Friday, April 18, 2014

There's nothing like....

....getting your author copies! It's so exciting to see Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction in print. Thanks so much to everybody at Pauline Books and Media for making it happen!

Monday, April 7, 2014

New Book Out!

My new book, Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction, is out! This faith-based resource uses fiction to help you talk to 11-14-year-olds about sensitive issues like pornography, cyberbullying, depression, and more. Also included are statistics, Scriptural and Catechism connections, discussion questions, activities, and other helpful features. Get it here!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Coming Soon!

My new book, Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction will be out soon! I wrote this resource for teachers, catechists, parents, homeschoolers, and anybody else who wants help talking about difficult topics with kids 11 to 14 years old. Each chapter uses a reproducible story, discussion questions, activities, scripture references, and other material to show the value of faith in difficult times and sensitive situations. The topics covered are: pornography, cyberbullying modesty, family, body image, materialism, dishonesty, substance abuse,stress to overachieve, and depression. More news later!

Friday, January 17, 2014

7 Things I've Learned So Far

If only I'd known these things when I started my writing journey! (BTW, this article originally appeared on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog.)

      1.      If you’re not sick of what you’re writing then it’s not finished. You don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to believe it, but this is the sad, sad…oh-so-sad truth about writing. A good piece takes more revising than you think you can stand, but you have to do it anyway. Again and again. Of course, it’s helpful to set your work aside for a while to ferment, but then you’ll need to…

2.      Revise again. Sorry! There’s just no way around it.

3.      Procrastinate tomorrow. Write now. You may have heard the story (legend?) about the wealthy patron who visited Michelangelo and found him staring at a huge block of marble. Eventually Michelangelo would create the statue of David from the marble, but at the moment he appeared to be accomplishing nothing. The upset patron demanded, “What are you doing?” Michelangelo replied, “I’m working.” The art of writing takes mental preparation, too, but don’t tell yourself you’re Michelangelo when you’re just stalling around. Start chipping away!

4.      Don’t waste a word. Back story? We don’t need no stinkin’ back story! Jump right into the action and work in any important information as you go along. Keep description to a minimum – just enough to make the story come alive for your readers and no more! Use powerful verbs and ax the adverbs. And make sure every bit of dialogue reveals something important about character and/or advances the plot.

5.      Read your work aloud. Or at least do that whispery thing where you move your lips and pretend you’re reading out loud. That’s one of the best ways to find too-long sentences, awkward phrasing, grammar errors, repetitious word choices, and stilted dialogue. If you have to read something over and over to make it sound smooth then it probably needs work. (See #1 and #2 above.)

6.      “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” That good advice comes from William Faulkner. Samuel Johnson said it another way: “Read over your composition and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” Sometimes you have to look at what you’ve written with a cold eye and a heart of stone. Lovingly crafted scenes, lyrical prose, clever displays of wit, and real-life anecdotes should do more than show off your talent. Painful as it is, you must put the knife to anything that doesn’t also serve the story.

7.      We’re on a journey. And your main character should be, too. Of course, his external journey makes up your plot, but don’t forget the internal journey. If the main character doesn’t have one, then why should readers care about him? And if he doesn’t change in some way by the end of the story, then you don’t actually have a story! Clarify the main character’s personal journey before you even start writing then keep it in mind all through the process. Doing this will help you maintain the focus you need to write something amazing.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Writing Wisdom

I love to read what other writers have to say about writing. Their words can be inspiring, amusing, and even educational. Here are some more quotes from my collection:

"Writing a novel is like making love, but it's also like having a tooth pulled. [And] sometimes it's like making love while having a tooth pulled."  Dean Koontz

"You must write for children in the same way as you do for adults, only better."  Maxim Gorky

"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." Douglas Adams

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."  Richard Bach

"I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries."    Stephen King

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Last Real Christmas

I was too old, I suppose ‑‑ especially by today's standards. Still, I believed. I ignored the other kids' claims about Santa Claus. I thought putting up the Christmas tree was a pleasure, not a chore. When I did have chores, I sang Christmas carols to pass the time. I refused to think of the holidays as anything less than magical.
On Christmas Eve, a sprinkling of snow dusted everything, proving me right. Snow for Christmas! Not so much that Grandma couldn't come over for Christmas dinner tomorrow ‑‑ just enough. Everything sparkled when the streetlights came on. Just before I went to bed, a flock of birds flew away north to give Santa one last report on good boys and girls.
That Christmas Eve, I wore my watch to bed, eager for it to read six o'clock, the earliest time we were allowed to get up. Long after my little sister fell asleep, I lay awake, dreaming. For a while, I knelt in my bed and looked out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of reindeer in the sky. Then when it seemed it must be nearly morning, I pulled up my pajama sleeve and looked at my watch in the glow from the streetlights.
Nine o'clock!
It would be hours and hours till morning!
The watch was still ticking, so I decided it must be running slow. I set it ahead fifteen minutes to compensate, then tried to sleep again.
The next time I checked, it was only nine‑thirty! Obviously, something was seriously wrong with that watch. Again I set it ahead a bit to make up for its slowness.
I don't know how many times I reset my watch that night. Now and then, between my attempts to control time and make Christmas come faster, I nodded off. Once I woke to the sound of what I was sure had been prancing hooves. Another time, as I drifted out of sleep, I thought I caught a whiff of pipe smoke.
Finally, my watch read six o'clock. I slipped out of bed and into my robe and crept out to the living room to turn on the Christmas tree. The mounds of colorful packages, the sparkle of the tree, the quiet magic of the morning made the torture of waiting seem worthwhile.
My parents found me snuggled on the couch, just taking it all in. Of course, they shooed me back to bed since it was only three o'clock in the morning!
It didn't matter. I slept well till my sister pounced on my bed and shook me awake. She was right to be excited, I thought: something beautiful awaited her.
            I think that was the last of the real Christmases:  the Christmases where the tree was like something out of a fairy tale and the wrapping paper covered happiness and hints of magic were everywhere. Eventually, I could no longer deny the truths and practicalities of the holidays.
Still ‑‑ I love a Christmas tree, the secrets of packages, the gathering of family. There's still a bit of magic in every Christmas.
And I don't have to turn back the clock to capture it.