Sunday, February 27, 2011

Microfiction Monday: The Tooth Fairy's New Line

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the world's best meme, coming to you from Susan at Stony River. One of the highlights of a dangerous writer's week. Enjoy.

In this economy, even the Tooth Fairy moonlighted. "Designing costumes for Oscar's fine, but spending so much moolah for the promos! Oy!" (137 characters)

Yes, folks, they're giving away those little golden statuettes tonight. I'll be gawking at the tooth fairy's latest creations, and applauding for The King's Speech. So, if you don't hear from me tonight, you know why.

Thanks to all of you who visit and comment. I look forward to reciprocating within the next day or two.
Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Prizegiving Day

And the winners are...

I wish I could give each one of you partygoers a prize for your AWESOMENESS. Many of you commented numerous times, and I learned a lot about you. In fact, to a man and woman, you are all brilliant.

I enter a boatload of giveaways on the internet, and hardly ever win. So I know what it feels like when doesn't pick your number. To all of you, you are all winners in my book.

But here is what did come up with. If each winner would e-mail me ( a mailing address, I'll get your prize in the mail a.s.a.p. (If I don't hear from you within a week, I'll do a redrawing.)


A Writer's Paris: Middle Grade Ninja
Bill Cameron's "Day One": Dan Ploy
Writer's Workshop in a Box: Linda O' Connell
Heart of a Shepherd: Charlie Pulsipher
Sell Your Novel Tool Kit: Morning AJ
The Pocket Muse: Lisa Ricard Claro
April Henry's "Girl Stolen": Suz

Thank you all, once again, for participating. This is me, catching up on sleep for the rest of the weekend:

Craft Book of the Month: February 2011 "Beginnings, Middles & Ends"

(Hey, it looks like they're issuing a new edition of Nancy Kress's book, available on my birthday, March 21. Universe, are you trying to tell me something?)

Okay, so we've come to "The End." The culmination of the promise of your beginning and the gathering complexity of your middle. Nancy Kress: "We can just feel these forces gathering... Something has to give. Then a peaceful compromise is found and the story is over. Huh? Well, why? Aren't compromises sometimes found in real life?... Why can't a story end that way? Because your story showed us forces in opposition to each other. Forces we expected to see collide in some way: quietly in a quiet story, noisily in a more dramatic one. But a collision of some sort we surely must have. You promised."

This collision is the story's climax. Kress says the climax must achieve four things:
  1. The climax must satisfy the view of life implied in your story
  2. The climax must deliver emotion
  3. The climax must deliver an appropriate level of emotion (for e.g. a quiet domestic drama that ends with the character blowing out his brains won't work because it will feel contrived.)
  4. The climax must be logical to your plot and your story (and end not with the arrival of some new, outside force "deus ex machina"; nor with a coincidence.)
Here's her litmus test for the right ending: "Ask yourself this question: If my protagonist were a radically different person, would this story still end the same way? The answer should be NO." As she goes on to say, in a plausible climax, the "choice fits with the protagonist's character, not the author's plot needs."

Friday, February 25, 2011

So Long... And Thanks for Coming

I had the choice of overfilled ashtrays or fallen bottles, so I just had to go with the munchkin. Yes, it's been a whole 7 days of partying here at The YoWD and, as any party marathon host will tell you, it's been hard work but oh so gratifying. I have LOVED all of your comments and I look forward to awarding prizes tomorrow. Thanks to all of you who stopped by.

Final Question of the Day: If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?

Final Prize of the Day:

April Henry is a friend and neighbor of mine (our kids went to the same schools) and I am meeting her for lunch today so she can sign a copy of her latest YA novel for one of you lucky commenters. Here's what one of my fave agents, Mary Kole, says about Girl Stolen on her blog:
I’m a huge fan of April Henry’s writing. In this gripping, thrilling YA, she takes on a challenge that most writers would easily shy away from: her narrator is a blind girl. What does that mean? It means that there’s some masterful, unexpected description in this book. What else? It’s really easy to ratchet up the stakes and tension. What happens to our dear blind girl? Does she enjoy a nice sit, safe on a couch somewhere? Bad news: she’s kidnapped. Worse yet: she’s sick. And did I mention she’s blind? Reading GIRL, STOLEN is like a three-hour-long anxiety attack, and I loved every minute of it. Read this for a very elegant lesson in pacing and tension…and to see how a writer fares when her powers of visual description are taken away.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I said "Snow Party," not "No Party."

(Here's what you get when you google "Snow Party")

The meteorological mavens are all quacking about snow today in Portland. Those of you who live in true wintry climes will all laugh when I tell you that the city comes to a juddering halt if more than an inch of snow falls. It is truly apocalyptic. Highways are jammed for HOURS (thank God you and I live on the information super highway!) Schools are shuttered. The airport is a barren wasteland. [UPDATE: The mavens were right. An inch of the white stuff has fallen overnight. No school. No peace.]

But we at the YOWD are chill. We can hardly get chiller. So, in that spirit, who is your favorite author writing today? For whom would you stand for hours in snow, ice, or freezing rain to inscribe the fly-leaf on your recently purchased book? (That's yet another thing I'll miss when "real" books are no more, and it's all e-books all the time: having an author inscribe.)

Today's Prize: A comment gets you the chance to win "The Pocket Muse," by Monica Wood:

From the review on Amazon:
According to Monica Wood, every writer needs two critics: one who offers unconditional praise and another who tells only truth. Wood's Pocket Muse does both--"on some pages you get a pat on the head, on others a kick in the seat"--and more. Every page of this pretty little book is devoted to helping you "jumpstart a writing session, inspire confidence, or strengthen your resolve." There are intriguing writing exercises, thought-provoking photographs, offbeat quotations from writers, enticing unfinished sentences, mini writing lessons, quirky word lists, stories from the writing trenches, and a generous dose of encouragement. "Write about a noise--or a silence--that won't go away," Wood suggests. "Someone has left a note on a car windshield," she offers. Books of this sort are often forced, or cute, or more about spirituality than writing. Not The Pocket Muse. It is a lively, appealing companion for a writer in need of a good nudge. --Jane Steinberg

(Today's usual "Craft Book of the Month" will post on Saturday, as I've been too busy partying the week away.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blogoversary Party Day 5: Expose Yourself to Art

Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party
(I just wanted to have this beautiful painting on my blog)
And they are partying, more than boating...

Expose yourself to art. That was the catchphrase of Bud Clark, the mayor of Portland when I came to live here in 1990.

That's the mayor himself, being true to his word, in his pre-mayor days. So, here's the question of the day: if you weren't a writer, what other art would you practice? Perhaps you already practice it. I'd love to hear about it.

Prize of the day: (Leave a comment and you'll be in the draw)

From Amazon: In this book, Elizabeth Lyon offers novelists the wisdom of her experience as an author, book editor, writing instructor, and marketing consultant. Step-by-step, she details what editors want, what questions to ask them, and how to develop a marketing strategy.

About the Author: Elizabeth Lyon (an Oregonian) has been a contributing writer to Writer's Digest and is a mentor, editor, and teacher for many writers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today's Giveaway: A signed copy of "Heart of a Shepherd"

At least Charlie Pulsipher does. And I'm always pleased to oblige.

I'm very excited about today's giveaway. Rosanne Parry is in my critique group and she is awesome. I have a signed copy of her debut novel, Heart of a Shepherd,  to give to one lucky commenter.

Here's what  Kirkus had to say about Heart of a Shepherd:

Sixth-grader Ignatius—he goes by “Brother”—faces a hard year as his father is deployed to Iraq, and he, the youngest of five boys, is left with his aging grandparents to manage the family ranch in Oregon. The episodic presentation, with each chapter a vignette from one of the months his father is gone, effectively portrays the seasonal changes of farm life. The spare, evocative language of his first-person narration immediately captures readers’ interest and never falters in describing a year in the life of this eminently likable boy trying hard to be the man of the house, facing up to one believable challenge after another. From raising orphaned lambs he names after hobbits to delivering a calf to rescuing a farmhand and the stock from a raging prairie fire, each event moves Brother toward a new sense of his own emotional strength. At once a gripping coming-of-age novel and a celebration of rural life, quiet heroism and the strength that comes from spirituality, this first novel is an unassuming, transcendent joy. (Fiction. 10 and up)
All you have to do is be/become a follower and leave a comment. Now, back to the dance floor...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dance Party Time

I promised you some dancing. Today is for elegance; tomorrow we'll really let down our hair. But for now, ponder today's question: Which writing/agent/editor blog is a must-read for you?

Today's Prize: (All you need to do is be/become a follower of this blog. Then leave a comment in the comments section. It's as simple as that.)

"The Writer's Workshop in a Box" which includes:

           - The Art of Writing, a book to get writers started
Writers Workshop In A Box: The Ultimate Tool to Begin Your Writing Life
          - thirty cards presenting daily exercises for the writing life
          - an exquisite blank book with a pen
The Art of Writing is a course book that addresses writing techniques as well as root problems every writer encounters: creative blocks, getting started but not finished, uneven writing, lack of confidence, uncontrollable plots, and ill-defined characters. Each "class" endows the writers with skills to overcome these problems, and provides writing tips that can be applied to both fiction and nonfiction. The book contains lessons that draw on the expertise of some of the great masters of creative writing:
- Dorothea Brande (author of Becoming a Writer)
- Eric Maisel (author of Deep Writing and Affirmations for Artists)
- Julia Cameron (author of The Artist's Way, The Vein of Gold, and The Right to Write)
The Writer's Workshop in a Box is the ideal gift for every budding writer and an effective way to inspire new authors to embrace their art and career. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Microfiction Monday: Ewan's Choice

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the world's best meme, coming to you from Susan at Stony River. One of the highlights of a dangerous writer's week. Enjoy.

"One door to dullness, one to decadence, one to despair. Which will you choose, Ewan?"

"None, Father. I choose the last door. To delight." (139 characters)
(If you too would choose the door to delight, please take a moment to join my anniversary blog party at the post below. I want to thank all you microfictioneers for helping make my first year of blogging such a delightful one.)

Thanks for your comments. I look forward to reciprocating within the next day or two.

Sunshine! We're now having a GARDEN Party

(This was the weather in Portland yesterday)

I think you'll all agree there's nothing nicer than partying al fresco. (And, at least when it's a virtual party, you can party like this in Oregon in February.)

This is what the blog party looks like today. Look who dropped by:

YOWDers, we're in exalted company

I was on my best behavior for a couple of minutes (did you like the red hat?). But Her Majesty is always busy, even when bloghopping. So now the scene looks like this:

Wow. You guys look spectacular. Thanks for stopping by. Here's the Question of the Day: What are you reading right now? (Novel, nonfiction, magazine, appliance instructions.)

And the Prize of the Day: (All you need to do is be/become a follower of this blog. Then leave a comment in the comments section. It's as simple as that.)

Born and raised in southern Oregon farm country, Ellie Spaneker flees her home and abusive husband, unaware she's being tracked by an ex-cop in the hire of her vengeful father-in-law. In Portland, retired homicide detective Skin Kadash fills his idle days drinking coffee and searching for Eager Gillespie, a teen runaway of special interest as the only witness in a troublesome and long-unsolved murder. Eager, meanwhile, is on his own, grifting and oblivious to the danger he's in.
Bill Cameron lives in Portland, Oregon. His previous novels are Lost Dog and Chasing Smoke.

Good luck, and I'll see you here, same time same place, tomorrow!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Happy Anniversary. It's PARTY Time!

Wow! Sparkly lights! If you're here for the blog party, you're at the right place. First of all:

A Very Big
 Thank You
for making this first year at The YOWD such a great one.

(And now I've done shouting.)

But seriously, the past 12 months have been a blast. I've gotten to know so many wonderful and talented people from all over the globe. I've learned a lot about the craft AND the business of writing. So, each day for the next 7 days, I'm going to be giving you the chance to win a present.

All you need to do is be/become a follower of this blog. Then leave a comment in the comments section. It's as simple as that. 

(And since all good parties are about good conversations, especially among writers, I'd love for you to also consider answering the Question of the Day.)

Today's Question: If you were marooned on a deserted tropical island, which writer would you choose as your companion? (The writer doesn't have to be famous. If your mother is a great writer, please feel free to want to be marooned with her.)

Today's prize:

Here's the Goodreads blurb:

The symbolic home for creative people everywhere, Paris has been inspiration for countless artists and writers. In this dynamic book, well-loved author Eric Maisel gives writers the guidance they need to take a literal or figurative soul-renewing artistic sojourn in the city of light. It:

*Shares with readers how and why to take a creative visit to Paris
*Provides logistics for those committed to a trip and inspiration for those who hunger for a taste of the expat life
*Features the expert advice of America's foremost creativity coach

Filled with lessons and anecdotes that convey the spirit of the glorious city, this book will inspire anyone to create.
Each day's contest will remain open for the entire week of 2/19 - 2/25. (To give latecomers a chance.) All the daily winners will be posted on 2/26. International entries are welcome.

Raise a toast of your favorite bubbly drink
Here's to us!

Friday, February 18, 2011

You're Invited to a Party

You're invited to The YOWD's first anniversary party.

When: Saturday February 19th, starting at 12.01a.m.
Where: This Blog
Dress: Casual. Pajamas are fine.
RSVP: No need. Just come on down.

The party will last a week.
There will be:

(Virtual. Of course you can always eat your own confection at your computer)

Hope to see you there. Let's PAR-TAY!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Craft Book of the Month: February 2011 "Beginnings, Middles & Ends"

The Muddle in the Middle

Nancy Kress begins Chapter 6 by asking if you are one of those writers who finds writing middles exciting. After you've launched your characters and charted your plot, are you skimming across the waves under full sail?

Her answer? "I don't know any of those people. For me, as for many other writers I know, middles represent a genuine psychological problem: We get stuck."

However, if you study part 2 of her book, you will come up with several strategies to do more than muddle through the middle of your novel. You will be able to use the middle "to set up the ending--to make it a plausible, satisfying fulfilment of the implicit promise. The middle does this by clearly dramatizing those forces that will collide at the climax, including any potential character changes."

Kress believes (and I do too) that in fiction your protagonist must undergo a significant change, a change that the reader will buy. To do this, she lists four things that must happen:

Monday, February 14, 2011

That was a Week, that was

I mentioned yesterday that I had an enjoyable writing week. The reasons? Do you remember my post about winning the contest to Skype with agents? If not, you can reread it here. The upshot was that on Friday the 11th, I had a very enjoyable conversation with agents Kathleen Ortiz and Liz Jote.

They call themselves Neoagents, and even have a podcast to prove it. (A neoagent is someone who has been agenting for less than five years and is actively looking to build his or her list.) I found them both to be thoughtful, hilarious, and very personable. So, if you are looking to query a couple of awesome agents, add them to your list.

The other thing that put me in a good mood was that I rewrote my first chapter under the gun, because I wanted to enter it in the Sandy Writing Contest. One of my writing group friends, Cheryl Coupe, came in third place last year in the Children's & YA section, and recommended this contest highly. The deadline was yesterday evening, and I made it with 24 hours to spare. I guess I work well with a deadline in my sights.

Got to get that contest entry in

It has also been a year since my first blog post. Next Saturday I'm hosting a blog party and will be giving away a prize (or even two.) All you'll have to do is be a follower, old or new, and leave a comment. In the meantime, I'll have to get a tech-savvy friend to show me how I can get fireworks to burst on the screen.

I'l be here again on Wednesday to talk about muddled middles. Hope to see you then.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Microfiction Monday: Rufus Flying Solo

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the world's best meme, coming to you from Susan at Stony River. One of the highlights of a dangerous writer's week. Enjoy.

"Well," thought Rufus, waiting for Emma's arrival. "That's the last time I send my picnic invite via carrier pigeon. Next time, I'll tweet." (140 characters)

I've had a great week--plan to post why tomorrow, together with a heads-up about my 1st Blogoversary party (and accompanying contest.) Please stop by, if you have a moment.

Thanks for your comments. I look forward to reciprocating within the next day or two.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Craft Book of the Month: February 2011 "Beginnings, Middles & Ends"

Beginnings: Part 2
It's been a busy week here at The YOWD (that's how I refer to my blog when in a hurry.) I've been posting more than usual, and have been working on my novel's own beginning, using all I've learned from Nancy Kress and the Bransford contest. Phew! I guess it's true what they say: a writer's work is never done.

But let's return to Nancy Kress. After applying all we learned last week we have, as she says, three brilliant paragraphs. Genuine character on the page. Hints of conflict. But, she asks, "what do you want that first scene to accomplish in terms of your story. Put another way, what should be different at the end of the scene from the beginning of the scene?"

Here's her answer:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Which writing magazines do you read?

I just received my March issue of The Writer and devoured it almost immediately. I've been a subscriber for years and, although I could receive it online, I still like the fact that something is coming to my mailbox and I can read it anywhere. March's issue had two brilliant articles, "The Art of the Perfect Sentence," by Janet Tarasovic, which I mentioned a couple of days ago, and a new feature called "First Page." Author Peter Selgin promises to analyze what works and what doesn't in a fiction opening--which is my blog topic for this whole month.

There's also a wonderful piece on writing envy, and an interview with Evan S. Connell (author of Mr. Bridge, Mrs. Bridge, and Son of the Morning Star.) Connell doesn't even have a computer. Egads!

The cover story is on social media. Recurring features spotlight literary magazines and an author's writing modus operandi in "How I Write," which the voyeur in me adores.

Do you read writing magazines? (Magazines focusing on the writing craft, rather than magazines like Ellery Queens, Glimmer Train, or Tin House.) If so, please take a moment to enter my first ever blog poll, and leave a comment if so inspired. I'm very nosy and want to know all about you. Perhaps I should be in marketing rather than this writing gig...?

Happy Monday.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Microfiction Monday: Rupert Brooke's Missing Muse

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the world's best meme, coming to you from Susan at Stony River. One of the highlights of a dangerous writer's week. Enjoy.

Rupert Brooke was pissed. "Stands the town clock near half past two? And is there honey at the zoo?" Where was his muse when he needed her?

Another British-themed one today. English poet Rupert Brooke's "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester," ends famously with "Stands the church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?" I wonder what he'd think of the new variation.

Thanks for your comments. I hope to reciprocate within the next couple of days. Have a great week.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

First Lines to First Paragraphs: NOW would you read on?

A big thank you to hope, BECKY, and Lisa Ricard Claro for your comments on yesterday's post. I think we all agree that none of these lines was particularly sparkling. Nor, for that matter, was the opening line of the wildly popular winner of Nathan Bransford's first paragraph contest: "I was born during an electrical storm."
What these first sentences all have in common, however, is that they are SHORT.

Now, I'm sure many wonderful stories start with LONG sentences. (I'm just too lazy to do the research just now.) But what a short sentence does is anchor the reader. A character ("Priscilla;" "Edith Goodnough") is named; or an "I" narrator comes on board. "Unsolved mysteries," is of course from Agatha Christie, the start of The Thirteen Problems, starring Miss Marple. Agatha Christie gets away with this because she's well, Agatha Christie. She's a "brand" and readers pick up her books expecting to solve puzzles written in (now) old-fashioned prose.

Here's a list of the other openers, and who wrote them.

Friday, February 4, 2011

First Lines: Would you Love 'Em, or Leave 'Em?

This whole first line/first para thing has got me jazzed. So this morning I crept into my lair (a.k.a the study/library/furnace room) and snatched five novels at random off my shelves. Thought I'd test those first line waters on you. Would you read on?

1. "Priscilla lived in a studio apartment."

2. "Unsolved mysteries."

3. Edith Goodnough isn't in the country any more."

The following two are prologues, which many agents claim to hate. (But heck, a whole barge of books open with prologues. I guess they just have to be written well.)

4. "I haven't laid eyes on the island in several years."

5. "It's hard being left behind."

Can anybody guess who the writers are? (I've listed them below. I've kind of cheated, because each of these had either speaker denotations or chapter headings/locations and dates which may have added to you being able to "spot the writer.") And competitive ol' me wants to see if you can guess. There'll be a big old Badge of Honor waiting for the first commenter who gets it right.

Here are the writers. Which lines did they write? Kent Haruf, Dennis Lehane, Audrey Niffenegger, Agatha Christie, and Tom Robbins?

(I'll reveal all tomorrow, and extend each line into a first paragraph. I think you'll find it interesting, in each case, to see what happens.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I'll Have What Nathan Liked

Nathan Bransford used to be one of the most famous agents around. (He's still around, but he's no longer an agent. He gave that gig up at the end of last year.) As an agent, he married internet savvy with a winning personality to create one of those "must-read" blogs. He was approachable, humorous, and always ready to engage writers in conversation through his forums.
Nathan Bransford
(I've always thought he was shouldering a surfboard, but now I see it's just someone's shoulder.)

He also, for the past several years, ran the "Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge" to which I linked yesterday. Today he revealed the winner, along with his comments on what makes a first paragraph work.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Craft Book of the Month: February 2011 "Beginnings, Middles & Ends"

I have long admired Nancy Kress, whom I first read in the pages of Writer's Digest magazine. She writes lucidly and succinctly both in her columns and in our February book choice, Beginnings, Middles & Ends--part of the Elements of Fiction Writing series published by Writer's Digest books.

This book is very topical, given the fact that Nathan Bransford is just finishing up his Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge on his blog (only a few hours left before the polls close, folks. And this time there won't be any of those hanging chads...) Over 1500 writers participated in this, and it is interesting to see the six Nathan chose as his finalists.

Nancy Kress delivers on her title, showing how to launch a successful beginning, craft a powerful  middle, and deliver a satisfying ending. This week, I want to focus on what she says in her first chapter: "The Very Beginning."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February's going to be fabulous!

I'm excited. Big plans are afoot, at least on this blog, for the month of February. While two of my favorite guy bloggers, Robert Kent at Middle Grade Ninja and Matt Rush at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment are taking a short hiatus (they say it's because of their jobs, but I bet they're really off saving the galaxy), I'm determined to fill the void.

I'm pumped about February's Craft Book of the Month. (All will be revealed tomorrow.) Once it's revealed, I plan to blog ferociously, shining the light of what I've learned from this secret book on various published works.

And then there's the anniversary party to plan. Yup, I can hardly believe it: it's been a year since this blog debuted (no, I'm not going to change the name to 'The Decade of Writing Dangerously,' or anything; I like my blog title as is.) During this year I've had a lot of fun, learned a lot, and met stacks of interesting people. So, sometime in the month I'm really going to let down my hair--what's left of it--and have a boogie. There'll be prizes, fireworks, loud music. Neighboring blogs will be calling the police!

So, to leave you with the current favorite characters of all the little guys (sons and nephews) in my life: