Catalyst videos!

It is such an honor and so much fun to watch videos based on my books! Here are two based on Catalyst.

(Why are we thinking about Catalyst right now? It’s anxiety time for high school seniors trying to figure out their paths to college. I send all of you big hugs and virtual cups of chamomile tea.)





B’day & New YALSA award & Rev Tip #10 (setting)

(Excuse me, family business first) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESSICA!!

(Thank you.)

The nominees for the 2010 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults have been named and I am really excited for two friends, Deborah Heiligman (Charles and Emma) and Tanya Lee Stone (Almost Astronauts) whose books both made the list.Huzzah!

Revision Tip #10

I need to clarify yesterday’s tip.

A Facebook Friend wrote in to say my advice contradicted what Barry Lyga wrote on his blog.

(I’ll wait while you hop over to Barry’s page and see what he wrote.)

(Really, it’s OK. I just made tea. The fire is warm. Go on! Shoo!)


(Are you back yet?)

Barry and I agree more than we disagree. We are both striving for the balance between tight writing and clear writing. Neither one of us wants you to waste words and page space on dialog or description that don’t move the story forward.

But I see opportunity to use what he calls "blocking" as a way to move the story forward. It’s all in the details. There is no point to just throwing in descriptions of actions simply to avoid a page of dialog that bounces back and forth between two people. (For the record, my first drafts are often page after page of dialog.) The key is to find THE EXACT RIGHT ACTIONS that will help your characters show what’s going on inside them in addition to telling.

This is where choosing the right setting for a scene helps.

I’ll give you an example from CATALYST. There is an emotionally loaded scene in which the main character, 18-year-old Kate, is talking to her younger brother. The two of them have just come from a funeral for a small child who was a neighbor. The brother is pestering Kate for details about their mother’s funeral, which happened when he was an infant.

In the scene, Kate is cleaning the kitchen. (Their father is the minister, they live next to the church, the congregation gathered at their house after the funeral for a meal.) She is wiping clean, sanitizing, scrubbing, putting things into boxes, sweeping up – all actions that really show what she is trying very hard to do with the memories and feelings about the death of her mother. In the climax of the scene, she puts the last container of food in the refrigerator and slams the door so hard that family photos and the drawings by the dead child all fall off the door of the fridge.

That dialog could have been set in many different places, but I deliberately chose the kitchen because of the opportunities it gave me to create subtext for Kate. Putting action into dialog sequences ensures you don’t have talking heads on the page, and it allows you to give the reader more information than just the dialog alone, if you are wise about your choice of action and setting.

Does this make sense?

Questions? Thoughts?

Did you read CATALYST or PROM?

Theo is putting the finishing touches on the playlist section of my Writerlady website overhaul. We’ve got plenty of songs for the other novels (special thanks to handworn and to John Connolly and his students for all their help). We are a little light on the number of songs suggested for PROM and CATALYST.

And I am on deadline. And after that, I have another book to write. And one of my kids finally comes home on break today.

So I could really use your help.

Any suggestions? What songs tie into the main characters and situations of PROM and CATALYST?

This is what I have so far:

Splintering – Arizona
The Great Escape – We Are Scientists
Under Pressure – Queen
Run, Baby, Run – Sheryl Crow
Runaway – Linkin Park

Alright – Supergrass
End of the Line – Traveling Wilburys
I Summon You – Spoon
Nowhere and Everywhere – Michelle Lewis
Survivor РDestiny’s Child
Lose Yourself – Eminem
Learn To Fly – Foo Fighters
Prom Theme – Fountains Of Wayne

Teachers! If your students help out with this, I promise a hand-written thank you note!

Aunt Janet’s advice & picture book news

See, the thing about my Aunt Jan was, she didn’t have much patience for moping. “Knock it off and get to work,” I can hear her saying. So I have to stop. Right. Now. Don’t get me wrong, I am still very, very sad about her death. But I am afraid she’ll haunt me if I don’t live the way she taught us, which means hard work, laughter, and integrity.

So back to work.

I’ve talked about my writing process here a couple of times. For my new novel, I am approaching it a bit differently. First, it is historical fiction, so it has to be grounded in actual events. That means I have to know what the heck I am talking about. (Which is why I am reading myself blind right now.) It also means I have to work from an outline from Day One. So as I am researching and finding the nuggets that I want to include, I am also building an outline for the book itself. This feels good. Right now the outline is very rough. I am psyched about filling it in.

The sketches for my new historical picture books have been arriving. I LOVE THEM!!! They are brilliant and funny and I wish, I wish I could show them to you right now, but if I do, the publishing gods will frown. As the book moves farther along in the publication process, I’ll keep you updated. As soon as I can share things like the title and peeks at the art, I will. (I think we’re shooting for a Summer 2007 publication date.)

PS – Here is what made me smile this morning. A little birdie forwarded a link to a teen’s blog, to an entry where she wrote that she was supposed to be studying for her Chemistry Regents, but she was reading CATALYST instead. ::grinning::

PPS – Thank you so much to everyone who wrote with such kindness and support yesterday, especially those folks who asked that their screened comments remain screened. Much appreciated.