Monday, September 24, 2007

Travel Writing

Most successful writers, it has been said, have a system. We schedule writing into our week -- an hour a day; 1000 words a day plus research on Tuesdays; three mag. submissions per week -- or whatever our personal system is. My personal writing time generally coincides with the hours when I'm not at my "day job" - so that means I do a lot of my writing late at night on my "work-days." But it also means I really do most of my literary work on Mondays and Tuesdays when I have "off."

And yet there are times when life just plain interferes with my writing schedule. There are sick days, weddings, children's birthday parties, second honey-moons, family reunions, kids' soccer games and other truly important life priorities.

So, how do we work our writing time around such important events? I think one good way is "travel writing." No. I'm not talking about the type of writing where you take a trip to Tahiti and then sell your musings about great bed and breakfasts there to some travel and tourism magazine. (Although that does sound like fun!) But, nope. I'm talking about taking the writing life with you when you travel.

For example, this past week I had to drop all of my plans t0 hop on a plane and fly 4 states over for an unexpected funeral. Now, of course it was extremely important for me to be at the funeral. I was sad about the person who died, and also glad to be with many people I love in the days before and after the funeral proceedings. And yet there was also another emotion on the fringes as I hurriedly packed for the trip. You see, I was frustrated to have my return flight home taking up my entire Monday -- my writing day -- and one that was particularly important this week because I had planned to spend it preparing for the SCBWI Carolina's writing conference coming up next weekend.

So, in order to live both important lives at the same time, I chose to take my writing life on the road.

I packed the things I'd need for the funeral weekend in my checked suitcase, but stashed my laptop with charger and my newest copy of Writer's Digest magazine in my carry-on. I scheduled a flight that would get me there and home again in plenty of time to be present for all of the important events related to the life tragedy -- yet I also carefully chose a flight with a 2 hour lay-over in Atlanta. Lay-overs are what I call built-in writing time! So, I read my Writer's Digest on the plane on the way there, and finished it up several days later, on the way back. And I came away with a list of new publishers to query, new things to add to this blog, and new ways to market my work. (You really should check out the October edition - it's full of great stuff again this month!).

I also jotted some new story ideas in the magazine margins in between airplane peanuts and turbulence, and I wrote out a 1-sentence synops for my current novel -- in preparations for that up-coming conference. Then, during that lay-over in Atlanta, I gulped down a piece of pizza, stationed myself in the corner with my laptop, and type, type, typed on my novel until it was time again to board. Later, as we prepared to land from the last leg of my journey, I thought about what I would write in this blog entry, and I realized once again that I am a BIG, BIG fan of "travel writing."

Finding time to write can require both flexibility and creativity. And sometimes (dare I say it?)things happen in life that are more pressing than writing. Yet, thanks to the beautiful thing I call "travel writing," I'm still prepared and excited for this weekend's conference!

So, what about you? What techniques are you using to take your writing life with you to those soccer games, anniversary weekends, and other "more pressing than writing" events?

(There will soon be an option for adding comments below each post in this blog in addition to the "friendly notes of hello" section in the lower left that is currently active. For now, feel free to post in the lower left.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Writers' Conference Tool Kit (What to Bring)

Friends I met at My first Writer's Conference. Washington DC. 2006.

So, first we had the Top 10 Things NOT to do at a Children's Writers' Conference. Now, by popular demand, and based on the last two (AKA - also the first two) writer's conferences I have attended, here is the promised list of Things to bring to a Children's writers' conference.
If I had known these things at my first conference I'd definitely have been a lot less nervous! So, with no funny business this time, here they are in order of importance:

TOP 10 Things to Bring to a Children's Writers' conference

1.) You. Awake, and energetic.
So, for you introverts out there -- Yes, I'm one too -- I'm here to tell you, you will need your people-meeting face on for the conference. Networking is what it is all about - no wall-flowering. You will spend much of the day meeting other cool authors, editors and agents, and I have learned that in the publishing world connections or "who you know" can make all the difference.

2.) Comfortable Professionalish Outfit.
Yes, this means whatever clothing makes you feel like a professional author; like a person that other people will want to do business with -- aka to publish you or to want to be in your critique group, etc. NOTE: If you're not comfortable, you won't look professional. Plus you'll be doing a lot of walking. I wouldn't recommend pajamas or formal evening wear. Many people will dress business casual - for some that's more casual than others - some people wear jeans. Be yourself, and remember to layer - conference centers tend to be cold.

3.) Shoulder Tote Bag (or for the men, the manly equivilant:))
There will be a lot of things to collect at the conference - publishers book lists -- and those are heavy -- business cards & books you buy that were written by the presenters, etc. Trust me, two hands will NOT be enough, especially when you're holding coffee too.

4.) Notebook and pen (You'll want to take notes)

5.) A watch.

You'll be changing classes, er, sessions, just like you did in High School. And you don't want to miss anything good, (like Ian Sands' presentation at the upcoming SCBWI Carolinas Conference) by being too long in line at the bathrooms!

6.) A 1-2 Sentence Summary (in your head only) of what your current book is about.
This is because people may ask you, and you want to be able to rattle it off quickly, like a pitch -- not to editors trapped on the elevator, mind you, just to whoever asks. Make it short and theme related. Here's an example Tolkien could have used: "My book, the Lord of the Rings, tells the story of how a young hobbit, with help from an unusual group of friends, chooses to sacrifice his future to save the world from an evil sorceror." Now, Tolkien's pitch could have included "...who controls others through a magic ring," but generally shorter is better.

7.) Business Cards
These should contain whatever contact info. you want strangers, editors, agents, and fellow
writers to have about you -- email, phone, name, what writing organizations you are a member of, etc. You can get business cards cheap online -- search "business cards," or make your own on the computer. Cards are not a conference requirement, but they do make it easier to market yourself to new folks you meet. Make the card reflect who you are.

8.) Cash + Checkbook or credit card.
Coffee, books, cool writerly stuff -- these all are optional purchases, but very fun, & significantly less fun with no money.

9.) Knowledge of the Presenters
This really should have been earlier on the list! It's a good idea to check the websites of the presenters -- or their publishing houses if it's an editor -- before the conference, so that you know what they're known for, & what genre's they are interested in. This will save you from embarrassing conversations like the one I saw several writers having at my first conference. The writers were griping about an agent-presenter and an editor-presenter who were apparently late. Alas, it was that very agent and editor they were talking to at that moment, but they didn't know it, because they'd never gone to their websites to see their photos! Embarrassing.

10.) Confidence
Really this should be # 1. If you don't believe you're a writer, a sellable writer, with a truly great book -- well then, my dear, no-one else will believe it either. So, be confident. You're great! Act like you know it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I've been tagged!

So, Karen Lee (the excellent author/illustrator) tagged me with a meme. This means that I'm supposed to write 8 things people might not know about me, and then tag other friends to do the same. Alas, Karen and I have a number of the same friends so I will have to try not to tag any of them again!

The meme rules: each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names (see below), then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

So, here's my meme list -- 8 things about me:

1.) This is the Siletz Public Library, my childhood haunt. By 4th grade I'd read most of the books in the kids' section and was sifting through the dusty stacks in the adult room for something fun to read. Alas, last year they tore it down to build a new and "better" library. Luckily I got there early enough to capture this memory.

2.) My "Fav" books during that life-stage were the Black Stallion books, the Narnia books, and the hardback Nancy Drews.

3.) I can only tell North, South, East and West when the sun is rising or setting. Therefore, I have been lost in more places than most people have been :) -- and I have photos to prove it!

4.) I almost always drink chocolate milk for breakfast.

5.) As a kid I wanted to be a tight-rope walker. I practiced for months on a thin rope my dad patiently strung several feet off the ground between the wash-line poles. I could run across that thing `like pippi longstocking on a rooftop' -- Arms out...side-step, side-step, side-step... taadaa!

6.) At age 15, a friend and I were chased through a swamp by a black bear at night. Some of our clothes are still in the swamp today.

7.) I spent 6 weeks in Russia separated from my passport in the early 1990s. (Passport, Officer?, what passport?)

8.) I have flown an airplane, studied braille, babysat pet cockroaches and dyed my hair pink. (Ok - so one of these things isn't true. You decide.)

And though some of my bloggerly friends (listed to the left) have already been tagged, I will add three more:

Joan of the journey

George Kulz


Kari(a)n the Librarian

And one friend I'd like to tag, but can't, because she has a GREAT writer's website but no blog...

Jean "Speck" Lauzier (@ Storycrafters)

Check her out.

Meanwhile, here is a final thought for today: Living interesting lives gives writers more fodder for writing interesting books. Therefore, like the old childrens' book title says: Choose your own adventure. (And make it worth re-telling).