Author Archives: Rondi Frieder

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It’s The Dog’s Fault

By Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

I am not a morning person. I hit snooze when the alarm goes off and pull the covers over my head for five extra minutes of luxurious, dreamy sleep. I’ve always been this way. In elementary school, I was  the last one out the door. On some days, my dad would actually leave and go pick up the rest of the carpool before coming back to get me. In high school, I did my homework in front of the television with the late night talk show hosts as company. And in college, I was known for writing papers long after my housemates were in bed. I wasn’t much for the infamous “all-nighter,” but it did happen now and then.

Years later, when I entered the work-world as a teacher, I needed to make changes. I had to get up early. My first job required taking a bus and two trains (the red and green lines in Boston) to my school, setting up for the day, meeting with colleagues, and greeting students, all before 8:00 am. And when I became a mom, well, that’s another story. Late nights and early mornings were a way of life.

But now, I am retired from teaching and my children are long gone. I can create my own schedule, the one I was born to live – go to bed at 11:00 p.m. (after Stephen Colbert’s monologue) and get up at 7:00 a.m. to meet my walking group by 7:15. It’s the perfect life. Except that my fourteen-year-old dog has decided to get up at sunrise. Every single morning.

I love this dog. She’s the dearest, friendliest, loviest, golden retriever you could ever imagine. Her name is Berni and everyone adores her. Especially me. But lately, this devoted ball of orange fur is getting up at 5:13 am. Okay, well sometimes it’s more like 5:29. But still, it is VERY EARLY. And for some reason, she only comes to my side of the bed. She totally ignores my husband (who is snoring loudly and doesn’t hear a thing) and waits for me to wake up. And, being the good mommy that I am, I get up, give her a cup of food, and let her outside to do her business. Only this dog is not interested in a quick run to the bathroom. She is WIDE AWAKE. She sniffs the grass, goes hunting for rabbits or squirrels or chipmunks or voles or whatever wildlife is also up at this ridiculous hour.

She wasn’t always like this. For most of her life, she lived by our schedule. But lately, as she approaches 100 (in people years), she’s up with the roosters. Like a farm dog, or an insomniac. Mostly she’s hungry, famished, in fact. And those yummy fish and potato dog food nuggets are calling her name. So, I go to the bathroom. I go outside. I watch her wander in the yard. I let her back in. And guess what? Now, I am wide awake, too. And it is only 5:45 am.

It was during one of these early morning strolls, when I was pulling weeds in the yard while Berni sniffed wildflowers, that I came to a big realization. This is the time of day when many highly successful and productive writers slink down to their studios and crank out a ton of pages. I don’t know about you, but I’ve read scads of articles, and heard many speeches, by authors who insist that they do their very best work before the sun is up. And every time I hear this, I say to myself, “MUST BE NICE, BUT I WILL NEVER be one of those people.” I envied those industrious authors, but knew that early morning writing was not for me. Until now.

Because here I am at my computer writing this blog. And it is only 5:48 in the morning. It’s the dog’s fault, of course. But guess what? I kinda like this time of day. It’s quiet and I actually am clear-thinking and more efficient. I’m writing faster and better and there are very few distractions. It’s too early to run the laundry (wouldn’t want to wake up that sleeping husband) and there’s nobody to call. And here’s the clincher, there are no new emails to read since I checked the night before.

Who would have thought I would become one of those early morning writers? Not I, said the little red hen and everyone else in the world who knows me. So thank you, sweet Berni. Thank you for nudging me with your big wet nose and breathing in my face at the crack of dawn so I could get up and… write!

It’s a good thing I love coffee. And afternoon naps. And beautiful sunrises.

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What Are Kids Reading These Days?

By Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of being  a judge in the Colorado Humanities Center for the Book’s Letters About Literature Contest. This is a literary competition where students in grades four-twelve write letters to authors of their favorite books. Since most of these children have teachers who are passionate about reading and writing, the books chosen are some of the very best out there and many of my own favorites.

So what are kids reading these days? I am a judge in the fourth-sixth grade category. As you would expect, many eleven and twelve-year-olds are drawn to humorous titles such as Jeff Kinney’s THE WIMPY KID and Rachel Renee Russell’s THE DORK DIARIES. Others enjoy dramatic non-fiction like Jon Krakauer’s INTO THIN AIR, or inspirational biographies like Misty Copeland’s MY LIFE IN MOTION and Malala Yousafzai’s I AM MALALA. There are also the lovers of fantasy  who are obsessed with JK Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series and JRR Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT and LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

But more than any genre, these pre-teens are choosing books that touch their hearts and evoke emotion. Titles such as John Green’s A FAULT IN OUR STARS, RJ Palacio’s WONDER, and Wendy Maas’s A MANGO-SHAPED SPACE and GRACEFUL, show up year after year. Pam Munoz Ryan’s classic, ESPERANZA RISING, Katherine Patterson’s A BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, Jerry Spinelli’s STARGIRL, Jennifer Nielson’s A NIGHT DIVIDED, and anything by Kate DiCamillo, are also favorites. Like adults, children want to be moved in a profound way by the books they read.

When drafting their letters, the students are required to use good grammar, strong word choice, and creative devices such as metaphor and simile. They have also been asked to relate an event in their life to the book they have read. This might be a problem with a friend, a family crisis, or the competitive nature of school and sports. One student wrote about being lost on a hiking trip, another expounded on coping with a parent’s illness, and a third described the agony of moving to a new town and school. But when a student vividly described how much she wanted to “jump into the book” to comfort a character, I was impressed. She showed me her deep sense of empathy and insight, and articulated what I had felt when I read the very same book.

Books can surprise the reader. Years ago, when one of my sons was in high school, I gave him A MANGO-SHAPED SPACE. I was hoping that when the main character discovered she had a sensory disorder called “synesthesia,” it would resonate with him. And it did. I will never forget the smile on his face when he bounded into the kitchen. “I’m just like her,” he announced. “Like who?” I asked. “The girl in the book, Mia. I have what she has. We’re both amazing artists, but algebra and Spanish make us crazy.” A year later, when he wrote his college essay, he described his synesthesia in full detail, emphasizing the point that he was “hard-wired” to be an artist.

As a writer of middle grade fiction, here’s my takeaway from reading these letters – The books we write are important. They help children navigate the ups and downs of their roller coaster lives. Writers have an obligation to dig deep and create characters and stories that will touch their readers in ways that make them say, “That’s me.” Your character can challenge the reader to keep going, to try harder, to be compassionate. More importantly, your book can help the reader understand that he/she is not alone.

Being a judge in this contest has been inspirational. Kids in this age group are often considered  anti-social, phone-obsessed, video-game-addicts, even bullies. But these letters have convinced me that after reading a powerful book, these same children are empathetic and deep-thinking.  After attending literary agent Donald Maass’s workshop on “The Emotional Craft of Fiction” last weekend, I know he would agree with me. He told us over and over that we change lives by writing good fiction… that a great story opens a reader’s heart and gives them a sense of hope.

So get to it people. Sit down, open up that computer, and write a book that makes your reader feel something. You might change someone’s life, and in doing so, improve our world in ways you can only imagine!

What books have moved you or affected your life in some way? Send me some titles and I’ll put up a list.

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The Tuesday Writers

By Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

Every Tuesday morning, I clear off my dining room table, plug in my laptop, and wait for the writers to arrive. They bustle in around 10:30 carrying cups of coffee and bottles of water along with their computers and notebooks. After putting their lunches in the fridge and setting containers of nuts and assorted baked goods on the table, we settle in. Mostly, we sit in the same chairs. Some add a pillow, while others lower window shades to block the sun’s glare. Then, after a bit of schmoozing and noshing, we set the timer. Our chattering stops and the room becomes quiet. It’s time to write.

Three of us met a few years ago at a “Write-In” during NANOWRIMO – National Novel Writing Month. Although we were complete strangers, we were all determined to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Then, on the last day, after we had all become “Winners,” someone suggested we keep going. We hardly knew each other’s names. We certainly didn’t know much about each other’s books. But we had something very important in common. We were passionate about writing.

We decided to continue working at our local library every Tuesday morning. We reserved a conference room for two hours, kept our voices down, and got to work. It was wonderful. So wonderful, that when the library decided to do a major remodel and close their meeting rooms, we knew we had to find another location. I volunteered my dining room table.

Our group of three has now grown to five. Other writing buddies pop in now and then, but the core group is extremely reliable. Frigid temperatures, snowy roads, and needy relatives cannot keep us away from our beloved writing projects! And, when I’m out of town, others host at their dining room tables. On some days, we even write remotely, and text each other when timed writing sessions are about to begin. We typically get in three, forty five-minute sessions. And here’s the best part: the discipline of writing consistently has spilled over to other days of the week. I now find myself carving out short writing sessions almost every day.

Our projects span the genres. Two of us are writing MG fiction and picture books, while the others are focusing on women’s fiction, murder mysteries, and science fiction/fantasy. Although our content is widely varied, we often share information about local classes, conferences, webinars, and books on craft. We sometimes read paragraphs aloud, give each other immediate feedback, revise, and read again. We talk about query letters, character arcs, plot twists, even murder suspects! One member has been independently published and we all cheered when her cover designer came up with Book Two’s gorgeous graphics.

But most importantly, we write. Every Tuesday, no matter what, we set aside other commitments and scribble “10:30-2:30-NANOS” on our personal calendars. We put our work ahead of doctor’s appointments and lunch dates. I even had my hairdresser stop me when I was about to set up my next visit on a Tuesday. “Isn’t that your writing day?” she asked. “It is,” I replied. “It most definitely is!”

 

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My Writing Log

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By Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

After assigning a page of math homework to my first graders, one of my students said, “I might not be able to do this tonight.” When I asked her why, she said she had soccer practice and play rehearsal after school. I told her it sounded like she had too much going on in her life. She smiled and said, “Oh no, I love being busy.” I smiled back. I totally understood. I love being busy, too.

As a teacher, I usually operated on high-speed. My classroom was a bustling whirlwind of dynamic lessons and activities. We always got a lot done. And I had my plan book and assessments to prove it. At home, my family kept track of our plethora of commitments on a large, color-coded calendar. I also made personal to-do lists on yellow legal pads, scribbled reminders to myself on post-it notes, and rolled into bed each night, ready to do it again in the morning. It was a fast, over-scheduled pace, but I reveled in it.

Today, I have a new life. I’m a full-time writer. My children have flown the coop, and except for hanging out with my retired husband, my time is my own. I can slow it down, write for hours on end, read books on craft, drink lots of pumpkin lattes. My only problem is that the over-scheduling person inside me is still there. She constantly nags me to get more done, check things off my list (I still make them), get published already. Hop, jump, repeat! Man is she annoying. But I can’t get rid of her. She is a big part of who I am. I just have to figure out how to deal with her.

At first, I tried integrating techniques that worked for me as a teacher, into my life as a writer. I made schedules, set goals, took classes, read books, attended conferences, workshops, and writing groups. I still do these things. But something was missing. I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing enough. Especially when I veered from my “plan” or failed to achieve my goals.

One morning, as I sipped a homemade latte and stared at my computer screen, a radical idea popped into my head. Instead of planning out my week of writing, I would reflect on it. I would  do something EVERY SINGLE DAY (even for a short amount of time) to further my life as a writer and record these activities in a daily log. Not a plan-book, a logbook. I immediately went out and bought a calendar/notebook with large 1½ inch squares and decided to get started. (You can also use the new RMC-SCBWI calendar if you order your copy ASAP!) And here’s the key: I only record writing activities in it. No dentist appointments or lunch dates allowed.

I’ve been logging for a month now and I’m pretty excited about how it’s going. At the end of each day, I jot down anything I’ve done that relates to writing for children. I’ve included: worked on my novel, did a character exercise, talked with a picture book collaborator, listened to a webinar class on revision, read a book in my genre, went to hear an author speak at Tattered Cover, sent emails to SCBWI volunteers for an upcoming conference, attended a critique group meeting, made notes for my works-in-progress, wrote this blogpost, and did research at a museum. It’s amazing. I can now see, in black and white, that I am living a writer’s life. Every single day. Well, almost.

Becoming a great writer takes time. And there is more to the journey than the actual writing component. But now, when I look at my writing log, I see that I’m really trying. I’m doing all kinds of things to move this new life forward. And when that ever-present “busy teacher” is nudging me to get things done, I open my logbook and say, “I am. I totally am.”

Author’s note: If you try using a writing log, let me know how it goes!

 

 

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Getting To Know My Characters Again

By Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

Prismatic-Question-Mark-Fractal-4-No-Background-800pxI did some serious preparation before pounding out the first draft of my current MG novel. After thinking about the story for years, I came up with a plausible beginning, a somewhat-hazy-but-action-packed middle, and what I thought could be a satisfying ending. I did rough character sketches and gave each person a name, a family, and a physical appearance. I visualized the various settings. Then I typed out a detailed five-page chapter outline. But when the actual writing began, things changed. A lot. You know how it goes. My characters came to life and did what characters do. They went on unexpected adventures and made unanticipated decisions. They directed the action and their personalities and passions bubbled up and morphed along the way. I thought I knew these kids before I wrote the story. But they’re different now. Their voices and desires have evolved. Some names have even been changed. So before I begin revision #1, I’m sitting down to interview each one of them again to make sure I know exactly who they are.

I like using the character inventory from Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones’s book, STORY STARTERS, but have modified it over the years. This is  the interview form I use today. I open my computer, visualize my character sitting across from me, say hello, and ask away:

What is your:

  1. Full Name:
  2. Nickname(s) Who calls you these nicknames and why:
  3. Age and grade in school:
  4. Birthday:
  5. Name of school:
  6. Hair color:
  7. Eye color:
  8. One distinguishing physical feature you like about yourself and one you don’t like at all!
  9. Who do you resemble in you family? Appearance, personality?
  10. A physical habit you have:
  11. One speech mannerism that makes you sound like you:
  12. Hobbies:
  13. Family members:
  14. Earliest childhood memory:
  15. One distinguishing personality feature that you love about yourself and one you don’t:
  16. Pets you have and pets you want:
  17. Thing of which you are most proud:
  18. Thing you hope nobody will ever find out:
  19. Strengths:
  20. Weaknesses:
  21. Fears:
  22. More than anything, the one thing you want is:
  23. The perfect way you might spend a summer day:
  24. The perfect way you might spend a winter day:
  25. Favorite sports to play, watch, or attend:
  26. Favorite musicians:
  27. Type of music you listen to:
  28. Games you like to play:
  29. Favorite foods and snacks:
  30. Clothes you love to wear:
  31. Clothes you hate wearing:
  32. The best part of school:
  33. The worst part of school:
  34. Best friend(s):
  35. The one thing worth fighting about with your friend?
  36. Prized possessions:
  37. Best birthday party:
  38. Favorite holiday and why:
  39. Where do you live? Describe in detail.
  40. What does your room look like?
  41. Favorite place to spend time alone:
  42. What new relationships do you develop in this book?
  43. How do you change and grow in this story?
  44. What part of what you want do you get in this story?
  45. What new thing(s) happens to you that you didn’t expect in this book?

This form is also great to fill out before you “Scrapbook Your Novel.” Our very own Carrie Seidel has written a blog about how to do this. Check out her post from October 2015 or read her article in the SCBWI newsletter Spring/2016. Then Google, cut, and paste.

You’ll be surprised at how these new details will add depth to your story and get your readers to deeply connect with your characters. For example, after I realized how important astrology was to my main character Cori, I assigned birthdays to two of her close friends based on compatible signs! What other items would YOU add to this personality inventory? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list. Write-on!

 

 

 

 

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The Joy of Writing

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By Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

Twenty-five years ago, my co-teacher Liz gave me a birthday card that said, “This card is printed on recycled paper. Please return it to me when you get the chance so I can send it to you again next year.” I smiled and dutifully handed the card back to her, totally forgetting about it in a few weeks. But when March rolled around the following year, there it was on my desk, complete with a new note inside: “Here it is again! Have a great day! Soon you’ll have someone else around to share a birthday.” My second son was about to born. I returned the card to Liz and you can probably guess what happened next. The back and forth of the card became a yearly tradition. Little did we know it would continue for at least a quarter of a century.

Five years after I first received the card, Liz and her family moved to Texas. This meant we would need to use the United States Postal Service to transport the card back and forth between Denver and Dallas. We developed a system. Liz sent the card to me in March, and I sent it back to her in October, along with a new card for her own birthday.

After ten years, every inch of possible writing space on the card was filled with Liz’s newsy greetings, meticulously dated. So by year eleven, she began typing her messages on the computer. She added a birthday graphic on top, printed the note, and tucked it inside the original card before mailing it to me.

By year fifteen, the spine of the original card was beginning to fray. Its blue envelope was also split into two pieces. I’m not sure why, but neither one of us felt the need to tape it back together. We just stuffed the entire pile of paper into a manila envelope, stuck two Forever stamps onto the top right-hand corner, and dropped it into a nearby mailbox. It was around this time that Liz’s notes were becoming longer and more literary. Maybe it was the large, blank space on the computer screen, aching to be filled. Or perhaps she (and I) had reached an age that made us prone to nostalgic ramblings. One thing was for sure. In a world of abbreviated texts, flashing Emojis, endless emails, and Facebook photo postings, Liz’s notes had become full-fledged letters. Letters that chronicled our lives with meaningful reflections and joy. Great-big-smiley-joy.

Next week, I will be throwing a huge party for my dad’s 90th birthday. After sending out a slew of invitations, the RSVP’s began to pour in. Our guests had the choice of calling me or sending an email. Although most of the respondents are in their 80s, many chose the email option. I was amazed at the touching words that flooded my “in” box. “With happiness in our hearts, we look forward to joining you and your family in celebrating Harold at this momentous time. 90 years is special – how appropriate for such a special friend!” And this one: “We can’t wait to celebrate this occasion with our friend Harold whom we love.” Also: Judy and I are delighted to accept the invitation to this milestone event!” The people who called me were more matter-of-fact in their responses. It was either “we’ll be there” or “we can’t make it.” But the writers – the writers were filled with joy.

Writing enables us to express ourselves deeply. We often write what we cannot say out loud. So when you open your journal or turn on your computer to compose, edit, revise, cut, rework, or scream… take a minute to remember why you are doing this in the first place. It brings you joy. Really, it does.

 

 

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NaNo On!

nano_logo-830912ef5e38104709bcc38f44d20a0dBy Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

“Writing is slow. If you want fast, bake a cake.”   Linda Sue Park

Crafting a book takes a very long time. As writers, we agonize over word choice and sentence structure, delete paragraphs, (and put them back in), change points of view, flesh out characters, and do tons of research. We write and revise, get feedback from fellow writers, revise again, submit to editors and agents, and revise some more. We spend weeks, months, even years doing this with no promise of publication. To quote Karla Kuskin, “It’s not so much about the writing as it is about the rewriting.”

For the past three years, this is exactly what I’ve been doing with my two middle grade novels. I’ve been intensely focused on the “re’s”: rereading, rewriting, researching, revising, repeat. And although I enjoy this part of the writing process, I desperately needed a break from the slow sculpting of my stories. I wanted to race, to fly, to write non-stop with sheer abandon. And so, in November, I took the plunge and signed up for that world famous writing marathon, NaNoWriMoNational Novel Writing Month. Its challenge: 30 days, 50,000 words, No excuses. It was time to hunker down, leave the laundry to pile up, and crawl into the speed-writing cave.

I know it sounds crazy. Why would someone like me, a total “planner,” not a “pantser,” spend an entire month spewing out words that might be twisted, tweaked, and possibly eliminated in the revision process? Why take my carefully plotted, five-page, single-spaced, 27-chapter outline and punch out a first draft in only 30 days? Hmm… why not?

Let’s face it; first drafts are messy. Whether it takes 300 days or 30 days, all manuscripts morph and change. But first, you must get that story out of your head and onto your computer screen (or on paper if you’re more old-school). So why not opt for the 30 day version? After all, it’s only ONE month of your long, slow life as a writer. What do you have to lose?

Many of my fellow writers think this manic activity is pure lunacy. But I say, don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. (I’ve never run  a marathon, but I think the NaNoWriMo adrenaline rush might be just as satisfying.)

Okay, so now that I’ve convinced you to give this thing a try (maybe), here are a few helpful tips:

1. Go to the  www.nanowrimo.org website and look around. Watch out, there are graphs!

2. Read the pep talks. They are INSPIRATIONAL AND HILARIOUS.

3. Find some brave writing souls to join you in this madness (I mean writing endeavor).

4. Have a story somewhere in your brain that is screaming to get out.

5. Have a general idea of your book’s beginning, middle, and end. (Remember my 27-chapter outline?) And have a problem for your main character to solve (this may change).

6. Make plans to attend a “Write-In” near your house (or virtually) to meet other wild and wacky NaNos.

7. Do some timed word sprints to get into the speed-writing mode. My favorite is 40 minutes, timed on my phone, which actually gets me to crank out 1000 words!

This is what happened to me and might happen to you if you do this:

1. I was totally immersed in my story, night and day, for all 30 days.

2. My characters came to life and led me to surprising and unplanned places.

3. Everything in my story was more emotional than I had anticipated. I laughed, gasped, and even shed a few tears along the way.

4. The laundry  got done.

And here’s the best part. Because I finished before midnight on November 30, I am a WINNER! A group of NaNos even sent me a congratulatory video. (I also bought the tee shirt.) So now what? What am I going to do with this 50,000 word-ramble about worries, dream journals and friend problems? Go back to my “re” life, of course. I will reread, revise, research, and repeat. NaNo On!!

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Scrapbooking Your Novel

Hayley journal

By Carrie Seidel

While attempting to revamp a flat, secondary character, I had a conversation with him that went something like this:

Me:     “So, what do you look like?”

Secondary Character: “I have, uh, salt-and-pepper hair, and … um … gray eyes.”

Me:     “Really? That’s all you have to offer? Lame.”

SC:      “How about … oh, I don’t know … maybe a cool scar across my face?”

Me:     “I’m liking this. Keep going.”

SC:      “And it’s a sexy scar!”

Me:     “But you’re old!

SC:      “I’m changing my hair, too. Let’s go with sandy-brown. And scrap the gray eyes—too creepy. I’m young, hot, and dangerous! Google me under ‘sexy facial scars.’”

Me:     *eye roll*

           *types*

SC:      “There. That’s me!”

Me:     “That’s Bradley Cooper.”

SC:      *relaxes against tree, hooks thumbs casually into belt-loops of tight-fitting jeans. Winks.*

“Not anymore, babe. Now it’s me.”

This revelation forever changed the dynamics of my novel, and more importantly, brought descriptive depth to my characters, settings, and all things visual—down to the most incidental props.

After discovering the true identity of SC, I unearthed photos for every character in my book, scouring internet sites, magazines … and photos from personal scrapbook albums. That’s when the “ah-ha” moment happened. Scrapbooking!

Novel scrapbooks come in handy from early beginnings to final revisions. By referencing full-color character pages, I’ve discovered deep wrinkles, droopy socks, and eyebrow shapes I wouldn’t have thought to describe. Not to mention background details. I’ve even scanned an exit sign and a bra. Plus, the characters’ unique voices stay on track with a page glance: spotting the gleam in their eye, the curve of their lips.

If you’re not into stickers, colored papers, and delightful trips to the craft store, collect pictures in computer folders—adequate, but not as accessible. For everyone else, break out the paper cutter!

Find a blank journal or photo album, perhaps one that suits the mood of the novel. Gather photos, memorabilia, clipart, stickers, craft paper, scissors, writing utensils, and tape. Next, utilize Google. Example: Type “middle school dance” in search bar. Click “images.” There’s the setting, dresses, and even awkward moments! Right click “save image as” and bingo! Instant scrapbook photos.

There’s no wrong way to organize your novel scrapbook. Mine starts with a decorated title page. A main character headshot fills page two. Page three displays her name, a head-to-toe photo, a slice of pizza, a soccer ball, and a ticket stub—stuff that’s important to her. But let’s say your setting is vitally important. Consider kicking off with pictures, drawings, or maps of your world.

Give all characters equal attention. Focus on detail! You may have to patchwork a character together for the desired result. Find close-ups of eyes and pictures of clothing. Leave blank pages between character profiles in case you need to add or change something. You can always rip them out later.

And what to do with the craft paper and stickers? Decorate! Frame photos. Add color to white spaces with paper scraps. Place kissy-lips stickers on a love interest, and “BFF” stickers on the friend’s page. Your character loves horses? There’s a sticker for that! Journaling and notes only enhance your project.

The end result is a tangible scrapbook to reference and admire, a window into what makes your novel tick.

SC:      “You know the photo you Googled for my page? That awesome leather jacket?”

*gazes expectantly with cerulean-blue eyes*

Me:     “What about it?”

SC:      *lifts an eyebrow—a thin scar that cuts into thick, sandy-brown hair nearly disappears*

“You want tangible? eBay has the real jacket for sale. Just one quick click …”

 

 

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Feeling at Home

IMG_3578By Karen Deger McChesney

Time: 8pm on a Tuesday

Place: Whole Foods

Characters: My critique group

It was my turn. I placed on the table – 5 pens rubber-banded together and a pile of 7 spiral notebooks. I didn’t need to say a word. My critique group knew exactly what this was: My handwritten first draft of my YA novel. I announced, “60,574 words” and showed them the fun that I had – from pages filled with cursive in different colors of ink to pages containing a labyrinth of printing. I’ll remember this moment forever, because they were the ones that nudged me to write longhand when I mentioned that it was my inclination.

Flashback:

Over 15-some years, I did all my writing at home on a big computer on a desk. I constantly tried to quench my desire to wander, move around, daydream, doodle… I started sessions with prompts from Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life. I tested different chairs – an office chair, a kitchen chair, an exercise ball. I tried different lamps. I wore sweats, sipped chamomile tea, taped inspiring quotes on the wall, did Downward Dog… Everything I tried felt the same: not me. BUT, I kept thinking, this is what I should do.

Two years ago, I surprised myself when I sat in our comfy-cushy Adirondack chair in our living room with my laptop on my lap and wrote…and wrote….and wrote. This WAS different. I completely disappeared. It’s hard to describe. I felt at home.

Today:

My writer home is my Adirondack chair, surrounded by notebooks filled with longhand drafts and notes. They’re my confidence. When I pause, I see shelves of books and musical instruments. They’re my confidence. As I write, I feel perfectly fresh air through the windows and hear birds and squirrels chatter. I’m completely at home. I wander and write outside by our garden, or in my studio by my camera lights and art, or, I lay on the floor with paper and markers to draw my way through a plot point, characters, etc. I’m energized.

Every day, I light a candle before I sit in my chair. Once the candle is lit, I can’t walk away. It calls me, it’s the doorway to my writer home.

(By the way, I drafted this blog longhand using two different pens and then I wrote on my laptop outside and in my chair.)

 

 

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