Monday, December 22, 2008

The New Yorker's Panel Tanks It ...

I'm shocked.
Amazed. Amazed. Amazed that THE NEW YORKER -- probably the most important literary magazine in the United States just tanked an article on YA literature. Their book bench reads, a section of the magazine that is always fun to browse, has a panel discussing HEADLONG, by Kathe Koja. The panelists respond to the novel, its meaning, and the "YA label." Here are some of the most interesting quotes:

The book totally surpassed my expectations. I tend to think of young-adult fiction as sort of facile—a straightforward style, uncomplicated themes and morals ..

Jenna Krajeski:
When I was a teen-ager, I assumed that the label [YA] was synonymous with preachy and boring, a companion to sex-ed classes. I still can’t imagine kids Lily’s age actually reaching for this book over “Tropic of Cancer.”

Ligaya Mishan:
Teen-age boys don’t read, apparently.

But I wonder if this is part of what demarcates young-adult fiction. Surely we demand of “adult” writers (or perhaps what I really mean is “great” writers) higher moral and philosophical stakes?


Well, of course we do demand of “great” writers—literary-fiction writers—higher moral and philosophical stakes. Like I said, I think the Y.A. genre is typically defined by very straightforward moral messages, ones that are deemed “suitable” for children, even if the subject matter deals with more grown-up topics (like sex or drinking).

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh my oh my oh my oh my oh my. Part of me wants to be indignant, but the other part realizes that The New Yorker is guilty of what many are: perpetuating the idea that YA lit is second-rate and adolescent readers don't read complex novels. I'd like to say I'm surprised. Okay. I'm surprised THE NEW YORKER stooped this low. But I'm not surprised about the flippant attitude toward YA lit. I had a family member tell me, after my book was accepted for publication, that YA was just hack reading. Needless to say, he didn't get a free book. Granted, he will probably doesn't read anything other than the sports section of the paper anyway. Okay. Yeah. I'm miffed. Because if anything THE NEW YORKER who prides itself on being THE LITERARY MAG of the US dropped the ball and is, in my eyes, no better than that family member I mentioned.

So, THE NEW YORKER panel, let me introduce you to MT Anderson, Markus Zusak, Ellen Hopkins, Laurie Halse Anderson, An Na, Walter Dean Meyers, Terry Trueman, Cormier, Spinelli ... should I go on?

Welcome to the world of great lit. I'll let it slide .. this time. But honestly, you ended up looking like a bunch of elitist putzes instead of real readers of real literature. What a shame.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Yay, it's official and I can share!

Thanks to my wonderful agent, Caryn Wiseman of Andrea Brown Literary . . . .

Simon Pulse (an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.) has bought my novel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The estimated publication date is Summer of 2010.

I'll be working with a super-fabulous editor, and I can't wait to get started. After years and years of dreaming, it's finally gonna happen - a book *I* wrote is getting published! Hip, hip, hooray!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Merry, um, something.

Argh. Between writing as much as I can on my WIP and waiting on some big news from my agent (stay tuned,) and trying to keep up with the rest of life. . . I am so not in the holiday spirit this year.

That's never happened before. I *love* the holidays. But this year, I just wish the presents were wrapped, the cards were sent, and the meals were cooked so that I could hole up and write my little heart out.

It's a bummer when your passion turns you into a total grinch, you know?

NBC is showing It's A Wonderful Life on Saturday night . . . maybe that will give me the kick I need to be a little more mistletoe and a little less main-character.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Heidi brought up heroes...and I could not resist. One of my favorite shows is, drum roll...Heroes. I like it first because the plot is so complex if you miss an episode you are lost. the writing is fantastic, the characters are hard not to like, even the villains. What exactly are the differences between heroes and villains? Both have the power to change and go the other direction, and in this show they often do. Gabriel, here or Sylar is one of my favorites. he is a terrifying killer, then he changes for a while and chooses to be ultimately good, but he has just taken another turn....
How do we portray our bad guys? Good guys? Aren't the best heroes characters that are ultimately flawed but deep down want to do the right thing? If you push a character hard enough, any character couldn't they turn into a villain?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tardy Words from the Caboose

(If I knew how, I'd post a photo here from the Cirque du Soleil)

Oh oh, missed the T-Day deadline!! Which means I’m suspended between Thanksgiving and Christmas like a gymnast leaping high in the air to do the splits. As if!!

On top of my thanks for health, family, love and work, I’m also grateful for beauty. This week the sky, seen through black and lacy branches was bands of purple fading to lipstick to apricot to blue. I’m nourished by the beauty of my house and garden. I’m grateful to New England ancestors who threw nothing away and so left me all their furniture and silver!.

Last night, at a church with walls of glass, I watched a choir of girls wearing long white dresses with crowns of lighted candles on their heads sing Swedish carols. It came to me that Light would be my word this holiday season. In writing and in life, I will seek out light where I find it. I’ll try to be a light to others. When I see light on the path, I’ll follow where it leads. Not a religious thing, just my personal revelation.

Where are all the heroes?

Peter Parkers, Clark Kents, and Bruce Waynes abound in the world -- they just don't have the cool gadgets and showy outfits.
So, I pose a better question, where AREN'T the heroes?
CNN's show on heroes gave me goosebumps. The lineup of "top heroes" included a runner, teacher, librarian, farmer, ex-convict, rescue worker, doctor and more -- regular people seeing where love, faith, and help are needed in this world. Ordinary people with extraordinary vision and a passion to help humanity.
So it made me think about my heroes because though I saw the difference each of CNN's heroes made in lives of thousands, each and every one of us has a hero or two. I hope. Because heroes challenge us to be better, strive for more, work harder. Heroes are the measure to which we can hold ourselves. My heroes don't wear "Super Capes" or have secret lairs. My heroes, each one, has taught me about how to be a better person. And I still have a lot of work to do to live up to their examples
The immortal words of Peter Parker's uncle: "With great power comes great responsibility."
But we all have great power within us. We sometimes have to sift through the muck to find it.
Anyway, CNN's heroes was a brilliant way to show how regular people lead lives of love and passion -- without looking for the spotlight.

I am humbled.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Grateful to be Don Quixote no more

Whoops! Late giving thanks! What am I grateful for? You guys! And the birthday girl who introduced me into the wonderful world of critique groups nearly four amazing years ago. I am grateful to share my writing and my life with you ladies, as our children grow older and we do too. We've been through so much together—two births!—yet we've never officially *met*. (except Heidi and I) It's almost hard to believe, isn't it? When we do, we'll barely notice, I think. It'll seem like we've been sitting around each other's living rooms and kitchens for years, yapping.

Anyway, I am grateful for these women, my writing sisters, and my whole extended online writing community, which has mushroomed pretty far and wide. I am grateful for my children, husband and parents, who continue to support and cheer me on in my endeavors and what used to seem like Don Quixote wacking at a windmill, and doesn't so much anymore.

And lastly I am grateful for the incredible Catherine Drayton, (deep breath, who represents, yes, Marcus Zuzak, of the Book Thief), my agent, who first, unbelievably, gave a hint she liked my writing a year ago this Thanksgiving and is now, even more unbelievably, guiding my career and working with me on revisions of my latest book.

Okay..yep...grateful. That's me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Today is Thanksgiving and yesterday was my 35th birthday. This time of year is tough for me, because every since I was a little girl most of my friends were usually busy or out of town this week. It isn't easy having a birthday this close to a holiday, but when I start to get down I think of all of the reasons I have to be thankful.
I made it another year, I have friends and family, books and writing, a house, clothing and a job I enjoy. I am a Sagittarius (one of the luckiest, jovial signs of the zodiac). I am a mother and a wife. I have many interests so I am rarely if ever bored. I am alive and ready to howl at the moon!
I am thankful for all of the ladies in this group...I could not do it without you.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

I'm spending the day baking pies, watching the Macy's parade with my son, and thinking about how grateful I am for all of the wonderful people in my life. Since this is a blog about writing, this is the place where I'll take an extra moment to be grateful first to these wonderful, wacky women, who help me so much and make me so happy. Thanks, Slingers!

I'm also so thankful that the universal powers-that-be nudged me to write in the first place. To have something that gives me such a sense of purpose and wonder is truly a gift, and I am so, so grateful to have it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Every night before putting my daughter to bed, we say, "love, peace, health, happiness, gratitude."
At the risk of turning this into some Hallmark Hall of Fame "thankful" blog, I have to be honest. I am thankful. I am grateful. I am grateful for my health, family, friends, and job. Sometimes I get caught up with things, and then I look at my baby girl and watch her, how she is so amazed by the way a ball moves in her hand; the way a toy makes a noise. And I stop. I stop work. I stop everything to be grateful that I have these moments with her.
My deadline is looming.
My daughter is healthy.
The laundry is piled up.
We have food on the table.
The house looks like a tornado has gone through Toys R Us and deposited everything in one fail swoop.
I have a home.
And I have a job to buy those toys. And I have good mind not to replace the batteries in any of them.
I am grateful.
I wish you and your family love, peace, health, happiness and gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks is obviously the theme for the week as we near Turkey Day and I have so much to be thankful for. Hubby, relatives and friends, all of whom are healthy is just the begining. Then I can move on to a rewarding (though exhausting) job, great co-workers, wonderful boss and on into my home and the critters running around in it, chewing up my bathroom rugs. Next, my writing buddies. I have learned so much from the Wordslingers and continue to be amazed by the wealth of talent we have in our group. But I'm also thankful for Thanksgiving. I've got a couple of days off and a great meal planned with good friends. It's a special time of year and I hope that everyone has a blessed holiday whether you're serving turkey or tofu.
Happy Thanksgiving!!!
Mandy :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Someone I Deeply Admire

"My first memory is of the brightness of light...light all around."

I have always been fascinated by artist, Georgia O'Keeffe. Born in 1887, she was a strong, determined woman who never let anything stand in the way of her goal. She lived in West Texas (where I grew up) and still found beauty. Her true home was in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. I lived in New Mexico for several years and in lots of ways feel it is my home. The land is breathtaking and I can completely understand why it inspired her so.
"When I think of death, I only regret that I will not be able to see this beautiful country anymore...unless the Indians are right and my spirit will walk this land when I'm dead."

She is one person I would love to meet on the other side, or in another life. She is a wonderful role model. Whenever you feel stuck in one spot in your writing, or you're frustrated that something is not going the way you thought it should, look at some of her work. I promise it will inspire you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the back burner

I'm stuck between two manuscripts. I've started a new work and am loving it but at the same time there's still Solis. My new wip, tenatively called Rossi, is so much fun and I'm in the creating stage whereas Tala and Solis are hanging out...waiting on me to decide which one gets my attention. Rossi tugs and demands my time while Tala sits quietly twiddling her thumbs, hoping that I'll eventually finish those last few edits and start querying. She's been placed on the back burner. Am I just afraid to query? Is there more that needs to be done? Who knows what's going on in my weird pysche. But for now, it seems that Rossi is winning the battle.

I know that my pic has nothing to do with my post...I just couldn't pass it up though. I love Pearls Before Swine and I often feel like pig does. He mirrors my emotions more than I'd like to admit.


Monday, November 17, 2008


So, I'm trying desperately to finish the project I'm working on because 1) that's my job as a writer and 2) I have an idea for a new thing that I'm excited to start on.

And yet I barely eeked out five pages last week. Why? Time. Plain and simple. Either the kid decides not to nap or I have a house project that has to get finished before I host the out-of-town guests and parties and events that are clogging my calendar between now and the new year. And I LOVE all of those things . . . but when I can't get my writing done, I am one frustrated woman.

It seems like it's always one thing or the other - not enough inspiration, or not enough time! But oh, there are those rare and wonderful moments when we get some of both and that's when things really click.

So, I guess I'll sit on my muse and hope she sticks around until my dining room curtains are hung and my kid is in bed.

Regarding my revising

I'll be a hamster to Trish's bird—a whole lot of effort with not as much to show as I'd like. Yes, I am making good progress, but not as fast as I think I should. I'd love to just have the remaining chapters pour out from my mind like golden honey, but instead the ideas are dribbling out in fits and starts. And right now, I'm kind of plugged. Maybe I should have posted an image of that already forgotten dude, Joe the Plumber.

Of course, like Trish's industrious bird, I'll get there, but sometimes I feel that for all the frenetic activity, I'd have more to show for it.

But this too, shall pass. Ah, if only books wrote themselves...but then nothing truly worthwhile comes without real effort. In the immortal words of one of this semester's graphic design students, "go hard or go home" other words, just get it done and get it done right (and quit yer whining).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Twig by Twig

I've decided that right now the animal I feel like is the bird (and I chose the hummingbird because they represent joy). Birds are amazing. It takes them days to make one little nest. They pick up one twig or one leaf at a time, sometimes twice their weight. They don't give up, they don't stop until it's finished. It can rain and the bird will keep going. The wind can knock the nest out of the tree and the bird just rebuilds.
I feel like a bird right now. It may take me a while to complete my revisions, but I will not let the winds or the rain stop me. I'll take it twig by twig until my masterpiece is in my agent's hands.

Monday, November 10, 2008

We're back ...

Funny. You wouldn't think taking the time to write five minutes/week would be a task, but, alas, we entered the blog realm and so very quietly slipped away from it. But we're back and stronger than EVER.
Lisa, our resident artist has been offered representation! Christine and Trish are out there with amazing agents shopping their work. Mandy is ready to jump in and start querying. Yikes! And Jean, well, Jean is getting new eyes.
As for me, I'm up to my eyeballs in revisions for novel #2 -- still working with Jill Santopolo and HarperCollins (now with Balzer and Bray books).
But I wanted to take a moment to tip my hat to Laura Geringer. After twenty-seven years in the business, she decided to move on and is now going to write full-time. She's written loads of children's books under the name L.G. Bass. I've never met Laura Geringer, but I am so so proud to have had my first novel out under her imprint. And so grateful that she took a chance on me.
Laura Geringer is a gem in the business. She would take on projects and novels not necessarily because they'd be commercial successes but because she believed they were books that quite simply needed to be out there. And she's built a reputation by working with renown authors like Laura Numeroff, William Joyce, Richard Egielski. I am so fortunate that she thought FREEZE FRAME should carry the imprint those other books do.
So, though I've never met her, I miss her.
And I will always be grateful that she took a chance on me.
Best of luck to you, Laura Geringer!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

One of My Muses: The Decemberists

And I am a writer, writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
And I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
I am a writer, I am all that you have hoped on

And I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
My bones
My bones

(And if you don't love me let me go)
And if you don't love me let me go
(And if you don't love me let me go)
And if you don't love me let me go

The Decemberists are my favorite band. I had the great fortune to see them this past Wednesday, Nov. 5 the day after the most amazing election in the history of the universe. I'm mainly mentioning this band, because, Colin Maloy, the wild and wacky lead singer and incredible genius behind this troop of geniuses claims he is a failed writer. I just want to send a shout out to Colin, because he is not a failed writer, but rather a writer who has managed to put a treasure trove of amazing stories to music. For the past three years, the music of the Decemberists has been an inspiration to me. I truly realized this at that performance Wednesday as they breezed through the songs that have been the soundtrack of my life as I struggled to find myself as a writer. Particularly the song above. I distinctly remember listening to that on my favorite radio station, (shameless plug here) WFUV, the non-commercial station out of Fordham U, on a fall day last year when I was feeling pretty discouraged. For some reason, those words, and the haunting melodies helped me resolve to plug on. Now here I am, one year later, agented by one of the best in the biz, Ms. Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Mgt, fresh off the Decemberist concert. It became a giant blue state celebration of the election of Barack Obama. So I guess, I'm rambling, but I just want to reflect on the two impossibilities that have actually come true this year: Landing an amazing agent and witnessing the election of the most amazing human being I can think of to lead this country. And...I'd like to mention: Mr. Obama is a published author, to boot. (and he can pronounce nuclear). It's been quite a week. Oh..and did I mention I turned 50?


I was a clumsy kid. Every year in gym, we would complete a gymnastics rotation. There was not a single event I could master and I wanted so much to be able to flip and fly through the air. But no, my feet need to stay on the ground. Now that I'm older, balance takes on a new meaning. Work, writing, critting, hubby, friends, reading, housework and on and on (and I don't have kids...I am in awe of all moms!) Learning to juggle all of my responsibilities plus everything that I want to get done is a trick I've yet to master. I'm still struggling for balance. I know that everyone wrestles with having enough time in the day but I also know that some have mastered a schedule that I am totally jealous of. I love to hear how others fit everything into one day, people are so creative when it comes from making the most of their time. So tell you have a schedule? Do you stick to it? I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gal by nature but I'll keep working to find my balance at least until life decides to knock me off the beam again.

Holiday Gift-giving Guide

In a word? Books. Please.

In this economic disaster zone, it seems some folks are still bullish on the book market, and as someone who is still waiting (mostly) patiently for her agent to sell a manuscript, I hope to God they're right.

This article seems to think fiction is the way to go this holiday season.

Books are an inexpensive way for people to escape the not-so-wonderful reality around them. They're portable. They're easy to wrap. There are endless choices. I say, hit your local bookseller and you can be done with your holiday shopping in time to grab a gingerbread latte and read the first few chapters of the book you couldn't resist buying for yourself.

Looking for a suggestion? Try FREEZE FRAME, by our own Heidi Ayarbe, available now at bookstores everywhere (and also, of course, on Amazon.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Writing and What A Book Can Become...

S. Meyer's TWILIGHT comes to the big screen this month...and it's amazing to me. I read the book two years ago before all of the hype. It was just on the verge of becoming popular and none of the other books had been released. I loved it, and I can't wait for the movie to hit theatres. I will be in the audience the first night Edward's face graces the big screen.
Every time I see the trailer for this movie I wonder if she ever imagined her idea, her baby becoming this huge. Did she even fathom the popularity of something that was once a thought in her head?
In looking at some of our previous posts, I saw that last October I thought I was almost finished with the final revisions of Shadow People. Ha! I'm at it again, and might as well use a pick ax! My point is, I can't imagine my characters hitting the big screen, or hundreds of squealing teens standing in line until midnight for the release of my book. It would be wonderful, but while I have my head in the book all I can focus on is where the characters lead.
So how does it happen? How does one little idea become what Meyer's books are today? Or even Harry Potter for that matter? Is it timing, marketing, luck or all of the above?

Sunday, July 20, 2008's official..we are slackers. But in defense of the other parts of The Brain— they've been really, really busy. Poor Jean has her eye stuff and mega-parties to host. Heidi is under the gun to finish her next book (Don't forget, Freeze Frame comes out this October—woohoo, Heidi! Christine (poor girl) is in the middle of a move with a toddler in tow, Mandy and and Trish have JOBS. So what's MY excuse, the lazy crazy professor of the Brain. Nada...I'm lolling round in our summer getaway, writing, writing, writing, chaffeuring my son from internship to girlfriend, girlfriend to internship. I'm logging miles and with gas at 4.20 a gallon, maxing out the old credit card. My daughter is still at sleep away camp.

But other than that...I have plenty of time..SO..hi! Everyone I know online now has a website or blog. This is mine...I figured, why not visit the poor neglected thing. Dust off the cobwebs on behalf of my busy colleegues and bring this thing back to life.

Well..there you have it. While another of my critmates from my other writing group, The Cudas, has landed an agent, (bringing the total from that group to four out of six) I am still without. I'm currently waiting on two requested fulls and the revised ms submitted to the Uber agent who ALMOST loved me. I'm still waiting to see if she loves me this time, or thinks I'm a lost cause. We'll see.

Meanwhile, the first draft of my WIP, Afterside is almost complete. I'm excited because it's garnered a lot of excitement from people who've read it so far. SO maybe, maybe if novel #2 goes down, three's the charm? I sure hope so. I'm getting old here and have been a bridesmaid at too many happy affairs, so to speak.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wild Summer

Arkansas is on the very edge of tornado alley but this year my fair little state has had more touchdowns than usual. Somehow we missed spring and the cool air from our late winter and the warm air from our early spring collided. Most of the midwest has suffered from this same problem as stroms have stretched the width and breadth of the plains. This picture was taken in the town just next to mine, during a touchdown that sadly, created quite a lot of damage.
Storms bring out something wild in me as well as in nature. I love to sit out on my porch and watch the lightening tear through the sky and the clouds boil and turn. It get me thinking, which often leads to breakthroughs or new twists for my wip. Some of my most unusual ideas have come from watching thunderheads dance above me. So for me, Spring already being my favorite time of year, is also my most creative and productive.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rumor has it

So, I heard from a blog who heard from a blog who knows how to use Yahoo news that George W. Bush is attempting to cut funding to Reading is Fundamental for 2009.

RIF has been providing underprivileged kids with books since 1966. Please help RIF and the kids they assist by clicking on this link:

Just enter your zip code and easily email the president and your senators and representatives to voice your support of RIF.

Lord. How long is it until November, again?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

An old favorite

I've just finished re-reading one of my very favorites - NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman. It's a fabulous fantasy set partly in London and partly in an alternate London - "London below." Richard Mayhew, everyman extraordinaire, finds himself sucked into a classic hero's quest in an inventive reality neither he nor any of the other "normal" people in the city above ever knew existed.

Neil Gaiman is a master of setting fantasy into reality like a gem in a ring. It sparkles, it catches your attention, but it looks like it belongs there. He's just phenomenal. If you haven't read anything he's written, NEVERWHERE is a good start. CORALINE would be a good next step. It's written for kids, sort of, but it's the scariest freaking book I've ever, ever read.

I'm on sort of a re-reading kick right now - adult and YA and MG. I do that once in awhile, which is good for the book budget and good for me as a writer. The second or third time through a book, I notice how the author has done what they've done. The first time through I tend to get too sucked into the plot to see that stuff. I'm the world's most eager audience - willing suspension of disbelief is something of a specialty for me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A bit of YA heaven

I've just started reading the second book in Libba Bray's Great and Terrible Beauty series; Rebel Angels with the third one, A Sweet Far Thing, lined up and waiting. I only finished GTB a week ago and took a rest to read Cassandra Clare's Book 2 of the Mortal Instruments series: City of Ashes. I should probably talk about that, because I still can't get it out of my mind. But instead, I'll talk about Libba Bray's writing; the incredible beauty of her images, her sense of place, character and time. The writing is so lovely and at the same time biting it makes me ache. The uppity British school her main characters attend, their bitchy rivalries, their pent-up frustration against a proper woman's place in society, set against a back drop of wild, dangerous, magic and sensuality. AHHHHHH! It's YA heaven to me. After reads like these, I'm very worried about what to read next. I'm thinking of a book called a Certain Slant of Light (can't recall the author's name) but it's a ghost story with a twist. Also a possibility: Wildwood Dancing

Personally, I wish there were two of me. One who can read around the clock and the other who can write. Make that three. There's got to be one who lives the rest of my life. I know Christine says she never reads in the genre she writes, but I live, eat and sleep YA and feel like I'm missing something if I'm not reading it.
I find I don't have a problem with reading it while I write it. The characters in the books I read feel very distinct from the ones I invent. And you know what's REALLY scary?

They are all seem real to me.

What am I reading????

I am reading Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay. I actually just started it last night and did not want to go to sleep I just wanted to read. The hit series in Showtime, Dexter is based on this series. It's about a serial killer who kills serial killers. He was raised by his foster father who happens to be a homicide detective. He recognizes early on that Dexter is a sociopath. He teaches him a code to keep him safe, also teaching him to fake emotion since he feels none. Dexter works as a blood spatter expert in a lab for the police department, his foster sister is a cop. Lindsay's characterization is pretty darn good, and I am really enjoying Dexter's dark and secret world.

He is an unlikely hero...he is technically a bad guy who hunts other bad guys. So far I really recommend this series if you want something interesting and different to read that is not too heavy. I put down the other book I was reading to start this one because the other was taking me so long (not sure if I will go back to it). Now I am ordering the other two books.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A room of mine own . . .

Oh, to have an ideal writing room . . . although if I had a perfect place to write, what would I blame for my fallow periods? But it’s still fun to dream, so here goes.

First off, I would have to have lots of windows and interesting things to look at on the walls – when I write, I spend good stretches of time staring off into space, and it’s nice to have something to stare at. I wouldn’t have a desk – just some comfy chairs that I could sit in with my laptop, and an ottoman for my feet and a little table for a drink and the baby monitor (I write while my son naps – it’s actually great motivation. If I don’t write then and write fast, I miss my chance for the day.)

Really ideally, my writing room would have a door that opened on to the back yard, where a nice dirt path winds into the woods, makes a 1.5 mile circuit, and dumps me back at the house. This path and back yard and woods are not attached to my current home, but I’m fantasizing here, people. Anyway. That would be perfect, because I like to walk when I’m stuck for words.

There would be a stereo and a little T.V. in the room. Sometimes I like quiet, and sometimes I like music and sometimes I like the television on but turned down too low to hear while I’m working. So, include all of those things, too.

What else? I’d like Internet access, but not wireless. I’d want to have to walk over to a specific chair and plug in my computer to get access to the ‘net. I read a great quote that pretty much sums up my reasoning for this . . . “Being a great writer is 3% inspiration and 97% not getting distracted by the Internet.” I have no idea who said that. If you do, leave a note in the comments section, will you?

Those are all my necessities. Maybe someday I’ll win the lottery . . . speaking of which, I wonder what J.K. Rowling’s writing space looks like?

Location, Location, Location

For me the perfect creative space is all about this quaint little Canadian costal town. In the mornings, I could walk to the market and by my groceries for the day and then head back to my little house on a hill. I'd like to have an attic room with two bay windows, one showing me the harbor and the other facing the forest. It should be a soft neutral color and have two big comfy chairs for reading and chatting with a friend. My desk would sit in a corner, though I'd probably spend most of my time in my fluffy chair with my laptop. Book shelves lining the other two walls with all my favorites including my Wordslingers shelves, that would have pics as well as their brilliant works. It would have to have an awesome stereo system. I like to take writing breaks and dance around the room. Hardwood floors but with a couple of well placed rugs, cause I'm sure it'll be a stinker to heat. That's my spot. I wish I was there right now!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Dream Space

If I could create any space to write and money were no object.... Hmm, first it would have a huge bay window facing South, where most thunderstorms blow in from in this area. I would have a soft couch in muted colors, one wall would be pale blue with thousands of my favorite quotations written in calligraphy. Along another wall I would have a large black and white photo, probably of trees, and the other wall with custom shelving for all of my books--and a special display shelf for Wordslinger books.

A small desk facing the window to give me the opportunity to slack and daydream. Let's not forget the collage of inspiring Mr. McAvoy, here.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008


There are so many things I like to do with my little bit of free time. Movies and books are just two of my favorite past times. I enjoy movies of every genre from foriegn (especially French, cause every now and then I can pick up a word or two)to comedy to drama to sappy chick flicks. Books are my passion whether reading or writing. Reading engages my brain, enjoyable time, but not relaxing. My little brain is working over time on the hamester wheel. Writing is work, even though I wouldn't spend my time any other way.
When I want to relax, I get in my car, pick a road I've never been down before and get myself as lost as possible. Behind the wheel I can let go and enjoy my freedom. I don't have to think about anything beyond the next curve, but I often find that's when my mind opens up and I find those elusive answers to pesky problems. I take a country road to and from work everyday that is twenty minutes out of my way. That is my me time. Sometimes, the windows are down and the radio is up, other times, I keep the radio off and just listen to the sound of my car on the road. Now living in Arkansas, I have found myself in some scary places, think Arkansas Chainsaw Massacre. But even those times have brought interesting stories and great memories. I always find a strange aderanline flowing after I have found my way out of a place that I have never been before.

Monday, February 25, 2008


While some people think writing is my hobby it is work. I have so many interests sometimes it's hard to balance my time. Reading is a big one, one of my favorite things. I also love movies, music, dancing, taking drives into the mountains (although I no longer live near the mountains), playing practical jokes and scaring people, thunderstorms, playing cards, Mythology, and drawing/painting. Then we have day I would like to take a class and learn even more about it.

But there is one subject I have more books on than others (besides writing)...the paranormal. I have always been interested in ghosts. I read and watch just about everything I can get my hands on about them. My house has actually been investigated, but that is a much longer post....

So there you have it, too many interests and not enough time.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The badness of habits . . .

I have trajillions of bad writing habits, but here I will discuss two of the most mundane. They are not habits of craft or production. But they are really unfortunate.

1) I write best when I am also drinking a diet Coke. I try so hard to eat organic, nutritious things. I don't consume any other artificial sweetners. I'm a vegetarian, for heaven's sake! Yet, when I don't know how to link one scene to the next, or I can't nail a patch of dialogue, cracking open a can of that fizzy artificial goodness can cure all ills. I've given up trying to use mineral water, etc. - it has to be a diet Coke.

2) I do not write by typing words on my ergonomic keyboard while sitting on my back-friendly Swedish office furniture (not that I own any such furniture, anyway.) No, I sit hunched over my laptop, on my couch, with my feet up on the coffee table. I'm pretty sure my spine will someday curve into a perma-C from this abuse. Again, if I could manage to be creative while maintaining good posture, I'd do it. But I can't. So . . . meh. Moderation in all things, right?

Plot Maze

Like Jean, I am a victim of my own overheated brain. Too many ideas, too many subplots and tangents.

As far as writing habits, writing is my bad habit! I write every chance I get. It's possibly an illness. I think my tendency toward the manic can often be detrimental, as I don't allow my ideas to simmer and gel. Actually, I have a confession: posting on forums has been the main impediment to writing. I've slowed down and have gotten much more done.

On reading the same genre, I find, it's best for me if I don't read something with a similar plot or character, but I'm okay with YA. It's mainly what I enjoy reading and often I find it helps me to work out the kinks in my writing.

I'm actually a lot happier camper when I am writing than when I am querying. That makes me nuts, a crazed chihuaha on a hamster tread.

A plethora of bad habits

I have a plethora of bad habits...procrastination is probably the biggest. Self doubt, did I mention procrastination, I also get excited and side-tracked by other ideas before I finish an old now! I am the worst at procrastinating when I am finishing up on a book (now), I think a big part is I don't want to say goodbye to my characters. That and there is always that fear that what do next will suck. There you have it. What if the next one isn't as good? What if my agent hates the finished project?
So what am I doing to correct it? I still write at least a little every day, eat chocolate, take hot baths with bubbles so tall I can't see my body and try to quiet my always babbling mind.

My Very Worst Writing Sin

Sigh - I've got so many sins...but I think my worst one is a tendency to get lost in my own story! I'm so interested in what's going on with my characters that I wander off on leafy byways, linger by unimportant mudholes and come up with unecessary complication after unecessary complication. I find myself adding minor characters when I'm more than halfway through, thus irritating my antagonist and protagonist who just want to get to the end of story.
I study books that have both a simple plot line and lots of emotional appeal. I applaud them. But when I try to produce something straightforward, little by little those complications creep in.
Curiousity can be both a good and a bad trait. In real life and in my writing life, I'm afraid I've been either cursed or gifted by snoopy christening fairy who hopped through the window when nobody was looking and handed me a double dip.

Why do I keep doing that?

My absolute worst habit is procrastination. I'm tired or I'm too busy or I really just want to sit on my backside and watch tv. I try to keep a schedule of my writing time. But I'm obviously not the worlds greatest schedule keeper. How do you break a habit? I'm sure there are loads of self-help books on the subject. I wouldn't read them though, I'd procrastinate on those too. Lately, however, my MC has been thumping on my head. She's feels neglected, so to keep her happy I write and I revise. So far as long as she's thumping I'm not procrastinating so badly. So I keep my fingers crossed that she keeps it up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What NOT to do when writing ...

This week, we're talking about BAD WRITING HABITS. And mine seem to come directly from my own writer insecurities and "issues." Yikes. So here's a list of things I think you SHOULDN'T do while working on your next best seller!


Doubt yourself -- you'll have plenty of time to do that AFTER you finish your first draft.
Over edit, killing your voice, losing the spontaneity and magic of the trade.
Read the same genre you're writing in EG. I'm a YA writer. When I read, while working on a new manuscript, I don't read YA. I read adult, biography, historical .. and mostly in Spanish. It's really easy to pick up another author's voice and style.
On the same note, if you read the same genre while working on your own MS, if you're anything like me, you'll probably freeze and think, "This is bloody genius." And being genius, you'll look back at your 20000 words and think it's drivel. The books we read are EDITED, REVISED, EDITED, REVISED and have been through a lot before getting to the "bloody genius" stage.

We write because we have stories clattering around in our brains. Don't let anybody tell you your story isn't:
Original (none are .. really .. it's all about HOW you tell it)
Worth telling
Something you are capable of telling

Basically, don't listen to the "great voice of negativity". People will always be there telling you you CAN'T. But you can. You will. Just keep at it.

Good luck! Keep writing.
Heidi Ayarbe

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What's the Big Idea?

(NB: This picture doesn’t have anything to do with this post, except that the wind chill is well below zero here today, and I’m sick of winter.)

I wish I was one of those writers with a recipe-box full of ideas (coughtrishcough) – but I’m just not. I usually have one or two ideas beyond my work-in-progress, which is enough to keep me from assuming that when I’m finished with the current work I won’t ever write again.

A lot of my ideas come from what I would call “tangential research.” When I’m learning about whatever my current subject is, there will be a little mention of something else that I find intriguing. Once in awhile, those little mentions stick with me, like a splinter that I can’t quite pull out. And that will sometimes start a series of what-ifs. The “what-if” stage is important – that’s when I know I’m really hooked, and that a story will probably come out of it. It doesn’t always happen – sometimes the what-if’s fizzle, or I just can’t get excited enough to pursue it, but that’s the general pattern of how my story ideas are born.

It would sound so much more wonderfully mystical to say that I dream things that I write about, or that the characters start whispering to me in my head. I would love to get ideas that way, but if I’m being honest? It’s just plain ol’ curiosity taken too far that gets me another story. As long as they keep coming, though, I’m not complaining!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Grasping at ... ideas.

A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not. (Roald Dahl)

So where DO writers get their ideas? Great question, and one that is really hard for me to answer. I'm bombarded with ideas every day, but it's not getting the idea that's the problem, it's getting the idea that grabs me. Because once I commit to an idea, it's going to be at least a year or so (actually .. OR SO) of developing it. Imagine knowing that one drink at a bar with a stranger would be at least a two-year relationship? You'd think pretty hard about who you were going to drink with. Ideas are the same.
With FREEZE FRAME, I got the idea from a poetry group. A woman came and said her grandson had asked, "Hey, Grandma, which way is tomorrow?"
I loved that phrase! I loved how he thought of time as a place he could travel. And I began to think about what a teen would ask. "Which way is yesterday?" In fact, FREEZE FRAME was originally titled FINDING YESTERDAY (then THE MEMORY KEEPER, SHATTERED, SUPPOSE, 10:46 .. and a slew of other titles until my editor really nailed the right one .. in my opinion!)
My latest book idea began with a character. That character doesn't exist anymore. In fact, the original concept of the book was peeled away until I met my MC and created her dilemma. My idea and I came to an impasse, though, and I felt really stressed because I wasn't sure which way to take the novel. So I set it aside, and the other night I realized what I needed to bring the novel to a darker place -- a simple change in the first few chapters. I've only been with this idea since October. We've already had our first big tiff. But I'm ready to go back to it, work out the kinks and move forward.
Grasping at straws?
Kind of ..
Just grasping at ideas .. until the right one sticks.

Heidi Ayarbe

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Oak Grove of My Mind

Well, I've been frantically re-imagining my second novel with more Druids and a less convoluted plot in hopes that the agent who loved/hated it might give it a second chance. I worked like my fingers were on fire through the month of January, while on winter recess from my professor job. Now, it's back to work and I understand a bit how Trish feels. Of course, my life is much easier than hers! I don' have a nine-five job, but time is much scarcer and once you lose that momentum, it's so much harder to pick up the threads and keep weaving.

I'm grateful I made so much progress in January. I'm far from done, but considering that at the beginning of the month, I no idea whatsoever to do to help my poor ms, I feel very inspired and positive I am on the right track.

I will confess something about myself. I am a compulsive writer. If I didn't HAVE to have a life, ie: feed the kids, go to work, socialize (reluctantly and under threat) I'd just sit at this computer and write all day, preferably on a nice sunny porch with the leaves rustling. I think, the privilege of having that life some day, is what motivates me more than anything. Not fame, not money, not even the idea that people will read what I do, but the thought that it's okay to write 24/7.

Yes, my fellow Brains already know I am this kind of a nut. It's probably because I'm a late-bloomer when it comes to writing and now I write the way I used to do art. Obsessively and compulsively. Hey, it beats, drugs, gambling, smoking or alcohol, right? (I typed, write, btw, and had to correct myself)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Icing on the Cake

Since Mandy mentioned food....

I am trying to finish up Shadow People, my wip. It has been a year now and boy am I ready to finish! So why is it so hard to force my butt into the chair? I enjoy revising very much. But right now I have to completely rewrite my end and tie up many loose ends. It reminds me of baking and decorating a HUGE cake. I have all of the layers there and the frosting but none of the pretty flowers and extras.

I just need to sit and DO it! I hit a rough spot and find millions of excuses not to do it. In the meantime my agent is waiting for it! Arrrggghhh. Not to mention that after working all day, doing laundry, making dinner and supervising homework and teeth brushing I am TIRED! I need a week...a writing retreat to rest, relax and put those roses on my twelve-teared cake. Anyone care to fund it?

I'll finish eventually. Then I am taking a break!


Friday, January 25, 2008


I have recently started another revision of my latest WIP and took out what I thought was a small little piece cause quite honestly, I kept forgetting about it. But I have found that while things are better without that one little nugget, I have left a glaring hole in the middle of my early plot. I have that shored up in later chapters but am now having to go back and sprinkle in tidbits to let my reader know what the heck is going on. So currently, I am scouring my early passages looking for places to drop information without bogging down my action. Sprinkles sure are yummy on my doughnut, I only hope they are equally yummy in readable form.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Countdown ...

You've got 8 days to get your HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN MAGAZINE fiction contest piece in the mail! 8 days!! This year the theme is "the future" and max word count is 800.
But why bother? Thousands of entries. A set theme. And most of us can use a good 1000 words if we write about lacing our shoes in the morning -- being limited to 800 words for a WHOLE STORY is seemingly impossible.
And that's WHY I think writers should enter contests, apply for grants, and try different mediums. The best way to become a better writer is having to meet deadlines while writing under specific "limitations".
Because when the revisions requests come for your novel, nobody's going to hold your hand, and it feels like you've been thrown overboard without a life jacket. Practicing. Writing. And complying by contest rules is a great way to get your brain working under "pressure." I NEVER write futuristic things. And writing the story for Highlights was a challenge and fun! It was like coming up for air after being bogged down in the dark world of YA.
My story has been sent off. And now it's back to my novel (Which will end up being around 60,000+ words. Sigh.)
So next time a contest comes up. Try it out. Create a "writing contest" calendar and meet those deadlines. It' a great way to wrinkle your brain.

For guidelines or additional information, check out the Highlights Website:,203

Heidi Ayarbe

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A strike for Writers

Living in Los Angeles, we probably get more coverage on the writers strike than the rest of the country. We also know lower echelon people in the "business" who are suffering from a lack of current income. A stoppage of work trickles down with more immediate effect than Reagan's cockamamie theory about riches dribbling from top to bottom ever did. In both cases, the guy at the bottom takes the worst hit.
On the other hand, I definitely see the point of this strike. Nobody knows what the future will bring in this fast changing business. Writers, paid less than others in the entertainment business, gave away residual rights two decades ago when the future of DVDs was unclear. They have paid dearly for that. Who can blame them for trying to negotiate future rights in order not to get kayoed again?
How this affects those of us whose publishing dreams aren't linked to movies and TV, I can't say. But as a matter of solidarity, I'll always hang with the writers. Even if it means no more Medium and House for a while.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Striking in Hollywood

This is the talk of Hollywood, New York, and probably writers everywhere. Much to my embarrassment, I had to go to WIKIPEDIA (Thank heavens for Wikipedia! to really understand the issues of the strike. What struck me is the sheer magnitude of this strike in numbers, employment, and how the trickle-down effect is more of a landslide. According to a report by NBC Nightly News, the strike has cost the industry a billion dollars since it began (and it's only been going on since November.) And after reading about the issues and what the writers guild wants, I didn't see their demands as being out-of-line in the slightest.
The Golden Globes passed without a blip, really, and I realized that writers have power. Nobody wants to cross their line because their words are the basis for everything that happens on TV, in the movies, in the theater .. everywhere. There's the old adage "she who rocks the cradle, rules the world." In popular culture, it's "she who holds the pen (laptop, actually)".
So how does this effect us: children's writers, illustrators, novelists, and the publishing house realm of the written word? I think it's brought to light the "forgotten" ones. The writers, the crew, the ones who work behind the scenes to make stars shine. And maybe people will be more aware of not only how much depends on writers but also how hard writers work to create worlds in which we get lost on the Big and Small Screens -- as well as between the covers of an old book.
I'm not educated enough on the issues to debate them. But I'll be paying close attention to see what might happen in Hollywood and if there are any ripple effects in the children's writers' world.

Heidi Ayarbe

Attack of the Pod-books

Has anyone else seen the new wireless “reading device” that is marketing? (Yes, I admit it, I shop on Amazon. I wish I could lie and say that I only frequent my fabulous, local, independent bookshop where the owner knows my name and orders things she thinks I would like after we’ve spent hours discussing the new trends in YA literature, but the fact is . . . I don’t. I have a baby and it’s cold here, and when I order from Amazon, it’s cheaper than the indie bookstore and two days later, the nice UPS man drops off my books. Sometimes it’s just easier.)

You can read about it here:

I’ve gotta say, this thing kind of freaks me out. I think of all the times I’ve fallen asleep with a book open on my chest, or read a book in the bathtub, or thumbed through a novel someone’s lent to me and noted with interest which pages were dog-eared, or what passages had been underlined. None of that seems likely to happen with a “wireless device.” I mean, if I drop a ten dollar paperback in the bath – well, that’s not great, but it doesn’t exactly wreck my credit card statement for the month. And a hard plastic box isn’t exactly what I want to curl up with before I go to sleep.

What’s wrong with books as books? Paper and glue and ink? I’m probably not the best one to judge, since I have strong antediluvian tendencies as it is, but I just can’t make the leap from turning pages to clicking to the next PDF section. I think it’s depressing.

I wonder if people grumbled about the same thing when man made the leap from chiseling on stone tables to scribbling on paper?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Burning of Bad Habits

Zozobra is a big deal in Santa Fe. Every September hundreds of people gather around the giant marionette that moans and waves his arms. They chant, whoop and holler while they set him on fire. He represents Old Man Gloom, the bad habits and bad moments of the past. His burning represents a new start, a fresh beginning.
That is my theme this year. My problem last year with writing was setting impossible goals. It is not humanly possible to do everything that I must do plus write for hours every week. So I now write around a half hour a day, sometimes more when I can and sometimes less if things come up. I took the month of December off completely. Last year I planned to complete two novels in one year (while doing everything else a mother of two who works full time, helps care for her father and run a household), yeah right!
Now I am in love with writing again instead of thinking of it as some unattainable goal hanging over my head. I would walk by the computer and create things to do to avoid it. So this year I am setting reasonable goals.
Finish my current book, start and finish my next book by 2009. All rules change when my agent calls saying that an editor wants revisions....

Can I make it?

So a new year races in. Parties and friends and family all to be visited. Then everything settles down and its time to take a look at what I want to accomplish this year. My main goal for 2008 is to finish my current WIP and start querying it. This will be my first venture into the world of agents. I plan to have the ms done by at the very latest, April. However, I tend to be very lenient with my deadlines. Get it ready over the summer and start querying late summer/early fall. Wow, I guess now that I've outlined it, I have to do it! No more procrastinating, no more sabotaging my own progress. Looking back next Decemeber on 2008, I want to say that I reached my goal.

Revise, Jump through Burning hoop, repeat

Okay. Don't ask me to explain that picture. Certain folks know what it means. Let's just say it represents me, duking it out with my second novel and its strange journey through the query process. I was close to getting an agent. I thought I'd landed that knockout punch, but well, not close enough.

I've been invited to re-submit the manuscript if I do some MAJOR revisions. Which I have started. So, all of my earlier plans to push ahead with the WIP have been shelved so I can slash and burn the older novel.

I'd really wanted to finish novel 3. I was hoping to get more disciplined about it, but now it looks like I have an excuse to mess with my darling earlier work a bit more. I had a hard time letting go and I can't let the chance that a huge agent may actually want it and is coaxing me along to make it shine slip by.

So for the foreseeble future I'll be ripping.
And tearing.
And slashing.
And boxing with kangaroos.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Write .. Write .. Write .. Write .. Write

Well, I fibbed. I said I wouldn't get carried away with December's festivities but somehow forgot about the Colombian Party Vortex and how December is like the eye-of-the-tornado for socializing down here.
So .. my writing took a backseat, I mean WAY BACKSEAT, to dancing, bunuelos, natilla, birthdays, Christmas, New Year's, and all the other social engagements in between -- which are too numerous to name. (They're all a blur now.)
So now that I've worked my way out of the rubble of December, it's time to get serious, and get writing. Two years ago, I read that if you write it, it will happen. (If you build it, they will come.) I like Shoeless Joe and that philosophy, and I did a month-by-month, trimestral, and semestral writing goals calendar.
And, it worked.
So, at this time my first writing goal is to set up a calendar of concrete goals. It goes like this: By April, I will have XXX. By July, I will have XXX. By October, I will have XXX. And by January 2009, I will have XXX. Then I tack it up where I see it every day. And it haunts me. And it helps me with the "butt-in-chair" tactic.
Again, I'm going to do month-by-month and trimestral. The short-term goals always build up to the long-term goals.
Some of those goals will include: number of chapters I intend to write, writing contests and their deadlines, applications for grants, finding more freelance writing projects, and finishing that Website!
I hope this year is a year of health, happiness, wonder, and success for everyone. And writing.
Write .. write .. write .. write .. write!!

Heidi Ayarbe