done and the excitement was released, I settled into this post-news calm and have allowed myself some time to crash, just like I did each summer after college.
After spending a significant amount of time on a project that required loads of emotional and intellectual energy, I’ve cleared a major hurdle. But the race isn’t over–not even close.
I’ve reached a personal goal, but there’s lots of hard work ahead of me. My editor said I will probably receive her revision notes by the end of April, so soon enough, I will dive back into this project and dig deep to make it even better.
In the meantime, I’m going to allow myself a little mental break. I’m going to enjoy the glorious weather (finally) and push my daughter on the swings. I’m going to spend time with family and friends, and I’m going to nap every chance I get. I’m going to recharge my batteries so that I’m ready for the next leg of the race.
Two years ago, I started this blog with a draft of my first novel underway and a hope that it will someday be published. I wanted to get my name “out there” and wasn’t quite sure who would read this, but I started anyway.
Two years later, this space is still a work in progress, but I have figured out the types of posts I like to do and will continue to do those. For example, I made a commitment to read more novels by and about Latinos and spotlight those titles. Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the U.S., and I think it’s important to highlight work by Hispanics for readers of all backgrounds. I have also written about my students, who are reluctant readers, and the books they love. Everyone hears about award-winners, but I’ve discovered lots of other great books because my students said, “This was good.” And trust me, when a teen who never reads says that, I pay attention. I’m happy to highlight those books.
I write about what I do daily: read, write, and teach. Because teaching is my full-time paying gig, I haven’t kept a strict schedule with the blog. Some people religiously post on certain days. I admire that, but I’m not there yet. I want to be more consistent, but probably once a week is the best I can do given my schedule.
Other things that have happened since I started this blog:
People in 40 countries have checked me out. A big wave to that person in Kenya, the reader in the Philippines, and those seven people in Armenia. How cool is that?
Two years later, my third novel is in the planning stage. I still have the hope that my first novel will be published, but I feel like I’m closer to that becoming a reality. I’ll be attending the New York SCBWI conference again, and this time, I will actually know people! I look forward to this year and will continue to do the things I love–read, write, and teach–and blog about them.
Last week, the New York Times published an article about the fact that Latino students don’t often see themselves in books. This sparked lots of discussion, with a few responses printed days later. Then, earlier today, NBC News reported that according to Census data white people will no longer be the majority in the U.S. by 2043.
Times they are a-changing. This is not “news” in the sense that these projections have been made before, but these facts about our country’s changing population have been getting more attention because of the large number of non-white voters who participated in the presidential election. Let’s focus on the reading issue…
When it comes to reading, there are some near-certainties. Children who are read to from birth to age 3 enter preschool with an advantage. Children who attend organized preschool have an advantage. By kindergarten, the literacy gap–even though students cannot yet read themselves–already exists. If a child is not reading on grade level by the third grade, he or she could lag in school forever. Yes, forever. I teach reading in high school, so obviously I believe it’s never too late to improve one’s reading skills. Still, while my students make gains, other students are–you guessed it–making gains, too.
With our changing population, parents, teachers, writers, and the publishing industry have a lot to consider. Parents need to read to their children every day. All subject teachers must see themselves as reading teachers and must make conscious choices in terms of reading material. And, ultimately, I hope more books by and about Latinos are published.
I believe that a child should read widely, not just about one’s own race or culture, but I also think it’s important that a child “see” himself (whether it’s because of race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other personal experiences) in a book. Why? Because we live in a diverse society, and our diversity should be represented in the books we read.
Since the recent news was about Latinos, I’m going to focus on that piece. To read book after book with only white characters is simply unrealistic when, in 30 years, the majority of Americans will be non-white. With the growth of the Hispanic community, how strange would it be for children to grow up reading books that do not have Hispanic protagonists or supporting characters? How strange would it be to hardly ever read a novel written by a Latino/a? More books by and about Hispanics would be a great thing.
Anthologies often include stories from a few of the greats–Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, and Gary Soto, to name a few. They are amazing writers, all among my favorites, but teachers and librarians need to venture beyond these go-to authors and give props to other Hispanic writers by using their books in class or offering them to students regularly as independent reading options. My school did this exact thing recently.
Matt de la Peña visits Hall High School in West Hartford, CT, on Dec. 7.
Matt de la Peña came to my high school on Dec. 7. He talked to all 9th graders (not just Latinos) in the auditorium and then ran smaller sessions that were mixed in terms of grade (9-12) and race. In preparation for his visit, the school library ordered multiple copies of his novels: BALL DON’T LIE, MEXICAN WHITEBOY, WE WERE HERE, and I WILL SAVE YOU. Our students’ comments during and after his visit proved that Matt appealed to ALL of our students.
Comments from my Latino students were interesting, though. More than one asked me if he was rich. I said he has two college degrees and four published YA novels, with a fifth on the way. One was made into a movie. Is he rich? I don’t know, but he is successful, in my opinion. Another boy, who sat through both of the small sessions and talked to Matt afterward lost the book that was signed for him. He thinks someone stole it. I found him one day roaming the halls after school looking for it. The next day he said, “It’s weird, but I kind of miss him. He was cool.”
I know my students well enough to know that they saw themselves in Matt: a young Mexican-American who was a reluctant reader and the first in his family to go to college. They saw themselves in his characters and then met the author and made a connection.
It was an experience they won’t soon forget, and one that proves it is important for Latinos to see themselves in the books they read and names like theirs on the spines.
Writers participating in National Novel Writing Month are at the half-way point. If a writer is on track, then he or she is 25,000 words into the 50,000 word manuscript that will be complete by the end of the month.
I thought for a second about joining NaNoWriMo, but then the moment passed. The process would likely send me over the edge. I applaud anyone who can do it, and maybe someday I’ll be able to, but not now.
In fact, during the last month, I went the other way. Instead of belting out as many words as possible in a short amount of time, I took a break. I haven’t written a blog post or a single sentence for a work in progress. In fact, I don’t have a work in progress. The “write everyday or die trying” writing gurus are probably tsk-tsk-ing at me, but I’m okay with that. I needed a break.
The truth is, writing daily doesn’t work for me. Here’s why: I am a single mom of an active 5-year-old girl and a not-so-active but needy 14-year-old dog. Here’s a picture of Rusty putting up with my daughter. Isn’t he a good sport?
I start teaching at 7:30 a.m. and often have after-school commitments that are followed by getting the humans and canine fed and ready for the next day. If I have a snow day, if my daughter and dog go to bed early, or if my parents invite my daughter for a sleepover, I write. And I mean, I go for it. When I have a block of writing time, I often don’t leave the computer unless it’s for food or a bathroom break. I work every minute of the time I get to write, but these moments don’t happen every day.
I write when I have time, but I don’t have the time or mental energy to write every day. This is why I would be a NaNoWriMo casualty. I can’t commit to a certain word count each day with the goal being a completed novel by the end of the month. Just the thought of it makes me shiver. Maybe one day, but for now, my “write when I can” method works. I’ve written two pre-published young adult novels. Soon after completing the second one, I tackled a major revision of the first one.
After that, I needed a break. I’m glad I did it, too, because I want to love what I’m writing. I want the characters to dance in my head while I’m in the shower or driving to work, acting out the scenes that will become chapters when I have the time. If I had thrown myself into NaNoWriMo with a half-baked idea, I would have cried, “Mercy” by now.
Stepping away from the keyboard has been good for me. I’m ready to start developing a new idea. I’m excited about that. It won’t get done in a month, but that’s fine by me.