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I feel like a blog fraud. I promised, I didn't deliver. And then, due to family drama, gave up writing and crawled under a quilt - literally.

Then I started sewing aprons.
Apron 1
Back to quilting.
new quilt

Started designing aprons so I didn't have to read patterns.

Sadly, I also discovered Candy Crush Saga.
Today, I logged onto YouTube and discovered the latest fabulous from Vlogbrothers (which, if you don't know about, you need to, you know, know about it) consider the following post from Hank Green:


In which video he, at a loss for ideas, took suggestions from people via social media.
Being in a "What to do, now?" I turned to one of my first loves; chips and dip.
But there wasn't much left, so I coated a knife in dip and smushed it onto the chip shards thusly:

Being so pleased with myself (which is tragic) I came to the conclusion - I have to get back to writing. Every day I see my computer wallpaper and it mocks me, also thusly:
should be writing

I've submitted two articles to the fab magazine (apron.ology), but it's time to hit the juvie fiction stacks. Those who know me and anyone who's seen me blundering around the wordpile - the possible projects are:

Attack of the Altar Girls (Middle Grade)
WaterBlogged (YA)
Zebra Station (Upper MG)
Accidentally Amish (Upper MG)

Words of wisdom would be appreciated, spamming the comments with ads, not so much.

I'm using advice Madeleine L'Engle gave me. Personally.

You know those battered copies of her books like A WRINKLE IN TIME and/or A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT that are falling apart and should be replaced? My copies can't be replaced because:

*happy sigh*

In 1995 I attended a 30-person writing retreat with Madeleine L'Engle in Racine, Wisconsin. It was at the DeKoven Foundation, which pre-dates the civil war. Early on it was a military academy.

Mary Todd Lincoln visited after President Lincoln's assassination, to enroll her son. She didn't like the bed he'd be assigned, so she changed her mind. It was less than a mile from my house and the other buildings and grounds are extensive and beautiful and historically protected.

In October of 1995, I attended a small writing conference there led by Madeleine L'Engle. I finally got the guts to ask Madeleine how she revised. Here was her answer:

"I print the whole thing up and set it next to the computer monitor. Then I put a new, blank disc in the computer and I start typing."
"You mean, the whole thing?" I asked, "You type the entire manuscript all over again?"
She smiled and nodded wisely.

Madeleine L'Engle was my favorite writer. The highlight of the conference was sitting right next to her in the circle around the library room when she suggested we all hold hands and sing the Tallis Canon. She was wonderful and amazing and so incredibly brilliant.

But not, I figured, terribly computer savvy. That's probably why she had to start over every time she wrote on the computer. I was signed up for another retreat at DeKoven in 2005 (I think). I was the first one to sign up. But she got sick, and had to cancel. And then the world lost a super bright star when she died.

I was in New York last October. I took the subway to the Cathedral of St. John The Divine at 110th St. and Amsterdam. It was a pilgrimage to a place that was really special to Madeleine. Several of the letters she wrote me were on the cathedral's stationery.

THE YOUNG UNICORNS and A SEVERED WASP are both set there. She loved that place. I lit a candle and really good things started to happen for my writing.

Until a month ago, when my manuscript was dead in the water. A manuscript, mind you, which had interest from an uber-awesome editor.

So two weeks ago I printed up the whole darn thing, set it next to my laptop computer, and started over.

She was right. 
I just weighed three drafts of my new manuscript.

1st draft: 2lbs, 7.9ozs

2nd draft: 2lbs, 4.1ozs

3rd draft: 2lbs, 4.4ozs, (but it had full one inch margins and twenty-three chapter breaks.)

The first draft was over 69,000 words, the third is 54,000.
First draft had 202 pages. Third draft, 183 pages.

The first draft was marked with pink ink the first time through, second pass in turquoise.
The second draft was edited with purple ink.
I'm trying to decide on a color for the third draft, any suggestions?

Check out the pens!
I found these awesome fountain pens thanks to Bruce Coville at Chautuaqua.

So, now I will return to revising, having demonstrated competence in complicated quantifiable manuscript evaluation procrastination.
Pushing through a first draft to find the ‘shape’ of the story. Here are the recent totals:

1 Feb 3,000+ words
2 Feb 1,651 words
3 Feb 2,400 words
4 Feb 2,066 words
5 Feb 628 words
6 Feb 2,000 words
7 Feb 2,716 words

Right now, the shape looks like this:

Just like in Star Wars, as work is feverishly completed by evil cliché wielding riveter drones and the Storm Troopers of run-on sentences, I’ll have a Jedi on my tail.

Not that one. The really awesome one.

Obi-wan McVeigh
Check out his terrific new blog: themcveighagency.blogspot.com/

Super agent Mark McVeigh would make that outfit look good.

His mission? Shoot down the bad prose, focus on what's important and shake up the literary universe. Mark's a Jedi master at that!

Back to work - where's my coffee droid?!
I'm supposed to be outputting brilliant prose, when I get distracted by awesome stuff like the OK Go/Notre Dame Marching Band video.


After watching ten or so times, I MUST do something writerly. The new story is coming along, but I feel like I have to make big VISUAL progress. So I play with markers:

Color coding a single spaced 8pt draft by setting and character is hard work, people! All that capping and uncapping.

But it means I get to spend quality time with My Precious.

Yes, my markers.

Much thanks and luuuuurve to the awesomeness that is Darcy Pattison and her novel revision workshop! I mark sections by scene with the color I've assigned to that setting. I've made a separate spreadsheet to track characters and themes through the entire book. You can see that section at the bottom.

Each character has a color assigned. The ones I don't like get orange or brown. I block out where they do (and don't!) appear and then put circles over their sections in the shrunked draft.

NEXT: Why I'm most productive under tons of garbage. THIS WEEK'S COUNT: 5,500 words.
I've been bad, LJ. I've deserted you for the trendy but tasteful FaceBook and the fast moving shiny enigma we call Twitter. But I turn over a new leaf today. **Ooooo, pretty!**

I hereby swear to post weekly.
To post amusingly.
And to have at least one (1) contest by which winners will be sent chocolate.

There are vair, vair interesting things in the works. I hear tell the playground I call my brain will be adding a sandbox, some kind of pretend kitchen and a pet, either cyber, surreal or both.

I will do shout outs to my peeps who I will christen The Fabulistas. I will boost their books and offer my services as a big, scary book tour bodyguard. I coached co-ed high school cheerleading for five years and grade school cheerleading for ten. Yeah, like autograph hunters are going to scare me after that.

I lurve you all, MJ
I still lurve you, LiveJournal. It's just Facebook is so vair, vair shiny!

But suddenly, I hear the siren call of the blog. And I read the dead cleverness of LiveJournal Goddesses. And I get verbal slushy snowballs upside the head from my peeps who check my blog and are truly annoyed that I am not working hard to amuse them.

So, here's the promise: I will blog and be amusing, possibly inspirational, and much more productive with my writing.

"What I Did On My Summer Vacation" Part I

My BFF&E writing partner, Heidi Landry Phelps (who has been poking me with a sharp pointy stick over the LJ issue) and I went to the Minnesota SCBWI conference this last Saturday. HOWEVER, I flew in on Friday and flew back today because we needed to continue our two month long game of tag, this time in person.

Yes, my peeps. Tag. Story Tag. We were both in a state of crash and burn, I mean...writers block. I said "Let's put on a play!" (Nod to Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films. I call I get to be Micky) actually it was "Let's do a writing challenge!" Something like a scene from childhood, imagine you are abducted by aliens, or re-tell a fairy tale.

She emailed back (probably sighing a little) "Okay, but something short."

Famous last words.

Over the past two months we have built a story. Bit by bit. Challenges like: Middle Grade or Young Adult? Who is the main character? How old are they? And, I could still kill her for this: What's the first line of our story?

When tagged, you answer the challenge as briefly as possible. Then you shoot another one right back. About 30 challenges in, via phone texting, Facebook messages and emails, we realized the game of tag had become a book we needed to write. That was the weekend's mission.

Pictures and details next!

I'm going to a workshop in Madison on Friday. A novel revision workshop. So I'm revising and revising. I took 7,000 words out of a 36,000 word manuscript over two days in an attempt to restructure. Yesterday I wrote a new 1,200 word scene that doesn't totally suck. Last night I tried to do a timeline with the Hero's Journey structure as a guideline.

This morning I am on industrial strength caffeine. The hard stuff, peoples. We're talking Alterra beans and Hachez chocolate. Not for civilians.

Between the non-totally-sucky scene and the timeline, I got to talk to two made-of-awesome teenagers in a small, independent bookstore. Not about my work, about books. Good series gone horribly wrong, bad books they (and I) wanted to throw across the room. A mention of a certain dim, undead wannabee who deserves a good chomp. A wondering of why "To Kill A Mockingbird" ended the way it did became a discussion of 'resonance'. I got the name of a new author I wasn't familiar with, and passed on a few myself.

It was vair, vair cool. It was connecting with living, breathing, passionate readers. It was a reason to get BIC and produce work good enough to deserve their reading time.

Back to working in my writers garret, with my Einstein/Fusion Energy mousepad and happy punk music blaring.

I don't feel old. Or at least I didn't until my birthday last year when something horrifying happened. AARP cards began to mysteriously appear in my mailbox. WTF?

They offer...I don't know...stuff. Some kind of discounts. Not like I'm opening these things. It's the friggin' AARP. They may as well be posting prunes.

And yet the AARP cards keep piling up. I think "If I open one, will they know and stop sending them?" In my reality, I'm worried these cards are like Swiffer dust mops. Swipe a Swiffer across your floor and you collect dust. If I open one of these envelopes, they will catch wrinkles out of thin air and slam them onto my face. Not taking the chance.

I was at a wicked cool writing retreat in Nebraska over the weekend. So what comes up besides novels in progress, writing routines and wondering if those drunk scrapbookers down the hall are going to rock the monastery until 3 am again?

The fact that:

A. Many of us have Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal, etc.
B. Our children find A. appalling and won't friend us.
C. We lock some of our posts so our moms don't read what we're up to, which is the reason for B.

I love the Internet!

AND I'm announcing to the world that for the first time, I'm in for NaNoWriMo.