I love reading and analyzing and synergizing critiques for my fellow writers group members. I love celebrating their great successes! There's something really cool about being in on the story long before the world gets to be. It's like a secret I just can't wait to finally share.
I finally get to share! Author extraordinaire Janet Fox is super close to a much anticipated release of her newest novel Sirens. As many of you know, Janet has two much acclaimed historical YA novels already out there - Faithful, set in early 1900's Yellowstone Park, and Forgiven, at the time of the great San Francisco earthquake. Well, Sirens is just as cool. This story is set in the 1920's in New York City. It takes the reader into the world of gangsters and speakeasys, but gives so much more than that! Janet weaves a mystery driven by the love and loyalty of a sister for her brother. Oh, there's also some romance, and a tiny bit of a ghost story.
Sirens is a fantastic book folks, ready to hit the stores on Thursday, November 8. For all my Bozeman friends, Janet is hosting a book-launch party at the Country Bookshelf on that night - November 8th - and everyone is invited! Come meet Janet, check out Sirens, have some treats, and win a prize. You can even come dressed in your favorite 1920's attire. The party will run from 7:00 until 9:00. Hope to see you all there!
I love fall. The trees are absolutely beautiful, the air is crisp, we're almost done with yard work... I drove along the Yellowstone river this week, completely awestruck around multiple bends of the freeway. I can't help but feel grateful for living in such a wondrous place.
We're studying trees in 5th grade science right now. We get to look at some leaves and evergreen needles under the microscopes. Pretty impressive. Plants are fully equipped to produce their own food, with just a few simply obtained ingredients. They produce and store, and produce and store some more. Then fall comes.
The changing of the leaves always gives me a sense of calmness. Maybe it's the knowledge that change will surely bring more change. Maybe it's the feeling of readiness to hunker down through the cold. Maybe it's just the anticipation of hot chocolate by the fire.
Here's what I do know. Change and growth are constant and necessary. That is fact in every aspect of my life, from family, to work, to nature, to my writing. Sometimes change brings stress, or anxiety, or even frustration. But as in the case of the spectacular cottonwoods along the Yellowstone, I love the calmness of the change to fall.
Both my sons have played football this fall. My older son is on the high school freshman team, my younger son the middle school team. That means lots of practices and games for us to coordinate and watch. I love watching football. It's a sport where the offense work very hard to make something happen - to push toward the goal line. They constantly try new methods, shifting sides or formations or players. At the same time, the defense is working very hard to read the play, to stop the progress, and thwart the efforts of the opposing team.
As I'm stewing about revisions to my writing, I've been thinking; Does my main character spend most of her time calling the plays, or is she more in a defensive mode, trying to read what is happening and stop it before it's too late? Is she choosing what is happening to her, or is it being thrust upon her by the opposing side? Which side of the game should she be spending the most time on?
We've all read books where the main character tends to spend all their time responding to outside forces, being pulled along by the plot. Sometimes those books have even won awards. But I tend to prefer the books where the main character is calling the shots. Sure, they make mistakes, fumble the ball, and then have to clean up the mess that follows, but they were the ones calling the play in the first place.
I like a proactive main character. The more I write, the better I am at recognizing when that needs to happen, and when it's time for defense. Usually, a winning football team spends most of their time on offense - with lots of drives and first downs - just keeping their wits ahead of the opposition. That's what I'm trying to do in my writing. At the same time, I can be my character's biggest cheerleader from the sidelines.
I heard at a writers conference once that the main purpose of a writers group is to teach us what rejection is like, so we'll develop a tough skin. I remember sitting there thinking that was very odd. That is not the main purpose of MY writers group. I guess each group has their own way of doing things, but I see a writers group's purpose as much more than skin thickening.
This week a few of us in my group ARE dealing with rejection, and we've each rallied around in support and encouragement, and I think most importantly, ideas. Being a writer of children's books in the current publishing climate is treacherous to say the least. Trying to find the balance between what the editor wants, what the agent thinks will sell, and the story you the writer want to share can be more precarious than a tightrope balancing act. At what point does the writer trump all?
Don't get me wrong here. Any critique or suggestions from an editor or agent should be very carefully considered, because they have a lot of experience at the business end where many of us have never been. And we do want our books to sell, and sell well. I'm a firm believer in listening to every critique, analyzing the 'what if's' of the suggested issues, thinking through the possible revisions entailed, and then honestly stepping back. Will this really make my story better? Honestly.
That's where the writers group comes back in. What a fantastic place to bounce these honest ideas around. Your group has read your story. They know the struggle you've had to get the characters just so, or keep the plot flowing in an interesting way. They've given their stamp of approval to the submitted draft. And now that the rejection has come, they want to know what's up too. What did they not see, or feel, that the agent did? Does what the rejection stated ring with them too? What ideas might float through their minds at the instant of acceptance?
I think there is a time when editors and agents are wrong. They are human just like writers. Again, this is where a strong writers group is invaluable. They know your work. They are your safety net. Their job is to work with you through all the ups and downs, to help you truly see your place on the tightrope, and to help you become the best writer you can possibly be.
And bring chocolate to writers group.
Writing for children is a passion - along with reading kid's books, writing plays for kids, and teaching kids how to write!