Inspiration, revision truths, and silliness

This is a revision weekend. I’m actually excited about it, though I am feeling a little confused about a scene that I know should be in the book, but since I changed some things, I cannot figure out where to put it. Paging the Muse, paging the Muse, clean up in aisle three…

I had a reader question come into my Facebook. Kendall wrote: “… where (in general) do you get your inspiration and ideas for different books?”

I probably come across at least one idea that could become a novel every day. Generally, it’s a person trapped in an interesting situation, or facing a conflict that forces him/her to change and grow. This idea will pop into my head out of nowhere, or I stumble across them because of something I’m reading, some fragment of dialog I overhear, a scene I witness at an airport or the grocery store. I start to ponder: “what if….”

But not all ideas about books are robust enough to become books. Along with the initial conflict, I have to dream up a character with a rich interior life, well-defined background, and memorable secondary characters. And then I throw in setting. And then I throw in subtext; exterior image systems that reflect the character’s inner journey. And then I revise eight or eleven times and I have a breakdown or two and I pull out all my hair and I have a book.

Do you dream of writing a novel and having it published and living the life of an author? Read “My Book Deal Ruined My Life” and tell me what you think.

Nobel Prize winner (literature) Doris Lessing has a MySpace.

What if the Nobel in Literature were awarded in an alternate universe?


Most of the day so far was spent doing doctorish stuff (boring tests, nothing scary) and getting back to our house in the boondocks from the big city, Syracuse.

I came across mention of the Institution for the Sick and Drooping Poor in a series of essays written by Sir Walter Scott. This was established by Dr. Thomas Beddoes, one of those horribly energetic fellows of the late 1700s who prove to us that we are all lazy slugs. He did a little of everything, including opening the aforementioned Institution, researching cures for consumption and scrofula, and experimenting with laughing gas. What a guy. His formative childhood experience was watching his grandfather die when the old fellow broke his ribs. The ribs punctured his lungs and led, in quick order, to his death. It made young Thomas think about lungs a lot.

Anyway. I wish his Institution was still open. I feel droopy today.

And I must revise my book.

dramatic eeyore sigh

Thanks, Parkrose and friends!

Now that was fun!

I am officially on a hiatus from school visits so I can write all these books that are crowding my brain. This hiatus officially went into effect this autumn, and will very likely extend to the 2010-2011 school year. This is a Good Thing. I need more quiet time at home, I want to write more than I speak.

But I miss seeing kids.

That’s why this morning was so much fun. The Multnomah County Library system always sends its visiting author to Parkrose High School to speak to an audience assembled of students from ten different area schools. So even though I am still officially on hiatus, I got to go to school today.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic It was a big crowd.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic A very big crowd, filled with great kids who had read my books and showed me all kinds of respect and friendship. Thank you, everyone!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic This is a leftover picture from last night when I met Linda Schlechter. She is a community member who found out that there were kids at Parkrose who didn’t have the resources to go to the prom. Instead of shaking her head or muttering, she did something useful. Linda started The Gateway Prom Project to raise money for the kids who couldn’t afford their one special night. Last year, her organization sent 21 kids to the prom. We are holding a frame that is filled with pictures of the beautiful men and women at prom.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic We saw this on the way back to my hotel; a church with the word “Fever” spraypainted up near the roofline. How would you caption this?

I’m going to sleep early and am going to wake up earlier in an effort to shift back to east coast time. Tomorrow is another airport/airplane day, but it will end in my favorite place in the world: at home.

Portland teen Author Lecture

My run along the Willamette River yesterday was gorgeous. I didn’t look at the clock when I left so I don’t know how fast I ran. This allows me to fantasize that I was churning out 8-minute miles; a total fabrication, of course, but one I am sticking to.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic On my lunch break I walked a couple of blocks to the one of the greatest bookstores in the world: Powell’s. I was a good girl. I did not drool on any of the books. I did pet a couple of the shelves, but it was a restrained display of affection, nothing vulgar. If this store held sleepovers, it would become a serious place of pilgrimage for book lovers from all over. Be sure to check out their online author interviews.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Meet Adam who was manning the kids & teens section when I visited. Adam helped me find all of the copies of my books they had in stock so I could sign them. He was wicked sweet. He’s holding his favorite book of mine, CATALYST. He said he really liked all of the science and math references. He also liked all the math in John Green’s ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES. Has anyone put together a list of YA fiction with strong math and science elements?

Image and video hosting by TinyPicI spent the afternoon revising and talking to my editor Kevin about potential directions for the cover design of my historical. Super-librarian and author Sara Ryan, author of EMPRESS OF THE WORLD and THE RULES FOR HEARTS, picked me up at the hotel. We got silly in the lobby before we left.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic My presentation was held in the Old Church in Portland. (These picture show only part of the audience.) I was stoked about the number of teens in the audience. A couple of teachers brought groups of students and lots more kids came with a parent or two. I was very excited and honored to see a group of teachers from a Washington state high school that successfuly fought a challenge to remove SPEAK from their curriculum. They are my heroes.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicPeople had to buy tickets to hear me speak which had me convinced no one would come, but I was delightfully wrong. More than 250 people came out on a blustery night. Thank you very, very much for a great time.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic After the speech I signed books, programs, journals, scraps of paper and I wrote a half dozen notes to English teachers begging them to give extra credit to the students who came to hear me speak. Best item signed was this shoe, which belonged to a lovely future author named Fatema.

Today is a visit to Parkrose High School. Today is more revision. Today might be another run on the river if I am a very, very good girl.