March 2011

Hugging the Ames library for last year's challenge

It’s that time of year again! Well, yes, Final Four time. And SCBWI-Iowa conference time. But I’m specifically talking about the Blogger’s Library Lovin’ Challenge.

The brain-child of author Jennifer Hubbard, the challenge is a week-long celebration of libraries and giving by bloggers all over the Internet. Last year’s challenge raised over $5,000 for local libraries, plus pledges of books and other items, and this year should be even bigger.

Because libraries are important. I worked as a page during high school. I volunteered at a public library after college. I remember weekly trips during childhood, I remember waiting for the phone call telling me the book on hold had arrived, and I remember wanting to read every book in the children’s section (still working on it).

So here’s the deal: for every library lovin’ commenter on this post between now and midnight (Central Standard Time) on Friday, April 1 (no foolin’), I will donate $1.00 to the Robert W. Barlow Memorial Library in Iowa Falls, IA, up to an amount of $100.00 total. It’s simple: you comment, I cough up the money.  Talk about your favorite library, what makes it awesome, a favorite book find, a childhood memory, or even just “I love libraries.”

My pledge is “per commenter”—so if a single person leaves 50 comments, that still only counts once (although my WordPress stats will look fantastic).  But you can do more by spreading the word … please link to this post, tweet about it, mention it on Facebook, etc.  To raise money for more libraries, visit the blogs of others participating in this challenge:

Thanks in advance for spreading the awesome on behalf of libraries everywhere! I’ll see you in the comments.


For you wonderful folks who’ve stuck with The Writing Cave through my sporadic posting lately, THANKS! And buckle up, because the next few weeks are going to be made of awesome.

Next week, I’m joining author Jennifer Hubbard’s Bloggers’ Library-Loving Challenge for the second year. Check in and leave a comment to help local libraries; more details coming Monday.

The following week I’ll have roundup posts from the Iowa SCBWI spring conference, which boasts an impressive lineup of speakers and topics. You never know what will happen when kidlit writers get together on April Fools Day!

New York is pretty (taken last visit, a little more snow now)

I’ve been very in touch with my senses lately.

Nothing activates your nose like airports and hotel rooms. How else would I figure out last night’s hotel room used to be a smoking room? Or know exactly how many gates down the Cinnabon is?

And driving a rental car on winding New York county roads gives you a new appreciation for the sight of snowflakes and the feel of slick pavement.

And taste, oh taste. Maple syrup, farmstead yogurt, farmstead yogurt MADE with maple syrup, and cheese cheese glorious cheese. Taste memories are so powerful; no wonder I love reading FARMER BOY so much 🙂 Mental note for revision: more sensory moments!

Have you read any stand-out sensory moments lately? How does it factor into your writing?

Sue the dinosaur will eat your redundant phrase!

As the basketball season reaches tournament-pitch, I’ve been watching more press conferences than normal and have developed a twitch whenever I hear the phrase “it is what it is.” Well, of course it is! If it wasn’t what it was, what would it be?

What phrases make you cringe when you hear them or see them in print?

Happy Wednesday all! I’m taking some time away from basketball fever to bring you some fantabulous writing links:

The lovely Anna Staniszewski asks a great question: do you give your characters choices?

Teddy Wayne has a fantastic guest post at the Guide to Literary Agents blog on author publicity.

Livia Blackburn gives us the basics on SEO (search engine optimization). Save this one, folks!

Laura Pauling keeps bringing the awesome with her posts on structure. The latest: what goes into Act I.

Indexed makes a good point on Denial versus Progress. I’ll stop complaining and get back to my revision now…

Shout out to Jessica LeSaicherre at Closet Writer for taking on the Query Mad Lib! Thanks 🙂

This week’s Link of Awesome: Leila at Bookshelves of Doom brings it again with this picture of Daniel Radcliffe dancing…and, of course, his clip from Extras.

Have a great second half of the week folks! Now back to basketball…

Just hanging out in a random Irish field

(Anyone else start singing when they read that title? Or am I alone in my crazy?)

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a slow month for writing progress. I got comments back from the critique group on the MG WIP, I know what needs to be fixed, but I just can’t pinpoint the element that will bring everything together. And we didn’t meet in February because most are waiting for the Iowa SCBWI conference feedback. So I’ve been focusing on the day job and an online class and finally taking down the Christmas decorations (Saturday, March 5. Not even joking.) instead of writing and, obviously, blogging.

But now I’m catching up with Twitter and the Google Reader and I miss the writing world! So how is everyone? What are you working on? I need some writer contact to carry me through March to the always-inspirational SCBWI conference!

After my critique group read the first chapter of my WIP for the first time (you know, about 20 different first chapters ago), Michele suggested I read Lisa Yee. And how right she was! In the spirit of Lessons Learned, I just re-read Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time, this time taking notes.

  • Establish the conflict early – I know, I hear this one all the time, but Lisa Yee does it nicely here. Not only is the main character’s goal introduced, but it’s linked through a family dynamic and the importance of sports to the whole community, not just Stanford. It’s still a personal story, but the stakes are immediately extended beyond the main character.
  • Give characters surprising traits – a sixth grade boy knitting with his grandma is an unexpected and endearing characterization, plus the knitting project becomes symbolic of his goal and journey
  • It’s okay to have a group of friends – this book is a great example of a character with a group of friends, not just one best friend that they lose halfway through (yeah…WIP is guilty of that right now…). Two of the guys are more developed than the other two, and have motivations and roles of their own.
  • Emotional pay-offs rock – is there any more satisfying moment than suffering with a boy through a whole book and finally hearing his dad say he’s proud of him? *sniff*
  • Sports metaphors make me smile. Every time.

What have you learned lately? Any tips to share?