Thursday, September 13, 2012

Actually quite a bit has been going on in the "Writer's Corner" of my life--yes, it only is one corner, not the main thing, which is why it takes me so long to get things accomplished. Two big things:

1) As a follow-up on my November blogpost, over the next few months, I contacted an administrator, several teachers, and various resource people in the school district to learn more about the Common Core Standards and how I might incorporate them into my existing Curriculum Unit for The Orange Slipknot. I ended up cutting some of my original material, rewording much of what remained, adding a few new things, and then inserting numbers to indicate which standard was met by each activity. My goal was to finish this by the end of summer, which I did. The second edition will be a great improvement! (It is not yet available.)

2) My second book, Starting the Colt, is in the works and is slated for release this coming spring! I recently finished editing and proof-reading the "page layout" version, in which the pages on my screen actually look like book pages--kind of exciting to get that visual of the finished product. I was amazed, in my editing, at how many things jumped out at me that needed fixed, clarified, or just improved. There was much less editing needed than in The Orange Slipknot, hopefully because I learned so much about writing from that experience that I did a better job in my initial writing of this one. But my publisher will now do further editing before creating the galleys, so I guess that remains to be seen.

Now that those two biggies are behind me, I have two more biggies to tackle. One involves marketing: Every year I contact all the Nevada fourth grade teachers for whom I can find email addresses (a very time-consuming project) to make them aware of The Orange Slipknot-plus-Curriculum Unit as a great social studies tool. The other involves writing: Now that I'm up to speed on the Common Core Curriculum, I need to craft a CU for Starting the Colt. This should take me much less time and work than the first one did.

One of the purposes of this blog has been to demonstrate what is involved in being a writer. First you write and self-edit the manuscript. Then you must market and sell the manuscript; however, I managed to skip this step with my second book, because my original publisher, Raven Publishing, was interested in my sequel. There is much involved in the publishing process--editing, proof-reading, galleys (preliminary unfinished copies), artwork and cover design, deadlines. Then you market and sell the book, which includes flyers, phone calls, emails, presentations, etc. And yes, blogging. Since I procrastinated so badly on my blogging, I am making up for it by posting twice in one day!

Oh yes, and don't forget websites--finding a host and learning your way around their technology, creating and updating your website, then repairing the things you screw up...which I was just reminded of as I tried to post this. In posting my earlier entry today and updating the link on my "" home page, I found I had accidentally wiped out my entire home page. Instead I had somehow uploaded the wrong home page: the one from ""! I will admit to a few moments of panic as I tried unsuccessfully to get the right page to come up, until I finally figured out what had happened, and got everything back to normal. Sometimes I love playing with websites, but when things don't go right, well...let's just say the problem is not always fixed this easily!
As anyone can see who reads this blog, I hate writing about myself. I put it off as long as I can, and ignore the whisperings of my guilty conscience. I know I am not the only writer who struggles with publicizing her work--many writers are, by nature, introverts, and we would much rather bury ourselves in writing or writing-related projects, guarding our privacy. At the same time, I enjoy doing presentations and talking about my books, so there is a tension there.

Rereading my last blog post, about a student writing activity last school year that didn't go as well as I had hoped, reminded me that later that year, I had just the opposite experience. One day I was subbing and a girl asked me how to write a book. An idea popped into my head, and, seeing we had some extra time, I decided to use her question as a class activity.

I wrote a basic story idea on the board, then we played with it. The class helped me add detail after detail until we had the whole board covered with possibilities. Not only was it fun and instructive--at recess two teachers came in, saw it and asked me about it, so I explained what we had done. One asked if I could come to her class and do the same activity! So a few days later I popped into her room (which just happened to be my granddaughter's class) for an hour and we did the same thing. Then she used it as a class assignment after I left, to write the story we had outlined.

I found it amazing that the unplanned idea turned out so good that I know I will use it again and again, yet the one I had slaved over did not turn out as well as I had envisioned. This often happens in writing. Books, or characters in books, sometimes take on a life of their own, beyond what you had originally planned.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I recently presented a student writing activity that didn't go as well as it had in my mind when I planned it. That learning experience helped me this past week, as I worked up a creative writing activity for a student writers event coming up soon. I realized there could be a different outcome than what I imagined. I looked for weaknesses in my plan and "tweaked" my steps and directions until I was satisfied. When I was done, I found it interesting how the activity had evolved. I ended up with something quite different than what I originally envisioned.

Writing a book often follows a similar process. You begin with an idea, not knowing exactly where you will end up or how you will get there. You type up your original idea, then stare at the screen and mull, add a little, subtract a little, mull some more, drag this part around and drop it somewhere that fits better, stare some more, etc. In fact, this ease of computerized writing and editing has freed me up immensely since the days of pen and paper, when my words looked so much more permanent, and seemed so much harder to rearrange.

Sometimes you realize that a whole section just isn't working, no matter how you move it around or tweak it. Your creative voice says, "I can't just delete that whole section! I spent a lot of time creating that!" But your self-critiquing voice says, "Yes, you know you must delete it. Be a big girl and just do it." As soon as you do, you feel relieved because you can see that now you are in a better position to get where you were going.

The more you write, the more ideas you get. Some you try out, then discard, then try another direction. The very process of thinking, writing it out, and editing leads to more creative thinking. As you go back and read aloud, you fix typos and find words that don't sound quite right. Even creating this blog post followed the exact scenario I've described.

Sometimes I am leery of starting a new writing project because I am not confident in my ability to come up with good work. Yet every time I make myself begin, I find I can trust this process, and I gain more faith in it. I choose not to listen to my excuses.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I've been busy writing for the past month or so, but not on a book. However, it is book-related, and I'm very excited about it.

Twice in the past few years I've given my "Nevada's Ranching History" slideshow presentation at the Nevada Reading Week Conference in Reno ( Most of the attendees are northern Nevada teachers and librarians. This year (February 10-11) I will be giving two presentations: the ranch history, and one for aspiring writers called "The Path to Publishing."

I'm expanding the ranch workshop to fit a longer timeslot, so I can fit in things I had to leave out to fit the other shorter timeslot. Then I have to tweak my slideshow to match. The handout includes an abstract and several ag-related pages from the Curriculum Unit of my book, The Orange Slipknot.

The writing workshop will focus on how your life experiences prepare you to be a writer and give you the raw material to get started. There is a short slideshow about how I came to write my book. Then we will discuss marketing and publishing your book, with the information summarized in a handout.

The biggest challenge is the clock--practicing and timing myself, while factoring in the possibility that things will move quicker or slower than I have estimated. I hope to get people talking; they may talk longer than I intend, or not as much, so I need to be able to adjust my presentation accordingly.

I always take my cowboy gear display--saddle, bridles, etc., and I wear my boots, chaps, spurs, hat and wildrag. My book, The Orange Slipknot, and the accompanying Curriculum Unit, will be available for sale, and I get to talk about the upcoming sequel, Starting the Colt--targeted for early 2013.