Writing Links

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Why Failing is Good for Us :: Elana Johnson

24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing :: BuzzFeed

Magical Places by Nikki Loftin :: The Nerdy Book Club

Hollins University Establishes Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature :: Tara Lazar

Why We Write in GIF Form :: Nathan Bransford

Writing Life: The Reality :: Kristi Holl’s Writer’s First Aid

Of Books and Travels and Gator Cookies

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I hope you’ve had a lovely June. As you’re reading this, I’ll be on a cruise ship, floating around Alaska, celebrating my twentieth anniversary (today!) and soaking up the scenery while reading this book. I imagine my children, who are with my parents, are eating entirely too much ice cream and spending loads of time at the pool.

This is another month of busyness around here — there’s a quick jaunt to Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, and Phoenix (we won’t melt…there will be a lazy river involved). I’m still hard at work on first-round edits of my Klondike Gold Rush book (hence the novel I took on the cruise). And my first picture book launches mid month, the same day as another little book you might have heard of.

Those of you who live in Albuquerque, I hope you might consider joining me for one of two Over in the Wetlands events! There will be games, coloring pages, gator cookies, and reading, of course. On July 30 I’ll be at Cherry Hills Library (6901 Barstow St NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111) for the 10:30 story time. Page One Books will provide copies to purchase, and the library will have copies available for check out.

On August 22 at 10:30, I’ll do it all again, this time at Bookworks (4022 Rio Grande Boulevard Northwest, Albuquerque, NM 87107). Same stories, same coloring pages. If there are gator cookies left over, I’ll be sure to stick them in my freezer and bring them by!

Finally, in celebration of Over in the Wetlands and as a thank you to my readers, I’ll be giving three personalized, signed copies of the book away through my newsletter toward the end of the month. This is a 3-4 time a year publication delivered directly to your inbox, where you can get the inside scoop on new books, what I’m reading, and a few other details I don’t include on the blog. I’d love if you’d consider signing up. Simply click through to do so.

Let’s get back to this regular blogging thing…

 

A Behind the Scenes Glimpse into WETLANDS

You might have noticed this lovely over in the sidebar.

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This dear book comes into the world July 14, in the midst of hurricane season. While it isn’t a Katrina book, it is a Louisiana hurricane story, and its release before Katrina’s tenth anniversary feels just right.

A few months ago, illustrator Rob Dunlavey shared this wonderful mini-documentary about his process with OVER IN THE WETLANDS. I’d love if you took a few minutes to listen to what he has to say as he goes about his work.

Rob’s thoughts on process (don’t be afraid to screw up; art is boxing rather than rocket science, you just have to keep sparring and discovering what you want to say) and purpose (art changes the way you see the world; it’s about zeroing in, magnifying and feeling the joy; art exists to enhance living) speak to me as a writer. The purpose and drive behind the creative life really is familiar across the board.

 

5 Ways I’m Learning to Write Smart, Not Scared

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It is good to work. Work with love and think of liking it when you do it. It is easy and interesting. It is a privilege. There is nothing hard about it but your anxious vanity and fear of failure.

And when you work on your writing remember these things. Work with all your intelligence and love. Work freely and rollickingly as though talking to a friend who loves you. Mentally thumb your nose at the know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters.

— Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write

I’m declaring 2015 the year of writing smart and not scared. What do I mean?

For one, I want to approach my writing with intelligence and love. I want to work freely and rollickingly (is there a better, more joyful word to describe doing the things we love to do?). In other words, I want to be a whole lot more like Brenda Ueland.

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Here’s my game plan:

1. I want to be aware of the work beneath the work. Am I involved in frantic wheel spinning because I feel I need to produce something? What’s my motivation behind my need to be busy? More often than not, I’m  learning it’s fear.

2. I want to be proactive instead of reactive. Sometimes the writing life means there is nothing new to show, but important work has been done nonetheless. (I’m thinking of all the behind-the-scenes work that never, ever is efficient and sometimes feels like wasted time.) I want to learn to be more comfortable with what’s best for the work. And I want to think through what this means for each project (ideally ahead of time) so I’m not just putting out fires, but really benefiting the writing (and my learning, too).

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3. I want my work, even when it’s hard, to bring about joy and satisfaction. Sorry, Brenda. I do believe it’s hard. But I still want the rollicking! I’m living my dream. There is so much to love: The freedom to experiment and play. The chance to write stuff that only I’ll ever see; to make things that might interest no one else, but will satisfy me. The room to try things that feel extra niche-y. The opportunity to pursue these things because the work feels like talking to a friend who loves me.

4. I will not be afraid of anxious vanity. I’m one to stress and worry about life in general. And this seeps into my writing life a lot. (I’m really awful when it comes to number 21 on this list.) I’m an all-out pro when it comes to worrying that I can’t write another book. I find it hard to give my work the space to grow from its fragile, junky beginnings, trusting it will one day be able to stand on its own. It’s way too easy to compare fledging drafts to finished books. That isn’t fair to the new work or to my creative process.

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5. I will learn to mentally thumb my nose at the jeerers, critics, and doubters. Blue Birds has gotten some lovely reviews. You want to know something ridiculous? Those reviews have stressed me out, knocked me off my center. I hear waiting for reviews to roll in never gets easier, but here’s the thing: Reviews aren’t written for authors — never have been, never will be. Whether reviews are good or bad, I am proud of this book. My editor is proud of this book. This is enough.

There are so many ways to be thrown off your rails, as my dear friend Beth Kephart says. (And she’s had plenty of reason to feel off balance of late). What matters isn’t the externals,

but the number of times we actually stepped outside of ourselves and lived bright, thought big, made connections, reached over the fence toward another.

Anyone else want to learn to write this way?
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