Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Writerly Pearls of Wisdom: Part 2--and Adieu!

Here it is, the culmination of three years of amazing insight, dedication, and utmost humility. (This last attribute is probably the most important for a writer because, if you choose this wonderful writer's life, you are going to have to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.)

As I did yesterday, I leave you with the words of some of my dearest writer pals. And remember, the readiness is all. (Feeling so Hamlety today.)

From Jennifer Rumberger, one of my Marvelous Middle Grade Monday mates:

Never give up. No matter how hard the writing life gets, just keep at it! Also surround yourself with writing friends. Their support is invaluable.

Jennifer recommends: A book everyone should read in 2013 is Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. Her best book yet!

And, from another excellent middle grade writer and blogger, Barbara Watson

A quote that is probably well known in the writer's world but I just read on a blog last week. I didn't cross-reference the source to make sure it's worded properly and are, in fact, his exact words, but it's been helping me each time I place fingertips to keyboard since I read it: You can take for granted that people know more or less what a street, a shop, a beach, a sky, an oak tree looks like. Tell them what makes this one different. ~Neil Gaiman 

R.L. Saunders is an pal represented by Linda Epstein at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency (same agency as me). Read her blog. She's funny as all get-out: Writers figure out what works for them: writing schedules, lighting, inspiring coffee creamer flavors, outlining, 67 crit partners, not outlining, magic query templates, lucky sweatpants--that sort of thing. Then they get really excited about figuring out what works and they write blog posts about it because it feels SO RIGHT. And it is right. For them. Your job is to work hard at figuring out what works for you. There are lots of rules and tips for writers at every stage of the process. Take them with a grain of salt (like the rule about avoiding idioms) because they're really only suggestions you might try on. Just remember that what looks hot on Michael G-G might make your ass look big.
But seriously, avoid idioms. And never, ever wear sweatpants that are fewer than seven years old while you write or you'll never be published.

One of our new Project Mayhem team, Dianne Salerni is the author of We Hear The Dead and The Caged Graves (Clarion 2013): "Success in writing requires patience and persistence. You have to accept that it will take longer than you want. Your books might not get published in the order you wrote them, and some might not get published at all. Without the patience to wait for the right opportunity or the persistence to keep writing book after book, you might lose out on what you seek most -- just before it arrives."

I have long sung Beth Kephart's praises. To my mind, she is one of the most lyrical writers around. (Go here to see my review of her masterful novels, You Are My Only and Small Damages): 
"Every now and then remember the fat black sleepy cats and worn rugs and handwritten signs of the nearest used book store.  Remember, in other words, the books that aren’t on today’s lists, in today’s blogs, in today’s fever.  Much of what is good and golden and teach-worthy and inspired was written years ago and should not be shunned for its age or yellow paper.  Paper, yes paper.  Visit a used bookstore.  Take something classic home.  Let the spine crack and the glue shimmer.  Let words be ageless for you."

Laura Stanfill is the genius behind Brave on the Page, Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life. Meeting Laura and being part of her project was one of the great gifts of last year:

 "It's great fun to learn about how different writers approach the page, but there's no one right way. Do what works for you. Do it well. Do it consistently. Show up and work as often as you can. And don't worry if someone else swears that your method is wrong. If it works for you, then keep doing it. In putting together Brave on the Page, a collection of essays and interviews about the writer's life, I had forty-two people--including Michael--address different aspects of the craft from their own perspectives. Everyone had something different--and equally wonderful--to share about how they approach their work. We must remember to use others' journeys as inspiration, not as a way to find fault with ourselves. I learned this lesson, finally, when I became a mom. There are so many parenting books out there, and I spent the first few years worrying that I was doing something--or lots of things--wrong based on how self-assured many of those authors were with their one-size-fits-all advice. So focus on the page, on your own work, and question your methods in order to nurture your own growth as a writer--not because someone else tells you to." 

April Henry has been a mentor of mine ever since our children attended the same elementary school. She is the New York Times best-selling author of over a dozen novels. Her latest is The Night She Disappeared. April was on deadline when I contacted her, but her blog has a ton of good advice. The one thing she stressed was: Tenacity is as important as talent. I heartily agree!

C.Alexander London is the author of the An Accidental Adventure Series. He is the sort of wildly funny middle grade writer I aspire to be. Here's what he had to say: The worst writing you ever do is better than the best writing you never do. 

The author of May B., and a Project Mayhem stalwart, Caroline Starr Rose, always has wise words to share: 
"The piece of writerly advice I've clung to the last few years is this: Learn to write this book. It's attributed to Elizabeth Bear but came to me via J. Anderson Coats. It has been hugely freeing for me to discover that while systems and goals and blah blah blah sometimes work, sometimes they don't. Each book is its own animal. You really do start over every time. And it's OKAY."

I've known Rosanne Parry, the author of Heart of a Shepherd and Second Fiddle for many years, and she is a dear friend, mentor and supporter. We share the same critique group as well as the same agent, Stephen Fraser. "Our agent is my preferred vendor of literary pearls. Here are a few favorites. "You're making art, it's supposed to take time." and "I find the authors who enjoy longevity are the ones who do not stop writing." (Rosanne's new novel, Written in Stone, will be published in June 2013.)

Another critique group member and friend is Barbara Liles. Barbara was the recipient of the 2011 Oregon Literary Fellowship, has written a great novel about the Norse in Greenland which any editor worth their salt should publish, and was recently a contestant on a Norwegian reality TV show. Her pearl is the one on which I choose to end because, really, where has the time gone?: "Do not be surprised, that time, for a writer, is a strange and flexible dimension."

Thank you all for being my companions on this wonderful writer's journey. I hope you will continue to visit me at Middle Grade Mafioso and Project Mayhem. Till then, may your writing be dangerous and your spirits stalwart. Adieu.


  1. Thanks for all the pearls of wisdoms, Michael and ladies. You will be missed, M. Okay, not completely missed, since you're hanging out on the other two blogs, but you get the general idea. :D

  2. Replies
    1. Michael, this was wonderful! I'm keeping this page. Thank you for distilling all this wisdom and for keeping our writerly spirits up! Grazie in tanto!

  3. Loved reading more pearls of wisdom and seeing who all your friends are. Looking forward to seeing you at your other blogs.

  4. So true about the time thing!

    Look what an amazing community you've gathered around your blogging life! You are an inspiration. Glad you're hanging on to the MG Mafioso. :-)

  5. Good stuff here! Thanks for including me, Michael.

  6. You sung the last note perfectly. There's so much here to chew on. Thanks for allowing me to be part of it.

  7. It's a fine goodbye, sir. But we'll be seeing you at your other blogs:)

  8. Beautiful words from so many wonderful people. Thank you for including me.

  9. Thanks, Michael. I only know you through writer world, but it seems typical that you'd be selfless and give your last post(s) away to other writers. You're an incredibly supportive, smart, talented friends to have. Lucky us! Looking forward to following your writing journey elsewhere.

  10. This is excellent, Michael. And I'm thrilled to read not only the advice from bloggers/writers I already know, but also from some that are new to me.

    Funny how it feels like goodbye, but isn't, because you have two other blogs!

  11. Sounds like you have made great friends through your blog and that was definitely worth all those pithy posts. Now that you are one blog short, I expect you to be working on at least 3 novels at a time! Thanks for including me.

  12. Sounds like you have made great friends through your blog and that was definitely worth all those pithy posts. Now that you are one blog short, I expect you to be working on at least 3 novels at a time! Thanks for including me.

  13. It has been a delight to visit you here. I'm glad the experience has been as fruitful for you as it has been for your readers.

  14. Love this post. It is always great to know what import ants thoughts writers want to pass on more than anything else!


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