Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When Words Aren't Enough

Sometimes words aren't enough. Even for a writer.

My family spent the past weekend at a sports camp for burn survivors and their families. You see, my fifteen year old son is a burn survivor himself. Once you're treated at the Grossman Burn Center, you're a part of their family.

In the early days after my son's burn, I used to hide our invitation to burn camp. My reasons were entirely selfish. I didn't want to spend time with other burn survivors and their families--my son's physical wounds, and my mommy guilt wounds--were way too fresh.

Once my sons were older, I finally shared the invitation with them. Of course they were all over it, and now look forward to burn camp each year.

Funny thing is? I also look forward to it now. Spending time with other burn survivors and their families is the real joy of burn camp.

While at camp, I experienced such gratitude. I'm thankful for the other survivors and their families, who share the unique issues that burn survivors go through. I appreciate that kids and adults alike can walk around with their scars fully exposed, and know that they'll be accepted. I appreciate the open mic sessions after meals, where folks stand up and share how they were burned, and how burn camp has helped them heal.

During the weekend, I often thought about how I could write what camp meant to me, and what the fellowship with other families meant to our family. But the harder I tried to put it into words, the more frustrated I became. Because really, sometimes words aren't enough.

Instead, I set aside my writer brain and simply basked in the emotional journey of burn camp. I stopped trying to find the right words to express what it meant to me, and simply soaked it all in--the healing, the safety, the scars that no one paid attention to.

Here's what I'm learning: sometimes it's therapeutic to write about whatever junk we're going through. I even wrote a post about Writing Through Painful Memories. But sometimes it's ok to just revel in the moment and not be a writer.

What say you, writer friends? Do you ever have moments you've tried to put into words and can't? Do you ever set the writer brain aside and just live in the moment? What moments had such an impact on you? Please share!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

You're the Star of Your Publishing Movie

Quick note! I guest posted over at Adventures in YA Publishing about Creative Stage vs. Analytical Stage. Come check it out and say Hi!

Now on with the regular post...

Imagine this: You're watching a movie. You yawn because everything is going the main character's way. She never experiences conflict. She doesn't encounter a villain or a personal obstacle. She never makes mistakes, and the ending is predictably happy.


Now, imagine this: You're watching a fabulous movie, gasping at the twists, biting your nails when the main character is in a pickle, laughing at the goofy choices she makes, and clapping as the final credits roll.

Better, right? Except when that movie is about our own publishing journey. We'd like to do without the twists, pickles, and goofy choices, thank you very much.

But what if you knew the ending to your publishing movie? What if you knew that the main character--YOU--would victoriously conquer the story goals? Would you have less anxiety? Would you worry less? Would you calmly move from one scene to the next, knowing it would be okay?

I'm here to tell you it'll be okay. How do I know? Because your story isn't over yet. When you encounter frustration in your own publishing movie, try this:

Embrace the Ups and Downs

Each rejection may seem like an obstacle, but it's really a stepping stone. Each request for a partial or full, or each yes from an editor or agent, is a stepping stone as well. Embrace them. They're all part of the journey.

Do What Your Character Would Do

Do you want your main character to snivel? Hide? Back down against the slightest push back? No! you want her to figure out a solution. You want her to fight back. You want her to conquer fears. You want her to learn from her mistakes and then get out there and make fresh mistakes.

Be a comeback kid

In movies, and in books, there's usually an "all is lost" moment. Perhaps you've had one or more of those moments in your own publishing journey. But remember this: usually that "all is lost" moment is right before the character triumphs. Get back up again. Come back strong. All is NOT lost. Your story is not yet over.

Movies with zero conflict are boring. Your publishing movie is not boring at all. When you reach the conclusion, you'll be satisfied because it didn't come easily. You fought against obstacles and internal villains, and wrote your own happy ending.

Have you ever considered your publishing journey as your own personal movie, with you as the main character? Are you the kick-bootie lead? Are you glad your movie is full of twists and turns, or do you wish your path was a little straighter?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Changing Face of YA Literature

Last weekend I was so excited to see my good writer buddy, Lisa Gail Green--author of Soul Crossed, participate in an author panel at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. That bookstore is such a blast! I could've spent the whole day in there.

Anyway, the topic of Lisa's panel was "The Changing Face of YA Literature." Other authors on the panel were Francesca Lia Block, Lissa Price, and Nicole Maggi. It was moderated by Erika Jelinek.

I took a few notes during the discussion. The authors gave really good answers to timely topics. Here's a short summary:

Research shows that about 50% of YA books are read by adults. The authors were asked, "Does this change the way you write?"

Lisa Gail Green--No, it doesn't change the way she writes (thank goodness!). She tells the story that needs to be told. YA writers can be fearless with their choices of topics.

The authors were asked why they think older readers like to read YA books?

Nicole Maggi--Voice. YA books are often about misunderstood teens. These stories take adult readers back to that tumultuous time. It reminds us of what it was like escape into our favorite books.

How do these authors tap in to an authentic teen voice?

Lisa Gail Green--she uses her acting background to insert herself into the role of her characters. She tackles the types of problems real teens face--problems that seem bigger than life, with high drama and strong emotions.

What makes YA books so appealing?

Nicole Maggi--many teens want to be normal, but wouldn't it be cool if they were called to be a super hero? Most people wish they were extraordinary in real life. But if we were called to do that, would we? YA books explore the possibilities.

Diversity in YA books...

Lissa Price--she pointed out that it would be great if the characters' faces in YA books better reflected the faces in the classroom.

(Leslie Rose, Lisa Gail Green, and yours truly)

There was so much great information packed in the short amount of time, and I only scratched the surface. Be sure to click on the author links above. They had some amazing books on display.

What do you think of this topic? What's your opinion on the changing face of YA literature? Or literature and publishing in general?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Invest in What Really Matters #IWSG

Welcome, Insecure Writers! If you haven't yet joined this group, do it here. This group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, is such a valuable community.

As a mom of three teen sons--one a high school senior who's heading off to college this August *wipes tears*--I have a wistful perspective on family, writing, and publishing.

Invest in what really matters.

Yes, the written word matters. Yes, pursuing our publishing dream matters. But nothing, nothing, should take the place of time spent the people who matter most.

I used to pursue writing skills and the publishing path with a vigor and passion that sometimes bordered on unhealthy. I soon realized that writing, or publishing, or sales numbers don't matter much if my family isn't at the top of my priority list. I vowed to write and work on the business side of publishing only while my kids are at school or otherwise occupied. Manuscripts can shouldn't have to.

As my son prepares to graduate from high school, I'm especially nostalgic. One thing I know for sure: I won't have regrets about the amount of time I've spent with him.

Let's write, let's publish, and let's invest in what really matters: the people we love.

Have your priorities ever gone off kilter? If you have kids, how do you prioritize them while also scheduling writing time? If you've had teens leave for college, any advice you can offer this soon-to-be-crazy-sad mom?