Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Magic of Birthdays and Books

First off, I have a post at The Scribblers Cove today, too. Check it out.

Second off, (okay this should probably be first, but it looked better on the page this way) today is Kid D's Seventh Birthday. She woke up expecting magic. You could feel the anticipation in the air, see it in her missing-the-two-front-teeth grin, and taste it in the cake-and-frosting-rich air.

I asked her if she felt older, and she told me,"Yes! My legs are even longer. You can tell, see? My pajamas don't touch my feet like they did last night."

I smiled and smothered a laugh. You don't laugh at seven-year-olds on their birthdays, even if they are amusing.

Kid D's excitement made me think about books and writing. Don't act all surprised. Most things make me think of writing and books because that's how I roll.

Anywho, every time I pick up a book, I'm like Kid D. I expect magic. Not necessarily real magic with spells and wands and elves and such (though that doesn't hurt), but the magic and wonder of fantastic stories and amazing characters. I want to be transported to a new place, time, and setting. I want to feel like I'm seven and grew during the night only to wake up to balloons and cake. All of it for me.

I want to feel the emotions of characters. I want to experience fear, longing, love, adrenaline spikes, and warm fuzzies. I want to live between the covers with the characters.

I want the magic of a book.

What about you? What do you want when you open a book?

Leisha Maw

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's Time For WIFYR!

First off, I'm sending out one final plea for Wren to contact me about her prize from my contest. If I haven't heard from you by the end of the week I may be forced to award your prize to the second place winner so that I don't feel like I'm just sitting on it. *Crossing my fingers that I'll hear from you. Please-oh-please-oh-please!*

Anywho, on to today's post.

It's time!

For what you ask? Only my favorite conference of the year. Well, it's time for registration anyway. We're talking The WIFYR of course!

For those of you who don't speak acronym this is The Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference held June 13-17 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Preregistration is in full swing. This means you should click the link above ASAP. (ASAP btw means after you finish reading my post. Just saying.)

Why should you go to WIFYR? Because this week-long conference offers small classes with amazing authors. Check this out:

Beginning Class-- Sharlee Glenn
Picture Book Class-- Trudy Harris
Picture Book Class-- Kristyn Crow
Illustrator Class-- Kevin Hawkes
Chapter Book Class-- Mike Knudson
Middle Grade Novel-- Claudia Mills
Beginning YA Novel Class-- Emily Wing Smith
Novel Class -- Louise Plummer
Fantasy Class-- Holly Black
Advanced Novelist Class-- Martine Leavitt
Advanced Novelist Class-- Kathleen Duey
NEW! Writer's Boot Camp-- A.E. Cannon
Keynote Speaker-- Ally Condie

AND these guys will be there, too:

Agent-- Mary Kole, Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Editor-- Alyson Heller, Aladdin Books
Editor-- Lisa Yoskowitz, Disney

Can you say fabulous? Are you drooling yet? I am.

So dust off your WIP and go sign up for WIFYR.

Leisha Maw

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quilting a Novel

I recently had a conversation with Jonene Ficklin after we both read a blog post at The Scribblers Cove entitled, Piecing Together A Story. Jonene recalled how foreign quilting had been for her, how overwhelming it was to face a room full of experienced quilting in-laws, and how self conscious she'd been with her unpracticed hand.

I couldn't help smiling as I thought back to my youth. I grew up in a family with a rich quilting heritage. My mother quilted. My grandmother quilted. We probably quilted back to Adam.

For my wedding present my grandma hand-pieced a quilt out of scraps she'd gathered over the years--slices of my mother's baby clothes, dresses my grandmother wore--parts of her life really. The pattern came from her head and years of practice. My mom put the quilt up in our front room, and the gathering began.

Grandma put her last stitches in my quilt. My younger sisters put their first. Neighbors stopped by to add their part. Even my dad and brothers stabbed needle and thread through the fabric for me with clumsy love.

My stitches are mingled with my family's and friends' old and young. Some of the stitches are even and straight, marching across the colorful fabric like disciplined soldiers. Others are as crooked as my grandmother's fingers had become. Some are as fat as baby cheeks. They all tell a story. One I treasure.

As I stroke the fabric and run my fingers along the beautiful designs, I not only see the flowers and patches of color making up the overall picture, I see the faces of these women (and my dad and brothers) who took the time to sit, sew, and visit as I entered a new world.

If writing really is like quilting as the post at The Scribblers Cove suggests, and I very much think it is, what role do the quilters play? They aren't the author. They didn't create the design. My grandma gathered every piece of fabric and sewed the quilt together. She arranged the pattern and provided the materials. She chose the plot, the setting, and the characters. Her hands created the quilt, but it wasn't done yet.

Here is a pic of an infant quilt of mine. It's really just the idea of a quilt. A bunch of pretty thoughts waiting to be drafted into a whole.

Here is a pic of an older one I'm working on. It looks like a quilt, but it's not. It is just the quilt top--all the pretty colors and the design.

It's a novel about to become a real book. But it has rough edges.

And it's missing something--the team of quilters who would finish it. The critiquers, the editors, the support staff. It lacks the polishing that comes with each new stitch and backing and batting and binding and such.

Could my grandma have finished my quilt on her own? Yes, but it would have taken much, much longer, and it would lack the richness of all those varied stitches that mean so much to me. So, as a writer I suggest we all embrace the work and effort of all those critiquers, editors, beta readers, and revisions. They transform your quilt top into a treasure.

Are you quilting today?

Leisha Maw

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spiders And Other Poisonous Habits

A couple of nights ago I sat down on the couch with Kids A and D to read, chat, and watch for my hubby to come home. It was relaxing until Kid A saw a spider on the couch.

I told her to kill it.

Being a brave young woman, she got some tissue and bent in for the death strike. Then she paused and calmly said, "Mom, it's a Black Widow."

We all vacated the couch in a speedy manner--a very speedy manner.

I told Kid A not to kill it. Some jobs you just can't have a kid do, and poisonous spider slaying calls for adult action. And something more deadly than a tissue. I grabbed the hairspray (yes, hairspray) and doused the intruder with it. Several times. You try escaping (or attacking someone) when your whole body is covered in hardening glue.

Needless to say, the evil interloper didn't take kindly to her full-body drenching and tried to crawl behind the couch. Kid A yanked it (the couch not the spider) away from the wall, and I reapplied the hairspray. Then I did it again several more times. We poked the spider into a mason jar with a pencil, sealed the jar, and put it on the front porch for disposal.

I'm still a little freaked about sitting on the couch. I may have to move every stick of furniture in the house, vacuum under/in/around them all with one hand on the vacuum and the other on the hairspray, and then shower (again) just to get the heebie jeebies to leave me alone.

What does this have to do with writing? A whole heck of a lot. All of us have spiders lurking in our pages or hiding as bad habits. It could be procrastination hanging out on the couch waiting to sink its fangs into you. Or it might be over-confidence and pride that keeps you from heading back to your manuscript for another round of revisions. It may even be doubt that builds its sticky web and entangles you before you can get going.

All of these, and so many more, are camouflaged against our writing couches. If we don't search them out with hairspray in hand, they will bite us. Ouch.

What spiders are you going to pursue and kill today? I'm going searching for distractions, and boy will they be sorry. Will you be a spider slayer today? Enjoy the hunt.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Versatile Blogger--Who Me?

Donea Lee over at The Queen Of Procrastination gifted me the Versatile Blogger award!

How cool is that? Thanks so much Donea!

So, according to the rules I now need to tell you seven things about myself. The problem is, I couldn't come up with seven things that didn't sound really boring, you know, stuff like: I love fuzzy slippers and cinnamon gum. So, I called my sister and asked/forced her to come up with seven things for me.

Here is how it went:

Me: Tell me seven things about me.
Her: What?

Me: For my blog.
Her: Seriously?

Her: Alright, you're funny.
Me: Okay. But looks aren't everything, you know.

Her: You never give up.
Me: Stubborn and pig-headed. Check.

Her: That's not what I meant.
Me: Stubborn. Double check.

Her rolling her eyes, and yes, I can hear this over the phone. Like my hubby, she has very loud eye rolls.

Her: You're an artist.
Me: Um, I'm not going to lie on my blog.

Her grinning: Whatever. Let's see, you're awesome.
Me: Didn't we just discuss the lying thing? And that isn't a thing, it's a state of being like on Kung Fu Panda. And I might charge for awesomeness...if I had any. Which is probably why I don't.

Her rolling her eyes more.
Me turning down the volume on my phone.

Her: You are a great cat smuggler.
Me: Ahh, those were the days.

Her: You're a good listener.
Me: ........

Her: Leisha?
Me: ........

Her: Hello?
Me: What? Did you say something? I was thinking about smuggling cats.

Her: Never mind. How many more do we have?
Me: One. I knew seven would be too hard.

Her laughing.
Me not listening because I'm good at that.

Her: You're imaginative.
Me: If by that you mean I spend most of my time off-planet and delusional, you're right.

So, now you know these earth-shattering details about me. (Note: Leisha is in no way responsible for any and all therapy bills incurred as a result of reading this, or any, post. Thank you.)

Now on to some fab peeps I want to pass this award on to. And it was so hard to narrow it to just these few. Really. :)

Debbie at Cranberry Fries
Mary at Writer's Butt Does Not Apply To Me
L.T. at Dreams Of Quill and Ink
All the great writers at The Scribblers Cove
Susan at Ink Spells

Thanks again, Donea!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Attending Your Own Viewing

First off, I still haven't heard from Wren about her prize in my contest. Wren, if you are out there, please send me an email at Thanks!

On to today's post. (Aren't you just trembling with anticipation?)

Over the weekend my parents were invited to attend a surprise viewing for a dear friend. Why was this a surprise? Well, for two reasons: this friend was still living, and she didn't know about the somber event.

Let me explain. Her hubby, who is a practical jokester, decided to go all out for his wife's fiftieth birthday. And by all out, yes, I do mean he staged his own wife's viewing as a surprise.

She came home to find the house decorated for a funeral. A real casket loomed in the front room. Pictures chronicling her life stood on easels around the house. A register book lay ready for guests to sign in and give their condolences. And large funeral arrangements of flowers--dead flowers--surrounded the casket. To top this all off, a sign sat by the front door that read, Please enter with reverence. And a companion sign inside the house read, Please join us in mourning Cindy's youth.

How did this remarkable woman handle this? With grace and humor. She sat beside the casket as the guests arrived and went through the funeral receiving line. She smiled and laughed as she accepted black-wrapped gifts and black balloons. She didn't even cart her hubby out of the house in the casket.

What does this have to do with writing? And, yes, it really does have something to do with it, I promise.

As a writer, you have to be willing to attend your own viewing sometimes. Well, your manuscript's viewing anyway. And just like how my mother's friend wasn't dead yet, it might not be time to actually bury the thing, but you may need to sit back and listen with a smile as friends and strangers stop by to review it.

The best thing about this is, most viewers/critiquers will have some great things to say about your manuscript's life. They will also have some less happy things to remember, and since you still have time left before it enters the coffin, you can fix those problem areas. True it can be a little awkward to still be living at your own viewing, but what an opportunity! It's like you get to cheat death and rewrite your manuscript's life. How great is that?

Have you learned to accept critiques with grace and humor? Are you ready to attend your own viewing? I am.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jumping, Pillows, and Writing

Recently I took Kid A shopping. During the expedition I may, or may not, have been acting a little strangely. She grinned at me and said, "Mom, all the voices in my head and I agree, you're crazy."

I laughed because it was funny, and because like me, my daughter has stories living in her head. And yes, when you are a writer you do talk to the characters. And because I may indeed be crazy--in a good way. I hope. And yes, I can start sentences with and if I want to. And I do.

This got me thinking (Kid A, not a plethora of ands) about some of the strange/insane/fun things I did when I was a kid. Here's one:

I grew up with six siblings, and we didn't have television. This translated into long days filled with adventure. Once we decided it would be great fun to climb to the top of our one-and-a-half story house and jump off the roof onto a pillow. Yes, a pillow. What can I say, we were brilliant.

My parents got wind of the idea and slaughtered it because they were (and are) good parents. They declared the roof off limits. We moaned and complained then came up with a grand new plan. The roof may have become a no-man's land, but the house had windows. A lot of them. And yes, we really were that brilliant.

We positioned our pillow in the grass, fluffed it once or twice, because we all knew the value of a poofy pillow, and raced to an upstairs window. We all preceded to jump, single file, like a bunch of lemmings onto one increasingly flat pillow.

It was awesome--at least until Mom and Dad found out and jumping from the window onto pillows joined the black list. What did we do then? We moved the trampoline under the window. Yup, didn't I mention brilliant?

What does this have to do with writing? Way more than you think. Really.

Writing, especially submitting to agents and editors, is a lot like jumping out of a high window onto a pillow. It's exciting and feels dangerous. It may even be a little crazy. Sometimes you end up with a few bruises, but the experience is so worth it. And like prepping the pillow before we jumped, revising, revising, and revising can help your landing be less jarring. As time goes by, you even learn to pull the trampoline under the window.

Here's to jumping!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Grind, A Plop, and A Lot Of Smoke--And Inflicting Pain

How did your New Years go? Ours went off with a bang...or maybe I should say a grind, a plop, and a lot of smoke. Here's how it went down.

First Hubby's car started making a horrible grinding sound. You know the kind that means your car just became roadkill, and you immediately see an image of yourself as a Flintstones character followed closely by dollar signs. Lots of them.

But we weren't smiling.

And we don't have a dinosaur for a pet. Just saying.

As for the plop, well it was worse than the grind--for Kid B at least, and for my heart. You remember how I blogged about the magic of Christmas and waiting for decades for my disabled sons to get excited? And how it had finally happened? And how happy I was?

Well, Kid B asked for something for the very first time. Ever. He wanted a Mario Cart DS. And that was all. It's the only thing he's ever wanted in fourteen years, and he asked for it every day. A lot. Santa brought it cause he's an old softy.

Kid B had five glorious days with his DS, then it slipped from his fingers and fell with a plop into, you guessed it, the toilet. The evil thing ate it.

We, yet again, shoved a hand down the toilet and retrieved the DS. It now lies in pieces in a bag of rice drying out for a week accompanied by fervent prayers for a miracle.

Kid B feels like this:

Except he's a lot bigger and has more hair. Oh, and more clothes.

I feel worse.

Now on to the smoke. Sigh. Sunday we prepped a chicken to cook while we went to church. I set the oven for 325 degrees and headed out the door. Three-and-a-half hours later we came home and opened the door to billowing smoke. Like this:

But without the flames. Every sad story must have at least one silver lining, that's ours.

One of our kids (probably Kid C cause he often inflicts drama on us) helped us out by cranking the oven to 475. Yup. Smoke and charred chicken. And smell that bonded on a molecular level with every surface in our home. Ug.

Yes, it was that kind of weekend.

What does this have to do with writing? Tons. As a writer you must inflict pain on your characters, loads of it, like some demented torturer obsessed with producing tears and heartbreak.

Why? It helps them. Really it does. It provides challenges for them to overcome, and they morph into a hero right in front of your eyes as they rise above all the pain and suffering. It also creates sympathy. You love them for their pain. (This means you should love me right now. Just saying. He he.)

Think about Katniss, would you love her as much if nothing bad ever happened to her? Or Harry Potter? What if he'd had a great childhood with loving parents, and friends, and magic in his life, and roses, and lots of great food, and a dog, and and and... Well, he'd be boring for one, and not nearly as endearing as the Boy Who Lived.

So, does this make me feel better about my weekend? Yes. A little. After all, who wouldn't want to be compared to awesome characters in some small way? I mean, I can go to the grocery store today and tell some poor, unsuspecting stranger that me and Katniss are buds. (And, yes, the odd looks will be so worth it.) Maybe I will even morph into something wonderful in time. Here's to hoping and overcoming drowned gameboys.


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