Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Winding Path of Creativity

I've been thinking lately about the strange manifestations of creativity in my life. I started off as an artist, one of those people who doodled on everything. Yes, I even got in trouble for it in school because I would get caught up in a drawing and not pay attention!

As the years went by, and college (and marriage) came along, I found myself getting away from drawing. I discovered these cool plaster figurines and began painting like a fiend. Let me tell you, everyone in my family has a few now. My favorite is a Nativity set I painted and antiqued. It's my most prized Christmas decoration. But, after going crazy with that, I moved on.

I have to admit I was a scrapbooker for a while. I think everyone with a creative side tries this. It was fun, and I filled a lot of albums, but I eventually realized I was going to smother in photos if I didn't get caught up. And, well, there is just no way to get caught up when you take pictures as much as I do.

Oh, yeah, there's another creative outlet! I'm not professing to be a phenomenal photographer, but I can take a darn good picture when I set my mind to it. (hee, hee, my southern side coming out in that last sentence.) I don't have the patience to learn all there is about operating a really good camera--nor the desire to tote around something that won't fit in my pocket--so that will never be a source of income for me, but I do love taking pics of my kids. And my dogs.

Which brings me full circle. I've started drawing again. I've been feeling the itch ever since I started writing--not sure if that is coincidence, or if it's because writing has taken over and I no longer paint figurines or scrapbook. But I just read Duma Key (Stephen King--can't officially recommend the book--loads of foul language, but the writing is awesome) and the main character is an artist. It's what pushed me over the edge.
Here's my latest, just a quicky sketch of my old Boxer.

He's just the cutest old thing ever. What amazed me is that I still draw in the same style I did in highschool. Like ridin' a bike!

Anyway, this journey has been really cool. And it ain't anywhere near over.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Finally in print!

My very first article is finally in print! It's a personal essay, and it came out recently in Purpose, which is a Menonite Sunday school paper. I still haven't seen it myself--I guess it's taking a while for my copy to arrive. But, I know the article has been read by editor from another paper emailed me asking for reprint rights :).

Also, I will finally have a fiction piece published. Christian Fiction Online Magazine has accepted a short story of mine for their August issue. I am SO excited about this. I do love writing personal essays, and am incredibly thankful that I've had success in selling nearly every one I've written so far. But my passion still lies in fiction. My main goal is to have my novels published, and getting a short story published is definitely a step in the right direction there. I'll post the link to the story when the August issue of CFOM comes out. In the meantime, check out the April issue at

April 20, 2009

I got my copies of the article today. I'm so happy :).

Update again....I just noticed tonight that the copies are for the July issue. So if you get the Mennonite paper Purpose, look for me in July :).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amazing Stories

I want to direct everyone to Bryan Davis' blog. He posted some amazing stories related to his writing career. These stories actually gave me chills. God IS still speaking to us today, and if you pay attention you can hear Him, and Bryan's experiences are proof of that.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

First Lines

A conversation I had tonight inspired me to look at books to see what their very first lines are. I know there are some really well-known ones, like, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." But I could not have told you the first lines of any of my favorite books.

Well, now I'm going to and I'd like to hear some of yours, too. The reason this is interesting to me is that writers these days are told they must grab a reader from the very first line. Yet, many of the great books, including current best-sellers and new novels, don't have outstanding first lines.

So, here we go. Keep in mind, these are favorite books, not favorite first lines for me:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (JK Rowling):
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Fablehaven (Brandon Mull):
Kendra stared out the side window of the SUV, watching foliage blur past.

DragonSpell (Donita K. Paul):
"Are ye sure ye won't ride all the way into the city?"

Inkspell (Cornelia Funke):
Rain fell that night, a fine, whispering rain.

The Secret of the Rose (Sarah L. Thomson):
They put the heads of traitors on spikes over the gate of London Bridge.

Watership Down (Richard Adams):
The primroses were over.

Beyond the Reflection's Edge (Bryan Davis):
Nathan watched his tutor peer out the window.

Demon: A Memoir (Tosca Lee):
It was raining the night he found me.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis):
Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.

Eragon (Christopher Paolini):
Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.

Some of these are grabbers and some are not, but they are all from books I love dearly. So, I don't see much of a correlation here between astounding first line and astounding book. It can be argued that a couple of my examples are classics, and therefore can't be compared to current titles because style has changed over the years. But, the newer books don't all have first lines that jump you into intense action. I don't think readers necessarily want to be slammed into the middle of a situation. A good book can ease the reader in.

What are the first lines of your favorite books? Is that what sold you? Or did you enjoy letting the story warm up first?

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Query Process--Part II

I promised a list of query writing resources, so here are some websites that give guidelines and examples: (this one has a couple of samples) (this one has a good list of "do nots") (just examples of ones that worked)

There are gobs of books out there, too:

The Writers Market

The Writers Digest Guide to Query Letters

Your Novel Proposal from Creation to Contract

AND THEN, when you have that query perfected, a couple of invaluable websites for finding an agent/publisher:

Of course, you can just Google "query letter" and you'll find even more resources than I have listed--way, way more--but these seemed particularly helpful to me.

BTW, I've been plugging away at queries. I've gotten quite a few responses, all of them "no" of course. But, I'm a first-time writer, so I understand this is the way it's going to go. It only takes ONE "yes." Mine will come!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Query Process--Part I

I sat down with intention to gripe about the query process, because, quite honestly, this is my least favorite thing about writing. But, I deleted all that and instead hope to put a positive spin on things.

You see, when I started writing, this is what I thought would happen:
1-I'd write a killer novel, first time through, amazing myself and everyone I know.
2-I'd print off a few copies, send them out to agents and publishers, expecting a rejection or two before finding the one who falls madly in love with my writing and begs to take me on as a client.
3-Walk into Barnes & Noble and stare lovingly at my now-bound book, envisioning the many upcoming book signings where hundreds--nay, thousands--of people would stand in line waiting for a copy with my name emblazoned in permanent marker on the inside cover.

Oh, come now, if you're a writer you know darn well that is what you thought would happen to you!! Admit it.

But, this is what happens in the real world:

1-You write a novel. It doesn't completely stink. You are very proud of yourself--and should be!
2-You let someone else read it. They find gobs of typos, clunky sentences, misused phrases, cliches, and holes in your plot.
3-You are devastated. You convince yourself your test reader is an idiot. Then you realize that you are, in fact, the idiot for thinking you can actually be the next JK Rowling. You pout. You stand over the computer with your trembling finger hovering above the "delete" button.
4-You realize this is your baby, so you hit "save" instead of "delete," grab your hard copy version, sit on the couch, hug it lovingly and apologize for your murderous thoughts, then grab the red pen.
5-You hopefully get your butt into a critique group, or at least (like me) have a large group of very literary friends, preferably some who write themselves. You begin a long string of revise, test read, revise, test read, revise....
6-Eventually, you have a really good, well-edited, tight and fluid final draft.
7-THEN, you somehow condense months or years worth of sweat and tears, heart and soul, into a paragraph or two that will grab the attention of an agent or editor.

You will probably need help with that last one, and despite a brilliantly written query you will most likely receive more rejections than you can keep track of.

Oh, yes, the positive spin you were waiting for:

This process gets easier and easier as you go along. The rejections stop hurting because you realize, as my one friend put it, each rejection is one step closer to acceptance. I have it on good authority that Bryan Davis received 200 rejections before landing his publishing deal. He's now sold MILLIONS of copies of his books. There are literally thousands of successful writers who have been rejected dozens or hundreds of times.

Get help writing your query:
--There are dozens of books and who knows how many websites that give advice and show examples of queries. (I'll work on compiling a list of those resources and include it in my next post.)
--Find a writer who has written a successful query and ask him to help you. This doesn't necessarily mean a published writer. In my last post I wrote about the teaching expertise in writers who have yet to be published. I have a writer friend who is not yet published, but he is a great teacher of the craft of writing and has written query letters that over and over entice agents to ask for sample work. I asked him for help, and after I sent my revised letter an agent actually wrote back and reqested pages!
--Writers conferences always feature classes on query writing, and many local writers groups provide workshops that include this topic.
--Have one of your test readers list what they consider the highlights of your book. It's hard sometimes to be objective about your own work. I've found that writing pitches for other people's work is easier than writing one for my own because I'm not so invested in theirs and can be objective about what should be focused on. Our work is so personal to us, and we often make the mistake of trying to fit everything in. But a query is a teaser--something to just get someone interesting in finding out all that other great stuff in your book.

Well, this has actually made me feel better :). Even though I found writing my query more difficult than writing my book, I've enjoyed the learning process. And I'll keep you all posted on my successes and failures in this area.