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The Rich Writer

The Rich Writer: December 2008

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Friday, December 26, 2008

Crochet, quilts, and piecing together a story

I just finished a big crochet project--in fact, it was my debut project when I decided to take up crocheting again about six months ago. The result was a huge pile of crocheted squares that I was supposed to piece together into some kind of blanket.

No two squares were the same size. This was a doomed effort, I thought.

But I decided to persevere and sew together this stupid pile of squares--what else was I going to do with them?--and see what happened. And guess what? As I pieced them together, they stretched a bit and compressed a bit as needed. They settled into their new neighbors. And they came together into something beautiful and warm.

I expected to get something that resembled a blanket, but not something beautiful.

Isn't that what we do when we write? We create and create until we have a pile (often ugly) of characters, dialog, scenes, plot twists; and then we start putting them all together, even though by then we're often struck by the utter hopelessness of the endeavor. And then, like magic, all the pieces settle together. They give a little at the edges, soften and bend until they meld, and finally you end up with a book that's somehow greater than the sum of the pieces.

I guess the trick is to remember, when you're in the midst of the ugly squares, that that's what the process is supposed to look like!
:) Cheryl


Friday, December 19, 2008

My Writing Christmas List

  1. Peace enough to dream stories...

  2. ...and characters full of heart.

  3. Love to grow them.

  4. Friends to read them.

  5. A box of fine pens to write them.

  6. College-ruled spiral notebooks with pockets and durable covers to hold them.

  7. Delicious books to savor and inspire them.

  8. An encouraging--and challenging--critique group to better them.

  9. Time to remake them.

  10. Joy in the process.

Editors, agents, publication...all those are nice, too :), but it's good to articulate the essentials occasionally.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and fabulous New Year to everyone!


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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Warning: Take care with book lists!

In an effort to do my part to help the publishing industry, almost everyone on my Christmas list is getting a book this year. I took advantage of the many bloggers' book lists to pick both familiar and unfamiliar titles for friends and family. Check out:

Great idea, right?

Mostly. Somewhere along the way, I ended up on a list that recommended Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes and Other B.S. Sounds funny, a nonfiction book full of oddball facts perfect for one of the middle-school age readers on my list--so I ordered it. And had it sent to my in-laws.

Somehow, I missed reading the book reviews before I bought it from Amazon. Let's just say it's not really kid-appropo.

So check out those lists--buy books for your friends, neighbors, teachers, milkman. But make sure you read more than one review before purchasing books on another's recommendation!

! Cheryl

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not yet OCD...

Did I mention I'm finally subbing a manuscript again? Think of me next time you click "Check Mail". I'll probably be joining you from my computer, wherever it happens to be at the moment....

No, I'm resisting the every-30-seconds email checks. I'm assuming that if my schedule is this busy, everyone else's is, too. Therefore, I'm limiting my email checks to once every 120 seconds. :)

Today is a day for beautiful things in my neck of the woods. There's beautiful snow, frozen into inch-wide crystalline designs by the extreme cold weather. There's a beautiful book cover for my friend Amy's upcoming novel release--it reminds me of R.A.Nelson's cover for Breathe My Name--and I got a sneak peek! There's a beautiful pile of new paper for me to pick up, as soon as I refresh my memory about the project to which I'm returning.

Life's good when you're a writer!

:) Cheryl


Monday, December 15, 2008

Notes to start a writer's week...

1. You finished the first item on your to-do list!!!! Okay, it was the to-do list for a single day, but better celebrate it. You're not going to get any better than that.

2. NO ONE is sick today. Yay!

3. The year is ending, but next year will provide plenty of time for all those items unfinished in your life. And the ones on your lists, too.

4. Note to self: Kids may NOT apply guilt to mom. Dogs may apply level one guilt, so don't buy into anything more severe. Spouse may apply level 2 guilt, but only in an emergency. Remind him of that.

5. Snow = Snow Day. Even if the school district doesn't realize it. Roll in snow to celebrate.

6. The puppy is not dying when he has to go outside to do his business in the SNOW. He's just coddled. Cute, though, so you can keep him--but don't feel guilty.

7. In fact, guilt is NOT a useful emotion at any time of year, much less during the holidays, so substitute another, more productive emotion (such as inspiration, surprise, amusement, or disbelief).

8. Crochet is a valid alternative to meditation.

9. And yoga in the living room is a valid alternative to outdoor exercise of any type when the temp drops below 30F. (Yes, I'm a wimp. Or something like that).

10.'s very, very important that you read a whole lot of great books in the next two weeks, so you can be certain that you give only the BEST to friends and family as gifts. No, that's not a delirious giggle at that thought. Really.
11. Finally: the kids will not kill themselves playing in the snow. Probably. (See photo, above).
:) Cheryl

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Postpartum for writers?

Well, it's done. I've officially sent my baby--Juggling the Keystone--out into the wide, wide world. It feels a bit weird. For months, it seems, I've been re-reading transitions and openings and action scenes, studying the text for flow, continuity, voice, sensory details, typos, punctuation, clarity, and so on...and now, I'm setting it all aside for a while. Weird.

What's the best cure for writers' postpartum blues? (Or is it postpartum confusion?) My ideas:

  • Start another project (always a favorite)
  • Xena the Warrior Princess (which I'm just watching for the first time. Wow, what a fun show!)
  • Crochet
  • Wrap Christmas gifts, do laundry, and otherwise catch up on housework
  • Read
  • Doc Martens
  • Catch up on other projects
  • Make snow angels
  • Sanctioned procrastination
Any suggestions?

:) Cheryl

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Good News and Bad News

That's pretty much my life right now: full of the good and not-so-good alike. They're intertwined; if I didn't have the "bad" I wouldn't have the good, either. Weird.
  • Good news: I'm within millimeters of sending out Juggling the Keystone (which has been basically done for over a week). Bad news: between lots of freelance work, a few sick days, and life, I haven't had time--and don't expect to have time--to make those last few changes and get it off my desk.

  • Good news: I've got lots of ideas and am itching to return to several other great projects. Bad news: See above.

  • Good news: Even though I've been crazy-busy, I've been doing a TON of reading lately--Suzanne Collins, Libba Bray, Lauren Myracle, and others. Bad news: That's because I'm so busy that at the end of the day I can't sleep, so I pick up a good book...and stay up until I finish it. (I know, not the smartest thing, but I can't resist great books. Luckily, children's lit and YA tend to be short.)

Good/bad, black/white...that's how I used to think. That's how kids think a lot of the time. As we get older, we start seeing more of the mix of good and bad, plus and minus, in our lives and in the world around us. What do we do with it?

I guess if you're like me, you write! Happy writing...

:) Cheryl


Friday, December 12, 2008

In case you haven't heard...

Firebrand Literary announces their first annual Query Holiday!

From their web site:

Query Holiday

The ability to write an amazing first chapter is a much more important skill, as a novelist, than
the ability to write a good query letter. So why even bother with a query?

That’s why we’re announcing the first annual FIREBRAND QUERY HOLIDAY—o support
authors who want to spend their time and energy perfecting their manuscripts and not just
polishing their sales skills.

We want to read your first chapter.

Our usual, query-based submission system will be closed for a short period starting on the 15th of December (don’t worry, any query that was already in our system will be answered even while the system is “down”). And then—beginning on December 15 and ending on January 15—we will be accepting sample chapters via a unique email address:

We pledge to review all samples by the end of January, and will respond to those that we are interested in no later than February 1.

Who should submit?

We’re looking for talented authors—with completed books—who are interested in working closely with an agent before and after a publishing deal is done. If you’re interested in revising your manuscript, partnering with an agent, and marketing your book—you’ve come to the right place.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve queried Firebrand before—all that matters is that you are ready to submit the best material you have to offer.

Instructions on What & How to Submit:
  1. Paste the first chapter/twenty pages of your most polished work into a new word document. On a cover page provide the title of your work, the market, the word count of the entire manuscript, and your name, phone number, and email address.

  2. Email this material as a word document attachment to: between December 15 and midnight January 15.

  3. If we like what we read, you WILL hear from us by February 1. If you don’t hear from us, we are sorry to say that have we passed on your manuscript. You should feel free to query us after Query Holiday with other works, through our normal website submission system guidelines. Happy holidays!

Firebrand's agents represent children and YA lit (as well as other types), and they include sci-fi and fantasy on their list.

From Agent Query profiles:

Nadia Cornier
  • Fiction Interests: Literary Fiction Science Fiction Chick Lit Mystery Horror Christian Commercial Fiction Fantasy Women's Fiction Humor/Satire Romance Family Saga Historical Fiction Young Adult Thrillers/Suspense Children's Multi-Cultural Adventure Gay & Lesbian Military/Espionage Offbeat/Quirky Erotica Middle Grade Graphic Novels

  • She'll look at SF/F but, please read James Maxey's BITTERWOOD for an idea of what kind of SF/F she's into - It's a genre-rule-bending, smart take on a tried-and-true subject.

  • She's got a great YA list right now, so your book will have to really make her heart sing to catch her attention. She'll do her best to not sign "repeat" clients, so if you have a YA spy book, a YA vampire book, or straight chick lit YA voice, she's already got it on her list, love it, and she's not looking for any more that will conflict with the sales of her current clients.

Ted Malawar

  • Fiction Interests: Literary Fiction Mystery Commercial Fiction Humor/Satire Historical Fiction Young Adult Children's Adventure Middle Grade

  • He is looking for strong YA and select adult fiction, and to expand Firebrand's middle grade, chapter, and picture book list.

  • For YA, he is looking for books that walk the line between commercial and literary, he likes high concept novels with great "hooks," unique premises, and great humor. (He likes to laugh a lot.)

  • He also enjoys lyrical fiction, as long as it has an authentic and compelling voice. He´s a huge fan of mysteries, smart historicals, and urban fantasy about original topics (no vampires, please)

  • For middle grade, he is drawn to unique coming-of-age stories. He likes stories that make him laugh, but if you can make him cry, even better. He likes projects with fantastical/supernatural elements, too, and action/adventure plots.

  • He is also looking for author/illustrators.

Michael Stearns

  • Fiction Interests: Literary Fiction Commercial Fiction Fantasy Humor/Satire Romance Young Adult Thrillers/Suspense Children's Middle Grade

  • In terms of genre books, he's much more interested in non-Tolkienesque fantasy, paranormal romance, comic coming-of-age, and thrillers (all with some literary spin).

  • He responds well to wit; not dorky funny but genuine wit.

  • He's interested in both teen and middle grade fiction

  • For picture books, he is relying on referrals only and he is only signing a few writers whose work he knows and trusts

Happy submissions!

:) Cheryl

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Opportunities

I bet I'm not the only writer out there who finds it hard to write during the December holiday craziness. It seems like we've had a concert, presentation, art show, or meeting every night since the month started--and that's not counting all the extra time we spend making, buying, and wrapping presents, preparing for guests, finding dog sitters, traveling, visiting family, and so on and on and on.

But: as a writer who doesn't get out much, the holiday season presents an awesome opportunity to reconnect with the rest of the world. Maybe no one else out there gets buried in to-do lists, writing and otherwise...but if you are, here are some of the opportunities to find in the upcoming weeks:

  1. Opportunity to listen to kids. REALLY listen and write down exceptional snatches of conversation ("If you could have a light saber, what color would you want?" or the description of John Steinbeck as "demented and depressing.")

  2. Opportunity to study character archetypes. Admit it--can't you give the members of your extended family some interesting labels? Not to mention whatever stereotypical character you might inspire (for instance, the spacey yet endearing mother who still catches snowflakes on her tongue--and can't ever find her car keys.)

  3. Opportunity to collect character mannerisms while traveling. (Whenever I'm in on an airplane, bus, or train, I find myself making lists: the man who keeps cracking his jaw and raising his eyebrows, the boy who draws pictures in the mist on his window, the man riding a motorcycle with a vacuum cleaner strapped to his back. Okay, that last wasn't on an airplane, bus, or train, but it was for real.)

  4. Opportunity to step outside your ordinary setting. (Even if you're not heading to the Caribbean, the concrete details of a place can bring your writing alive. Case in point: Janet Evonovich. Who knew New Jersey could be so fascinating?)

  5. Opportunity to remember why we write at all. Because family, friends, life, and love--those are all the things that come to the forefront (in theory) after the chaos. Those are the things that bring life and purpose to our writing. Occasionally, we just have to get back to them!

:) Cheryl

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Notes to Start a Writer's Week

  1. Christmas is a time for giving and loving and spending time with family. Note, though, that it's okay for some of that time to involve books, hot chocolate, and comfy sofa cuddling.

  2. Yes, you will survive the holidays. Just keep writing.

  3. Yes, Beau will survive the holidays also. Probably. Remember: think of him as inspiration. I'm sure your next book really needs a high-energy, claustrophobic, bouncy, eager-to-please puppy with a fondness for chewing pencils, erasers, pens, scissors, Christmas ornaments, and wicker baskets. Really.

  4. No, the neighborhood hasn't yet started that decorations committee. No worries.

  5. I'm sure there is another mother out there, somewhere, who accidentally writes story ideas on the back of her kids' permission slips. Teachers never read the backs of permission slips. Right?

  6. Yes, it's okay for your 9-year-old to copyedit your latest manuscript. It's also okay that he thinks MS Word's manuscript review tools are really, really cool. Geekiness might possibly run in the family....

  7. No, you don't really have obsessive compulsive disorder, and you aren't really addicted to checking email, even if you do occasionally look for responses to submissions that you haven't actually sent yet. You're rehearsing.

  8. Maybe you should rehearse making Christmas cookies, too. And Italian cream cake. And sample them.

  9. And while you're rehearsing, the dogs think you need to practice your dog walking skills. They've rated you sadly lacking.

  10. Catching snowflakes on your tongue is a perfectly wonderful way to inspire...well...just about everything wonderful.

Happy writing!


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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The OCD Writer

Writing is a very intense avocation, one that seems to be pursued by a particular stereotype of person. You know--smart, spectacled, introverted, possibly agoraphobic, known to dress in plaid bathrobes....At least, that's where the writer can end up if she isn't careful. So be wary of any signs of obsessive mailbox watching, so you can nip such behavior in the cliched bud!

Signs that you may be drifting into obsessive-compulsive behavior:

  1. You click the "Check Email" button ten times in a row in the hope that you'll receive a response to your latest query.

  2. Worse, during one of those bouts of compulsive clicking, you do receive a response to your latest query. Now you find yourself unable to leave the computer.

  3. You raise the mailbox flag just so you'll know when the day's mail has arrived...and you still run out to check twenty times, just in case.

  4. You also check for mail on Sundays and postal holidays, because occasionally mail personnel may be confused.

  5. You've memorized your query letter.

  6. You've planned your book tour and don't yet have a contract. Or a nibble.

  7. Your actual writing time is diminishing due to a growing addiction to Scrabble/Scramble/Word Challenge/Pet Society/[insert favorite addictive computer game here].

  8. You think you aren't addicted to said games, but have high scores on all of them. (If so, I'm afraid I'll have to hate you). Sorry.

  9. You produce piles of chocolate wrappers faster than you produce words on the page.

  10. You've moved your coffee pot onto your desk for easier access. You may be considering a drip feed.

If you note any of these symptoms in your writing life, never fear! The solution

About that. Consider this: at least you're in good company. And stay away from the plaid slippers at all costs.

:) Cheryl

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Midnight Muse

My Midnight Muse

My Midnight Muse comes unannounced.
Called by lack of time to write
Or writing time that overflows
And fills my mind with story.

My Midnight Muse likes cereal
With strawberries (sliced) and milk (very cold).
She likes one lamp, not too bright;
A good pen;
A notebook;
Pages to read, revise;
Perhaps an outline;
And, occasionally, a lap top.

She does not like daytime things
Like coffee
Or even chocolate.
No email, telephone, shoes,
Dresses, makeup, or showers.
She likes words.
Served plain
Like dreams of running.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I just finished rewriting Juggling the Keystone. Well, practically finished--I need to go back over the last twenty pages (written in the past few days) and smooth them out a bit, but the content is all there and decently written.

I feel like I've just come up for air.

It's so weird--I closed the document, put out the dogs, came back downstairs, and could suddenly see something besides castles and Keystones and fight scenes. While I've been in this writing fog, somehow my neck started aching, the dogs spread their toys all over the floor, the carpet got dirty, Christmas decorations and wrapping paper scattered themselves everywhere, and the puppy rearranged all my crocheting projects. Were these things all here an hour ago?

I'm ready to spend a little time with both feet in the real world. I bet my family's happy!

:) Cheryl


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Notes to Start a Writer's Week (a day late)

  1. Inspiration CAN be found in Disney films. For ex., didn't the fish in Finding Nemo provide the important inspirational quote, "Just keep writing, just keep writing...."

  2. You let the kids get a puppy because he would be good for them. And you're going to leverage that into MASSIVE inspiration for one of your next books. Really.

  3. Balance is overrated.

  4. Exercise is also overrated, unless it involves walking the dogs.

  5. Yes, dogs are capable of mind control. Have you ever looked into those soulful brown eyes?

  6. Yes, everyone on your Christmas list wants books for Christmas, but no, they don't necessarily want the books you've been wanting to read. I'm just not sure your 5-year-old nephew is ready for Lauren Myracle or Libba Bray. SkippyJonJones is a better choice, even if you have been wanting to read that, too.

  7. Is it ethical to buy someone a book for Christmas and read it first?

  8. Okay, Christmas holidays are approaching, you have a trip planned, and you hate to travel...but think of it as a character research experience.

  9. No, you don't have anyone to watch your dogs yet. Give them the car keys and they'll be fine.

  10. What? The puppy? No, he would never chew up everything in the house while you were gone. No, that is not a good reason to stay home, all alone with the dogs, baking Italian cream cake and mulling cider, reading a pile of good books, writing without interruptions....Hmm.

:) Cheryl

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Monday, December 1, 2008

When the end's in sight

I have an abominable time estimating how long a rewrite will take me. I think it's because the "real" writing seems like creating the story idea, plot structure, characters, setting, and so on inside my head. It always seems such a simple hop from there to a fully written manuscript.

And then, too, there's the problem that I always assume there are more hours in the day than actually exist. And the problem that I rarely have enough time that I have to stop writing from sheer exhaustion. It happens--but it's always a surprise to me.

But despite my troubles with time estimation, I'm nearing the end of rewriting Juggling the Keystone, a book upon which I'm resting quite a few hopes. As a writer, you can often tell when your writing takes a leap forward. This book is, I believe, a leap and a bound better than my previous manuscript, both in terms of plot structure and writing style. I've had several nibbles of interest from conferences. Now all that remains is to finish polishing and send it out. Sounds simple, right?

Simple and exciting and terrifying. I find it's hard to get started each day, because I'm a little afraid of finishing and sending this baby out into the real world. After all, I'm high on hope right now. If I send it out, I'll probably start hearing a few "no's", no matter how good it is.

This is an unexpected hurdle to cross, but I guess I'll get past it the same way as all the others: one step at a time. Happy writing, wherever your writing road take you today!

:) Cheryl

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