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Friday, December 30, 2011

Got back into writing my kids' novel

After being stalled for a couple of months, I started doing some background work on characters. I had already done extensive studies on my two main characters but my supporting cast were not real people yet and it showed when I tried to write.
I've realized that I have to base them on real people, at least physically, so that I can see them in my mind. They are either ex-students or kids from my own childhood. As far as their personalities go, they are often a composite of different kids I've known.
I also planned out the book chapter by chapter by writing key ideas for each chapter on 3 by 5 index cards.
So far, I've got over 3000 words written for the first two chapters. Not sure if that's two much for a middle grade reader. I'm re-reading this morning after worked at writing for a few hours yesterday.

Also, musically, I recorded and mixed a 12 song album and burned it on Verbatim digital vinyl cds. They look like 45 rpms. I designed the cover art and made jackets for the cds which I gave out to friends and family for Christmas. I used Garageband which is fine for a hobbyist like me. You can find some of my original songs on my youtube channel:

Next on my list of to do things is to make a chapbook of some of my poems.  You know, I couldn't care less about doing any of this professionally. I have fun. I write and compose because that's what I do. Money or no money. Recognition or no recognition. Of course, if I do get published in the mainstream someday, well good!

If not, I doubt if that's going to stop me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some of my songwriting

No Nano

Nanowrimo came at a really bad time for me. Loads of volunteer work, correcting  and report cards and parent teacher interviews. Next year, I'll have to plan better.At least get a plot and character bios down before November rolls around. Some of my grade 5 and grade 6 students are participating, so at least I've contributed that in the larger writing community.

I have written just the same, I just didn't participate in NanoWrimo like I had hoped. this past weekend despite having report cards and volunteer work, I scoured through all of my notes for my middle grade novel and tried to sort out the plot on 20 some odd index cards. This coming weekend should be slow besides a bit of Christmas shopping, so I will start writing the first and second chapters.

I'll try not to procrastinate and let you know how it all goes.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

just found my NANO idea

I was eating an English muffin with store bought strawberry jam and old cheddar for supper when a scene from class yesterday played itself out in my brain and the opening line rolled across my mind's screen.

I'll write what I know without knowing where I'm headed and I'll not even try to disguise how autobiographic this novel will be.

Anayway, I loved Among School Children by Tracy Kidder.

So far, NANOWRIMO has had a reversed effect on me

Besides journal writing longhand with my favourite purple Energel in the mornings as I rise or just before going to bed, I haven't written anything since NANOWRIMO started 5 days ago. I am now 8335 words late if I want to average 1667 words a day. 

I'm -8335 words.  That's minus 8335 words.
i THINK i'LL DO nanowrimo  IN REVERSE. oups I got My CapitaliZations in REversE.
Just like I avoid having friends on Facebook and ignore friend requests, maybe I'll go try for minus 50 000 words.

As soon as November first rolled around, I decided that I wasn't doing it. I have to write the first chapter of my kids' novel with detailed drafts of chapters 2 and 3 and rough drafts of the remaining chapters. And I think that there are major components to my story that I need to rework. 

I had thought of starting a 3rd adult novel but that sounds like 30 days of craziness and that's besides the fact that my day job requires me to do things like plan lessons, grade work, meet students and parents. I corrected my students writings and various evaluations and started working on report cards on this beautiful Saturday instead of writing for me.

That's ok. I journalled and I'm writing now. I journalled about being at a birthday celebration for a friend and myself last night and having to practice zenness when the restaurant lights were dimmed and staff, our table and patrons started singing Ma chère other friend's name c'est à ton tour, de te laisser parler d'amour as the waiter brought out 1 piece of angel food cake with one candle and placed in front of my friend who was at the other end of the table. I practiced smiling even the little girl inside wanted to run home at that very moment. I wrote about being alone on my actual birthday walking in Ottawa and hearing someone call out "Happy Birthday" and it wasn't for me. 

Funny how the world never stops for you. Could each and everyone of us just get one frigging day a year where we are celebrated?

Your world can be falling apart or it can just be your birthday, a day that you would like to be a little bit special, and everybody's life just goes on. Life goes on even if you die. How thankless is that? 
If at least you can be at your own funeral and then check out after the last song has been sung and the last bottle of wine has been emptied, providing that people would actually say kind words and tell everyone else what a great gal you were, how you were so full of talent and that they were lucky to have you as their friend, to their teacher, their sister, lover, partner, neighbour, mentor, roommate, Twitter stalker, Youtube friend and guest on their blog. 

So, I got over not having cake delivered or that dumb song sung for me until quite a few minutes later. Like walking on a balance beam hoping not to fall off, I practiced smiling gracefully without feeling too sorry for myself, and concentrated on my conversation with another friend who has gone through a life changing year.

  Like a budding musician listens to wonderful musicians, I read one heck of a lot.
I'm reading a few different books by superb authors: Robert B. Parker, Elizabeth Berg, Michael Morpugo, Walter Isaacson and Ralph Fletcher.

Monday, October 31, 2011

trying to write 1667 words today

Nanowrimo starts tomorrow and so i thought I'd try to write 1667 words today but I'm hovering around 700. I don't like the direction I took. I tried writing the first chapter of my kids' book but beyond the first line I'm getting a long way off of my flimsy plan.

I started an adult fiction chick lit kind  of novel during March break this year. I've got about 20 000 words written.

I thought I'd start a 3rd novel and let my brain rip and not think about a plan.

Well, my laptop battery is low so I might just have found my excuse to go back to reading Steve Jobs autobiography instead of writing this evening.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Opening lines from mostly kids' books

“There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” 
Louis Sachar, Holes.

"Their mother had been here in the hospital with the new baby for almost a week." 

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall 

"So Mom got the postcard today." When you reach me by Rebecca Stead

"He did not wan to be a wringer." Wringer by Jerry Spinelli


I should be writing

There are post-its stuck onto my laptop with novels in the works' titles and easily attaniable word counts per day goals.

I got the critic back from my instructor on my second book novel writing  course assignment and unfortunately for my ego, said instructor saw and pointed out holes in my synopsis. Ouch!! Double ouch!

So I can either quit or lick my bruised ego and dig in my heels and work harder. I left his comments aside for a couple of days before re-reading them and realizing that maybe, just maybe he could be right about a few things. This morning or afternoon, I'm not sure which because I was late getting out of my jammies, I analyzed his comments and turned them into a TO-DO list which got turned into more post-its which will find their places stuck somewhere onto my laptop when I finish writing this.

On the bright side:
story is age appropriate
principal characters are interesting
good inner conflict

I now have to work on:
developping secondary characters so that they won't seem so cartoonish and more like real people
injecting humour (I didn't think that there had to be humour in the synopsis, I just thought I'd ooze humour as I actually wrote the novel, ok, no more excuses!)
 finding suitable U.S. publishers (I only researched Canadian publishers thinking I'd have better chances at getting published!)
 working on plot and subplot

 Oh and I have to write the 1st chapter and detailed outlines for chapters 2 and 3 with rough outlines of the remaining chapters before December 15th!!!
 I desperately want to NANOWRIMO.
 Maybe I'll just write this novel they way I see it in my head and write furiously for 30 days and the edit for 15!!!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Long Story Short will also be publishing one of my poems

I found out yesterday that Long Story Short will be publishing one of my poems which I wrote during my week long workshop with Linda Rief at La Sapinière in Val-David last August.

This is very encouraging.

I must kick myself to keep on sending out other stories and poems when there are submission calls.

I'm still researching traditional publication vs epublishing vs self-publishing. If anyone is reading this and has any thoughts, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Any Wannabe novellists out there? Have I got a challenge for you. November is National Novel Writing Month better known as NANOWRIMO.
Register so that you can tak eup the challenge and write that novel that's just screaming to fly onto the page.

Original song "Butterflies and robins". I wrote this as I was noodling with The Police's Every breath you take. You'll probably recognize the intro. The words just came flying out and the whole song was written in a matter of minutes. The song was recorded with GarageBand and a Snowball usb microphone bye Blue. The video pics were taken with Mac's Photobooth and the video was edited with Imovie. I am Queenbeebee222 on Youtube.

This song is totally different. I wrote "Say you know" sometime in the late 70's or early 80's. When I recorded it with the above mentioned equipment, I thought it would be fun to make it more electric. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I've been published!!!!

Hi there!

I just wanted to share my good news.

Long Story Short, an e-zine, has chosen to publish one of my short stories in their October issue.

Here is the link:
Long Story Short
My short story, His very own bully, by Julia Nadon published by Long Story Short.

On this Thanksgiving Weekend, I am thankful for good health, work I enjoy, family and friends, a beautiful setting here around Montebello.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

organizing journals, diaries, letters, agendas and calendars

Last weekend, I decided to find some of my old journals. I came across a significant but forgotten letters from the early 90's in the attic. I found 2 boxes of journals, agendas, diaries, calendars and a scrapbook of childhood memories started for me by my Mom. I must come from a long line of archivists.

A couple of weekends ago, while going through a binder of family genealogy looking for specific ancestor's link to me, I discovered that I was a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution). Our ancestor and my maternal grandmother were both on the DAR website with registration numbers. My grandmother wrote stories about our ancestors. I'm fortunate to have all of her notes and those of an elderly cousin.

Back to my own archives. I decided to re-organize my stuff chronologically. I'm only missing a short period which I'll be able to reconstruct with visual aids such as photos from those years. Creative non fiction, my latest favourite literary genre.

Friends and I gathered for a pick nick dinner this evening on our veranda, our kayak outing having been rained out. We discussed what writing meant to us.  One of my friends visits her mother's grave and writes directly to her mother. Powerful stuff.
I can't remember writing directly to my Mom who died in 1991. Just the thought of it wrangles me. Maybe I did when she first passed away. I was so angry and hurt that cancer had taken her away so quickly. I know that I did a whole lot of writing. I did eventually write a song to her. It pretty much says it all. I thought I had recorded it, it must be on another computer.

Leaving a trace, Transforming a life into stories, by Alexandra Johnson, has propelled me into taking a second look at the past.  I have desperately tried living in the present over the last few years, maybe it is time to get reacquainted with the past in order to gain perspective and understanding.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Journals and letters

I have been writing like a crazy lady. On Saturday, I printed out everything I had written on the computer in Val-David and stuck them in the nice journal I received upon registration. I indexed all of my poems and stories. I was so fired up that I kept on writing and sticking stuff in the journal. I had also registered for a second course with the Institute of Children's Lit down in Conn. I have 2 years to write, revise and edit a kids' book. I sent off my first assignment Tuesday night.

I've written a journal since I was a young teen and a few years ago, my two best friends decided to burn theirs. They felt as if what was in there was of little importance and they didn't want anyone reading them. I was aghast at first and then I almost considered doing the same. Then, I remembered throwing out a bunch of love letters and poems only to wind up awhile later sharing a part of my life the their author.How I had wished that I'd saved them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Writing retreat with Linda Rief, La Sapinière, Val-David, QC

I just spent the most incredible week with a talented group of writers who just happen to be educators and we were nurtured all week long by Linda Rief, an extraordinary communicator. 

I was nervous when I arrived on Sunday afternoon.  I knew no one. I wondered if I would last the whole week. I wondered if OCD would flare up like a bad rash.  Mind over matter. Here and now. Sit and smile.

John and Lorraine Ryan greeted me in the lobby and made me feel right at home.  I was a little intimidated when I saw that some people already knew each other and others were coming back for the second time, although I decided that that meant this week could be very promising. 

The two friends from English schoolboards who had recommended this workshop said that I'd just love Linda Rief.  Well, fall in love I did.  I met Linda and many others at dinner Sunday night and after get-to-know you conversations, I thought that maybe this would turn out ok.

As soon as we started Monday morning, I knew that I had come to the right place.  Linda made us feel safe and she energized our writing with quickwrites. I learned how to conference with others. I hate to admit it, but no one had shown me how, or maybe I'm old enough now to start forgetting things like that. No, I'm pretty sure there was a hole in my training there.

We shared our writing and consequently ourselves, our beliefs, our feelings.  Sometimes we were darn close to being naked while keeping all of our clothes on. 

I finally found my tribe: people who love books and writing and ideas, subtlety, light and dark, humour and pathos, beauty and scabs,  just as much as I do.

How enriching it was to share our writing with each other, to chat when we ran into each other in the village or in the wifi living room in the evenings, or laughing and singing together before bedtime, knowing full well that many of us would continue to write or draw long into the night.

I felt connected to many people, feeling almost as if I had known them my whole life.  By the end of the week, some of these new friends started to look as familiar as my old friends. I wish the world was geographically a little bit smaller.

When I came home, Jacques made a reference about me going to summer camp.  I've never been to summer camp but I told him that this was the best summer camp ever.

So I'm back to real life. A week and a half left to summer break.  I've got so many ideas swirling around my head about how to adapt all of this to my classroom. I've got a whole bunch of writing, some finished pieces, loads of drafts and ideas, suggested books in my Chapter's and Amazon shopping carts, and a promise to myself to make room every day to write, whether it be my novel writing (mid-life chick-lit and kids' lit), short stories, journal writing, songwriting, and now poems.

Greatest surprise? Almost everything I wrote this week came out as poetry, sometimes edgy poetry.  Where did that come from? I could never have predicted it. It felt good, though.Really good.

I had recently purchased a book about discovering poetry (reading and writing) by Frances Mayes. Yup! The Under the Tuscan Sun author, but I hadn't really gotten into it.  I'll probably go back to it now. 

 Oh and I won the choice of a book.  I was so excited, I hope I didn't squeal. I chose Leaving a Trace, on keeping a Journal (The art of transforming a life into stories)  by Alexandra Johnson. I had brought an almost empty journal with me this week. The only thing I had written in it were a couple of ideas about writing about different episodes of my life. I'd jotted down a couple of skinny ideas about 2 years ago. I wasn't sure who would be interested, but now, that no longer feels like a pertinent question.  I loved hearing well-crafted stories  from other people this week. Maybe, I will write stories about my life. Maybe what matters is writing them in an authentic voice and making sure that the writing is tight.

But, I wonder how authors of memoir type books like The Glass Castle, Lullabies for Little Criminals, Angela's Ashes, well, how do they do it without re-damaging themselves? How can I revisit a place and time that took everything I had to espace? How do I find my way back to now if I write about then?

These thoughts are what I "have taken away" from my week.

Thank you, Linda. Thank you John and Lorraine. Thank you to all of my fellow writers.
 Until next time.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Finally sent off a short story

I was writing for my 1st assignment in my book writing course, an autobiographical letter in which I have to explain my writing goals and what I've been up to, when I wrote that I wasn't sure why I hadn't sent off any articles or short stories.  

I decided to go through my binder from my last course and edit one of my stories. I worked on it all day. By the end of the day, I checked out a couple of ezines that I'd considered, finally deciding to take a chance on sending it off to Long Story Short.

I got an immediate email back thanking me for my submission and saying that they would respond in 2 to 3 months.

No matter what, I'm glad that I actually sent something off. This has kind of encouraged me to dust off and revise some other stories and send them off.

Currently reading Joy Fielding's Lost set in Toronto during the film festival.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Have I written lately?

I started writing a biographical letter to my instructor which must include my goals in writing and what I would like to work on for the book writing I'm taking with the Institute of Children's Literature.

So I've put my middle-age chick lit novel (now up to 90 pages) aside to start thinking about what kind of kids' book I might like to write. I'm naturally drawn to fiction so I've been thinking about reviving ideas for characters and plots which I'd jotted down in my notebook. 

It seems that non-fiction is easier to sell but I would really like to learn to write fiction.  I think that because I teach in my other life, I'm afraid that writing non-fiction would get to be too pedantic. I love the whimsy but especially the endless possibilities of fiction.

I've also been reading a lot.  I finished The Day of the Storm by Rosemunde Pilcher.  Now, I think I'll go back to kids' lit. I've been reading Onn the Bright Side, I'm now the girlfriend of a Sex God by Louise Rennison in the YA diary genre.  Really funny stuff.

I'm going to either read Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo or Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse next.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

1500 words a day or 15 kilometres on my bike

Maeve Binchy sets goals and deadlines and then either rewards herself or pusnishes herself accordingly.  Sounds a little masochistic to me but yesterday, I told myself it was either 1500 words or 15 km.  

Guess who on her bike after her second cup of coffee this morning. 

On the bright side, I woke up with a storyline and ideas for characters and a plot for my book writing course.  I spent a few hours before cycling jotting down ideas in a spiral notebook and chapter ideas on index cards.  

After cycling, I went for a visit at my friend, Hélène's, and asked for a pen and paper. I had actually heard a tree fall while cycling through the trail in the forest and saw two falcons fly off as I was searching for the fallen tree. Then, I started getting all sorts of ideas for the novel. I wish that I'd brought my mp3 player so that I could record all of my thoughts.  I managed to jot down most of my ideas, I hope, as we chatted and had breakfast together with her daughter and son-in-law.

Actual wordcount today so far? Zero, but I may not punish myself since I jotted down some fabulous ideas.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

1500 words written this morning

After procrastinating a bit, I unplugged my laptop, brought it out to the veranda and made myself write until the battery flashed that it needed charging. 

I picked my stack of index cards and flipped through them to see what needed writing from my roughly sketched out plan for my novel. I finished writing a chapter that I had started over a week ago. 

This afternoon, I grabbed a kid's novel, The Penderwick's by Jeanne Birdsall, and reread or rather skimmed it while writing key points from each chapter and shallow character studies.  I'm also going to be starting to write a kid's novel, my second attempt, but this time I feel that I have a bit more direction since taking courses with the Institute of Children's Literature. 

I'm currently reading Louise Rennison's On the Bright Side, I'm Now The Girlfriend of a Sex God. Laugh out loud funny!

Writing goals

I’m an avid reader and my tastes are pretty eclectic. I enjoy reading novels by Rosamunde Pilcher, Maeve Binchy, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Khaled Hosseini, James Patterson, Anne George, Haywood Smith, Robert B. Parker, Nelson Demille, Paul Theroux, and the list could go on. 

I also enjoy reading biographies and autobiographies of all kinds, travel writing, collections of short stories (especially by women British, Scottish and Irish authors for some strange reason), educational blogs, writers’ blogs, interesting articles bounced around through my network of contacts on Twitter, and anything that tickles my curiosity.

Why did I decide to pursue writing more seriously?

I guess that because I love reading so much,  I finally figured that maybe I could possibly be able to write. Sometimes, after relating something that happened to me, people would say that I should write about some of my experiences. I’m not exactly the kind of person who would want to bare her soul to the world. 

Authors like Rosamunde Pilcher and Maeve Binchy who write seemingly simple, everyday life stories which connect with people made me wonder if I could write simple stories with appealing characters and enough of a plot that someone might actually want to read and possibly enjoy.

I didn’t send any of my short stories or articles to magazines after my first course with the Institute of Children's Literature last year. I’m not sure why. I enjoy writing and revising more than I enjoy the idea of selling the goods. I think I knew that what I really wanted to attack was a novel. 

Last winter, I read that by writing around 1600 words a day, you could write a novel in something like 100 days so I started to write about 1600 words a day on days that I sat down to write. What came out of me was not a children’s novel, nor would I classify it as a young adult novel either. The protagonist is well into her 40's. 

I’m hovering around 80 pages or 20 000 words. I decided to aim to write about 500 pages and chop it down to around 300, hopefully removing the most dreadful parts. If I could convince someone to publish it someday when I’ve polished it all up, well, that would be awesome and well worth a feast with my friends.

I started trying to write a kids’ novel in the early 2000’s before I had ever taken a writing class.  That was a couple of imploded laptops ago and I think that all I have left are some notes in a spiral notebook and on 3" by 5" index cards. These notes could be a start or I could start from scratch.

 I’d like to write a humourous, contemporary novel about a bunch of kids and their adventures in a small village with miles and miles of forested hills surrounded by lakes, streams and rivers. I’d like to develop the characters so that different kids could identify with at least one of the cast. I know that I won’t want to write about magic, witchcraft, vampires or fairies. 

If I let myself believe that I could get my act together and really accomplish something, I’d really like to be able to write novels reminiscent of Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, Louis Sachar’s There’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom (never mind ever writing anything like Holes!!!), The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatly Snyder or Michael Morpugo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom or Kaspar, Prince of cats  or a young adult novel like Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, or Brian Doyle's  Easy Street (but set in the present).

Ultimatly, I’d like to write the kind of books that my students would enjoy reading. I enjoy writing in English so I’d have to translate them into French because 99% of my students are francophone.

So here I am blogging again this morning instead of...well you know how it goes if you're reading this. Maybe both you and I should get off the net and work on the books that have been caged in our brains just begging to be set free.

You go on ahead, I'll catch up after my next cup o' coffee.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My blog on writing

So I decided that I wanted to pursue writing. That means that I'll have to write more than I do now, write more than talk about writing, write more than dream about writing, and write when I don't feel like writing.

I've taken the Magazine writing for Children's Magazines course  offered by the Institute of Children's Literature and learned a lot even though I never sent off any fiction or articles to magazines for publication. I haven't even entered any contests. I read somewhere this year that contests were not good for the creative soul or something that led me to believe that. I'm basically slothful and any excuse is good enough for me.

During March break, I read that if you write something like 1663 words a day that you could write a novel in 100 days. I started writing a novel. It is coming out as an adult novel, not racy, but the protagonist is in her 40's. Work and life have gotten in the way of writing as I suspect it does for a lot of would be authors but I've managed to plunk out 20 000 words or 81 pages so far.

After having written a few chapters, I realized that writing down a bit of a plan would be wise. I wanted to make a sort of road map or guide that I could follow without being overly strict with myself. I allow myself to go down sidestreets and country roads while continuing to travel in the general direction of my plan.

I put down general ideas for the chapters on 30 some odd 3" by 5" index cards. I used index cards because I can flip through them and rearrange them if needed. When I first did this, I layed them out on a big bed all around me so that I could get a visual of the story which flows through 2 timelines. I didn't want to get lost.

When I sit down and write, I whip out my index cards and follow what needs to be written. It has helped me from suffering from the blank page syndrome so far.

I've created a setting which I love and characters which I enjoy. Last night, I read that everyone in a story wants something. I love that. My next exercise will be to go over my character studies and figure out want everyone wants. It seems pretty clear to me where my protagonist is headed but I need to find motivation for my other characters.

I registered for a book writing course with the Institute of Children's Literature because I love kid's lit. I teach middle grades and I'd love to write the kinds of books my students would love to read. I have 2 years to finish a kids' lit novel and get into a revised and publishable shape.

So here I am blogging about writing instead of writing this morning. That's just as bad as talking about writing. Time for another coffee while my partner is still asleep. I need to get out my index cards and plonk away at my keyboard.