Monday, April 26, 2010


We recently returned from Istanbul, Turkey, where I experience the most brilliant marketing I have ever seen. We were walking from the metro to a tram and my daughter desperately needed to use a restroom. Lo and behold, in a small shopping area under a bridge was a large sign in English that said:

Nearly every tourist in the area went into the restroom, happily paying their one Turkish Lira (about 75 cents.)

Now the fact that it was the most unmodern bathroom in all of Istanbul, and my daughter was in tears because she couldn't go (whereby I swore off that toilet for the rest of our lives) is irrelevant...because they already had our money.

The relevance is: words. They knew EXACTLY what to put on that sign to bring everyone through the door.

And. It. Worked.

Now if only I could figure out the right words to turn my mg novel into a million dollar bathroom sign idea.

Friday, April 16, 2010


“Wishes aren’t that easy. No. They’re filled with pain and strife.
Real wishes have to be that. Or we’d wish away our life.”

When the Snake first said that to Abby in my 2nd middle grade novel, I hated him. Because I wanted life to be easier for her.

And because he was right.

I think of his words every time I'm stuck in a rewrite that’s going nowhere. Every time I receive another rejection letter from an agent or publisher. Every time another military move forces me to say goodbye to my friends, reminding me I’m an isolated writer in a foreign country… again.

Sometimes his words motivated me. Teach another writing workshop in the school. Seek out another critique group. Start a picture book… new play… YA novel. Scoop up letters, pour them into words and make nowhere become somewhere.

Other times his words made me wonder if I was wishing away my life.

So I make a choice every day. I sit at my computer, snap open the lid, and decide if I’m going to be a writer. And every day I resolve that, even if I am wishing away my life, I would rather be doing it by crafting stories than anything else.

I'm not naive enough to believe that, out of the millions of books, I'll write a story that no one has written before. But I am hopeful enough to believe no one has written it like me.

So I wish.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Going to the Grocery Store

I have a pretty embarrassing secret to tell. It's sort of pathetic. No, it's really pathetic. But I don't mind if you laugh at me because I frequently laugh at myself.

So here it is:

Sometimes I go to the grocery store so someone recognizes me.

We've lived in our new home for slightly less than four months, and I only know two people outside of my family: the neighbor next door, and the lady who carries out my groceries.

Now I could tell you all sorts of true facts about communication barriers since I don't speak German, record cold spells that kept everyone buried in their homes for months, and my own sort of pleasant but somewhat antisocial personality...but it would all ring like some lousy excuse. Because the truth is, I haven't tried very hard to meet anyone.

You can't make excuses like that about your writing. Not if you want to be good, anyway.

You have to do more than go to the grocery store. You might even have to attend a conference.

I don't usually enjoy conferences. I definitely cringe at the money it costs to attend. I'm really uncomfortable in forced social situations.

But I can honestly say I've learned something extremely valuable at every single conference I've attended, and I try to think of them as an investment toward the retirement of my label as un-agented, un-published author.

What are you doing to get past your excuses?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Something Amazing

Most of my life over the last 10 years has been hurry up and wait.

Hurry to finish my degree, but wait to get a job until we're settled. Hurry to move and settle, but wait to really settle because we're moving again in a year. Hurry to write something well, but wait while the queries decide your fate.

It feels like I'm the bike riding kid in The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible asks him what he's waiting for and the kid says...

"I don't know. Something amazing, I guess."

The kid is a waiter. A patient.

There is a difference between the two.

A waiter looks around waiting for something to happen. They are the secondary characters in our stories who are forgotten as soon as the page turns or the frame ends. They are the people who spend their lives watching everybody else do something amazing.

Patience has a point. It is selected work on our stories and targeted queries to the right agent or publisher. It is smart choices about our work and our lives. And sometimes it's drinking three cups of coffee and forcing myself to sit still, to test if I can really do it:)

But most of all: It. Is. Work.

So I am tossing out my hurry up and wait life, and I'm trading it for one that is patient.

Which are you?