Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Overheard #2

"95% of all statistics are made up on the spot."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Did I Gain?

On our writing retreat, I recaptured my peace of mind and envisioned an approach for revising my work-in-progress.

I need to remove one character (Ryan) and his associated subplot. The manuscript is a bit long, and this particular subplot distracts from the story. Losing a level of complexity grates on me. But, the manuscript will benefit. So far, this revision has been easy, but I don't delude myself. Ryan's subplot is concatenated to the main plot in the later chapters. Extracting it will require less of a hatchet and more of a surgeon's scalpel.

Goodbye, Ryan. I'll miss you.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Grand Rapids Retreat

The retreat was wonderful! The picture shows the view from the front door. We went to a place called Riverside Writers' Retreat near Grand Rapids, Michigan. The cottage was lovely.

Here is a picture of the living room. I saw a river otter out that window this morning.

Okay, I'm gushing. I so needed this retreat, and now I feel inspired and motivated.

Spending time with Paula was great. Unfortunately she had a nasty cold.

Photographic evidence of me working on revisions.

Progress Report
The stack on the left has been revised - for now.
The stack on the right remains.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Happy DNA Day!

Click here for the story.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I leave tomorrow for our retreat. I hope to revise, recharge and renew an old friendship.

The temperature is supposed to cool off to the low 60s. It's been mid 70s and beautiful all week. We also might get a thunderstorm or two, but I don't think I've ever driven to Grand Rapids in good weather.

I'm looking forward to diving into my YA work-in-progress again. I haven't worked on it since I sent it to Paula in February. Maybe the time away will give me perspective. I know her comments will.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New Blog

You are cordially invited
to visit a new blog by
The World's Greatest Critique Group.

My critique group has started a blog to discuss writing, kids' books and publication. Click here to visit Write Brainers.

Monday, April 21, 2008

First Impression

Until I sent my current work-in-progress to Paula, no one else had read the entire manuscript. Of course I'd brought chapters to critique group, but the whole story, from start to finish, was unknown to anyone except me.
For past manuscripts, I'd been part of an online critique group, and week by week, we'd slog through submissions, getting to know each other's characters, refining our own. This manuscript is far less influenced by the reactions of others. Will that be positive or negative? Time will tell.
I chose this photo because I like the little weed amid the cluster of bluebells. How many weeds will I need to yank from my work-in-progress? How many weeds will contribute to to the composition?
Photo by Z.F. Burton

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Photo by Z.F. Burton

Beauty in a dandelion.


"Winners never quit, and quitters never win, but people who never win and never quit are idiots."

Idiotically yours,

Friday, April 18, 2008


"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity:but dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."

These words are from Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence. The manuscript was initially written during the Paris Peace Conference following WWI. The manuscript was lost, then recreated by T.E. Lawrence during the winter of 1919-1920. T.E. Lawrence is also known as Lawrence of Arabia.

Still Counting

Our writing retreat is one week from today.
Progress report: I finished the detailed critique of Paula's manuscript. My written comments need a little tweaking. I should probably check mapquest soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


" prepared to fail initially. For no quest is worth pursuing that does not require you to pass many tests, take numerous risks. Jason had to tame the wild bulls, Ulysses had to resist the sirens calling him onto the rocks; Captain Nemo had to face the giant squid...The test you must pass is not whether you fall down or not but whether you can get back up after being knocked down...the hardest tests of all will look to see how determined you are to live your dream, how strong is your heart."

That quotation is an excerpt from a commencement speech by Robert D. Ballard, the leader of the expedition that found the sunken R.M.S Titanic. He spoke at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts on May 23, 1992.
The entire speech can be found in Hold Fast Your Dreams: Twenty Commencement Speeches by Carrie Boyko (Editor), Kimberly Colen (Author), Scholastic Inc. 1996.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Two Weeks!

We leave for our writing retreat two weeks from today.
Progress report: The detailed critique of Paula's manuscript is 78.4% complete.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What Makes a Good Writing Exercise?

Some writing exercises are designed as entertainment, an icebreaker at a social gathering of writers and illustrators. These party games are intended to be humorous and usually have an extraordinary number of criteria. I write for my allotted time and find I was able to incorporate a 15-year old male character, fear, the color turquoise, the scent of wet asphalt, five golden retriever puppies and no one-syllable nouns. But somehow, I never got to the melting polar icecaps. That doesn’t matter. The point was to have fun.

At Write Night, our intention is to work on our current projects or explore ideas for future manuscripts. The assignment is simple; the required thought process is complex. Several months ago, Tim Bogar suggested we write a scene in which a secondary character makes the protagonist laugh. I wrote the scene, but it didn’t ring true. By the time this passage evolved into my work-in-progress, the protagonist had stopped laughing. She was hurt and infuriated that a person she idolized would make fun of a real problem in her life. In resolving that conflict, I started to shape the interaction between these two characters.

A good writing exercise is just the push out the airplane. It allows a few moments of glorious freefall before the writer pulls the cord to release the parachute. And then once the parachute opens, the writer must determine what to do if there is no soft, grassy meadow for landing.

pictures from

Monday, April 7, 2008


I used to think manuscripts were written in blood, sweat and tears.
Maybe they're written in coffee and chocolate - which, for the most part, are easier to read.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Retreat of the Wonder Twins

In just under three weeks, I'm going on a writing retreat with my friend and critique partner, Paula Payton. I got to know Paula when we served as Regional Co-Advisors for the Michigan Chapter of SCBWI (2003-2005). Early in our tenure, she jokingly referred to us as The Wonder Twins, and the name stuck. The wonderful cartoon at the top of this entry was drawn by Ruth McNally Barshaw.

Paula and I used to belong to the same online novel critique group. That group dissolved, but our friendship didn't. I learned a huge amount about manuscript critiquing (and writing) through my years with that group.

About a month ago, we exchanged copies of our works-in-progress. We'll critique each other's manuscripts before we arrive. At the retreat, we will discuss the comments and work on revisions.

Progress report: I have read Paula's novel through once, and I'm about half way through making detailed comments. I still have to compose my impressions and write a summary.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Moms and Memories

The SCBWI-MI listserv is currently having a terrific discussion initiated by the brilliant Debbie Diesen. This is National Poetry Month, and April 17 is national Poem In Your Pocket Day. On Debbie's suggestion, many listerv members are sharing the poems they will carry with them. Today, Buffy Silverman posted The Lanyard by Billy Collins. Click here to read it.

My mother no longer remembers the things she did for me. Each day, when I visit her in that small over-heated room, she asks, "How can I ever repay you?"