What’s On My Mind

How this writing thing works

Posted on

cake
The Cake of Voices
(It was delicious.)

I’m in the kitchen icing a cake.

This happens, like, never. I’m a notoriously bad cook. When my kids see me making dinner they cry and run away. Baking is better, but I do it so infrequently no one ever really remembers I can, including myself.

So I’m icing this cake. It’s a zucchini blueberry cake with lemon buttercream frosting. (Kinda weird, right? But also maybe yum.) My hair is a mess. So is my face. Not to mention the kitchen. In fifteen minutes a group of friends will show up at my door for book club (aka, wine club). The knife slides along the surface of the cake, forming tiny wakes of buttercream, when suddenly a voice says, “Most of the time I feel miserable and alone.”

The knife stops mid-swipe and I listen. Not with my ears, though, because the voice is in my head.

The call is coming from inside the house.

I don’t know who this character is talking to me (yet), but in my mind I can see her walking through a crowded high school hallway and in my chest I can feel what she’s feeling. It’s like I’m some kind of medium for fictional people.

I put down the knife, pick up a pen and start writing her down. The cake can wait. So can my hair and my face and the clock and my friends showing up at my door with wine. There’s a voice in my head with a story to tell.

And that’s how this writing thing works.

For me, at least.

Mark a course for 2015. Engage.

Posted on Updated on

So…here we are.

2015.

Every year I choose a word that sums up my intention for the year. Last year, with my first book being published, I chose the word “launch”.

This year, with one book out in the world and another on the way*, my word is…

Engage.

en·gage (verb) \in-‘gaj, en-\

: to get and keep (someone’s attention, interest, etc.)

: to bring together and interlock <the gears engaged>

JLPOf course ‘engage’ makes me think of Jean-Luc Picard. Which makes me want to drink tea, Earl Grey, hot. And shave my head. No, wait. Not shave my head. But tea, yes. Always tea.

Anyway, my goal this year is to engage readers, both online and in person. Now That You’re Here has received really great reviews, and I’ve been getting emails from readers who have enjoyed it (which, seriously, is an author’s dream come true). Now it’s a matter of spreading the word that there’s a fun new science-y book out there that tweens and teens will enjoy. To do this, I need to engage with my audience. I began by redesigning my website, making it more me, and I’ve been setting up events where I can chat with readers.

First up is YAllapalooza at Changing Hands Tempe on January 24 at 4pm. It’s going to be so much fun! Hope to see you there.

In March, I’ll be down in Tucson for the Tucson Festival of Books, doing panels, signing and workshops. More on that soon.

Online, I’ll be blogging here (duh), as well as at the Parking Lot Confessional and YA Outside the Lines. The PLC is also continuing our geeky writing podcast, Curb Chat, which is so much fun, I can’t even tell you. Definitely check it out.

My other goal this year (and always) is to engage my creativity. My brain is brimming with ideas and my heart is full of hope of seeing more stories published. It’s time to put the pedal to the metal and get the gears turning. Or rather, the fingers typing.

So, without further ado, here’s to a great 2015!

Engage.

Make it so.

*While You Were Gone, the second book in the Duplexity series, will be published by Knopf on August 4! More news to come!

 

“In the mountains, there you feel free.” (T.S. Eliot)

Posted on Updated on

We recently took a trip into the mountains in Colorado to see the fall colors. Here are some photos I took along the way. Enjoy!

On Not Getting It Right the First Time

Posted on Updated on

This post is dedicated to a couple of young people I know who struggle with the idea of having to get things right the first time.

file000947770525I’ve been taking a ceramics class for fun and to explore another creative outlet. For the last few weeks, we’ve been hand building different kinds of vessels and forms. But on Monday, we switched to throwing on a pottery wheel. My instructor made it look so easy, demonstrating how to center the clay and pull the sides up into a cylinder.

Then it was our turn.

We sat at our wheels and tried to coax cylinders out of our own lumps of clay.

And we tried.

And tried.

To be fair, a couple of people did quite well. But most of us…well, it took several attempts before we got anything not wobbly, let alone cylindrical.

It was frustrating. Humbling. More than once I thought, There’s no way I’m going to be able to do this.

But each time my walls grew too thin or my cylinder lost its center, I crumpled the clay back into a lump, scraped the excess from the wheel and started again.

It took a few tries, but finally, working slowly, I threw a cylinder.

Will I be able to do it again next time? I don’t know. But I’m willing to keep trying until I learn.

That’s what it’s like for starting any project. Writing a first draft of a story. Starting a new painting. Sculpting clay by hand or on the wheel.

You don’t have to get it right the first time. Few people do. The magic happens in the revisions and later attempts.

So go easy on yourself. Give yourself the freedom to try and grace when you fail.

And never, ever stop learning.

10 Tips for a Happier Life

Posted on

10 Tips 4Everyone has an opinion, right? Everyone has advice? Well, I’ve been on this planet for more than a few years, now and I’ve got an idea or ten for ways to make this life a more satisfying ride. Take ’em or leave ’em. They work for me. Maybe they’ll work for you.

Here we go.

10 Tips for a Happier Life

  1. Believe in something greater than yourself.
  2. Speak less. Listen more.
  3. There are givers and there are takers. Be a giver.
  4. Don’t believe those who tell you you can’t.
  5. That thing that lights you up? Do that.
  6. Stop making excuses.
  7. Be too busy for people who don’t treat you well.
  8. Forgive. For your sake as well as theirs.
  9. When you feel crummy, do something nice for someone you don’t know.
  10. Every now and then, stop staring at screens and stare at the stars. The universe is vast and deep. Consider your place in it and respond accordingly.

Peace out.