Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Research - validation

I had a wonderful conversation this morning with a lovely woman who played competitive golf in high school. "Why?" you ask.

My WIP is about a teenage girl who struggles to overcome her nerves to compete in a major junior golf tournament. Her experiences are [very] loosely inspired by my own teen years playing golf. The primary conflict is the angst of competing in an all-boys sport and the stuff that comes out of that.

But my experiences were 20something years ago - and I wasn't sure that things were still the same. The novel needs to be relevant to today - it's not set in the past.

It turns out that things are not that different in the junior golf world. At least not in this young woman's experience. So, I feel validated. I may reach out to some more young golfers in the coming weeks as I contemplate querying.

It's wonderful when people take time out of their own busy days to support your work.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shannon's Agent Signing Contest

I am so going to do this when I sign with an agent. Notice I said when not if.

Shannon Whitney Messenger recently signed with Laura Rennert and she's giving away signed books from her fellow agented authors.

Link here if you want to read about her good news.

All Summer in a Day - by Ray Bradbury

If you're not familiar with this story - here's an excerpt. It's a fantastic story, written over 50 years ago. Google it and read it in it's entirety. It's only 2000 words. It's how I feel today.

The children pressed to each other like so many roses, so many weeds, intermixed, peering out for a look at the hidden sun.

It rained.

It had been raining for seven years; thousand upon thousands of days compounded and filled from one end to the other with rain, with the drum and gush of water, with the sweet crystal fall of showers and the concussion of storms so heavy they were tidal waves come over the islands. A thousand forests had been crushed under the rain and grown up a thousand times to be crushed again. And this was the way life was forever on the planet Venus, and this was the schoolroom of the children of the rocket men and women who had come to a raining world to set up civilization and live out their lives.

“It’s stopping, it’s stopping!”

Monday, March 29, 2010

QueryTracker Contest

I entered this contest at the Query Tracker blog today. Even if I don't place, it was a great excuse to polish up my one sentence pitch.

Wish me luck!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Revision Update

I'm not quite knee deep in revisions on my novel (yet). It's more like ankle deep. I'm wading in, like trying to acclimate to cold water.

I'm reading Darcy Pattinson's Novel Metamorphosis as a jumping off point. But I realized that I need a couple of bridge chapters. It feels weird that I'm adding chapters in the middle, but it occurred to me that some stuff was happening "off camera" that should have been "on." Has this happened to anyone else?

Once I really get going, I'm going to do the exercises in the book. I think it will help me tweak. If anyone wants to read my short synopsis, it's right here.

I still love my story - which I think is a good thing_- but I'm trying to be objective enough to cut stuff that isn't needed. It's kind of like pruning last years blooms off my hydrangea. The plant won't be healthy unless the deadwood is cut off - but part of me still hates to do it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I just played my first game of Where in the blogosphere is Jon - otherwise known as a cool way to get to know other writers who blog about their writing. Those of you who know me "in real life" know that I don't play mafia wars or farm ville or any of those time suckers...but this was different.

Getting to know other writers and hearing about their experience along the road to publication is inspiring, as well as comforting. A shout out to Heather and Tina, the moderators. And of course Jon! Also, to my competition this week -- Dena and Laura. The picture book blogs that Jon took us to were cool and funny. I didn't have time to read them from "cover to cover" but I'll go back and check them out for sure.

It's nice to know other people who are going through the same thing! "Back to revisions," my inner editor (who looks like Patrick Dempsey) says. "Who said you could play?"

Back to revisions.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The dark forest of childhood - The Boston Globe

The dark forest of childhood - The Boston Globe

This article from Laurel Snyder gave me goosebumps. I'm reading her "Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains" w/ my daughter right now. The jury is still out for me as to whether I like the new trend of taking old fairy tales and updating them for a teen audience. I was never a huge fairy tale fan to begin with. I think it can be done very well, but like anything, too much of a good thing isn't always a good thing.

Posted using ShareThis

Spring Clean-up

Raking my front yard today has me thinking about spring clean-up. What a difference an hour and rake can make to the way the yard looks!

Wait for it...insightful metaphor coming...

It has me thinking about the revision process. I've got a finished first draft of a YA novel. It's been simmering in the back of my mind for years, but only in the last six months has it taken shape and become something.

I'm now preparing for revisions -- and like taking the rake to the dead leaves and grass from last fall -- I've got to go through my draft and weed out the dead words, extra adverbs, and too long back story. But, like my front yard which needs to have some fertilizer and grass seed - not to mention pink impatiens planted in the garden - my novel needs...more. More what, you say? Not sure yet. More clues, more feeling, more relevant dialogue. Better arc for primary and secondary characters. More, more, right?

I'm taking suggestions on a revision process -- I've got some workbooks, and some suggestions from crit partners. I know the bottom line is that I need to use what works for me. But this is my first time through this process -- so it's going to be trial and error.

What method do you use to revise?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Authorial Intrusion - Jaclyn Dolamore

Authorial Intrusion - Jaclyn Dolamore

Great insight into a debut author.

I just finished Magic Under Glass by Ms. Dolamore. Very sweet story -- my only complaint is that I wish it had been longer.

Congrats to Beth Revis

To celebrate her book deal (!!Woot!!), Beth Revis is giving away some great goodies on her site. Click here to read about it!

Wishing Beth all the best and hoping to join her some day in the not so distant future! (I love the sound of her book, can't wait to read it!)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Story with no words - My 100th post!

My 7-year-old is taking an acting class. The homework this week is to tell a story, without using words. As a writer, this is a completely foreign thing for me. But, without batting an eye the child acted out picking a flower and presenting it to me. Hmmm.

We can tell a story - and that's nice. Or we can show a story to our readers through our words. Showing your reader the story invites them to watch a movie in their minds. The reader can see, hear, and feel what your character is feeling.

Use descriptive words that put the reader firmly in the time and place.

1. I ate cold pizza out of the fridge.

2. My stomach growled as I opened the fridge. Of course, the pizza! The cheese had coagulated, but it looked edible. Maybe. I grabbed a slice and took a bite. Not bad, if you don't mind congealed pepperoni.

Not the best example, but you get the idea (hey, I'm still perfecting it too). Number 2, showing the action rather than just telling what happened, clearly puts the reader in the mindset of the character.

Of course you have to use words. Feel free to share your own examples!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Magic Under Glass giveaway at Sea of Pages

Arya is giving away a copy of Magic Under Glass over at Sea of Pages. I started reading Magic Under Glass last night - it's a 2010 release of a first time YA author. I think I'm going to love it based on the reviews I've read - and I really like Jaclyn Dolamore's website -- she sounds like someone I'd love to have coffee with.

Check them both out!

Can I Help You?

As I was struggling to take four months of newspapers out of my trunk to deposit them in the recycling bin, a woman in a raincoat tapped me on the shoulder.

“Do you need some help?”

“What I need is NOT to carry all these papers at once – I need to take two trips,” I said, picking up stray inserts that had fallen on the wet ground. I admit it, I was angry with myself for looking like I needed help.

She graciously grabbed the boxes out of my trunk. “Well, I’m going this way anyway, so I’ll take your cardboard.”

“Thank you,” I called after her. Almost as an afterthought.

I thought about my reaction to her original offer all the way home from the dump yesterday. Why is it so hard to say, “Yes, please, I’d like some help.”

As writers, there are so many avenues available for help. There are award winning authors, successful agents, and prolific editors all online offering their FREE assistance. There are critique websites, contests, and organizations available to help you improve your craft. Critique partners and groups offer invaluable feedback and suggestions to improve our stories, and writing.

Are we really accepting all the help offered? Or is it easier to say, “No thank you, I can do this on my own.”

How do you react when someone offers you help? And how often do you offer to help another?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Submission/Critique Contest with agent Suzie Townsend of FinePrintLit

Any aspiring authors reading my blog?

Check out the cool contest over at Shooting Stars. Lots of cool giveaways and a great writer's resource page.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Good Reads

I was killing time on Good Reads - updating my book lists - like I don't have anything else to do...when I typed in my own name...

Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn: All About the Earth Signs (Snap: Zodiac Fun) Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn: All About the Earth Signs by Kristine Carlson Asselin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How cool is it that my own book is on Good Reads? Happy!!

View all my reviews >>

Write Nonfiction for Kids? Break Out With a High-Concept Idea: Interview with Carla Killough McClafferty

I just wanted to pass along this great interview on Darcy Patterson's website with Carla Killough, writer of high-concept non-fiction. I'm inspired.

Write Nonfiction for Kids? Break Out With a High-Concept Idea: Interview with Carla Killough McClafferty

Thursday, March 11, 2010

From Footnoting to Final Draft.

Not surprising, even the most basic non-fiction title requires a fair amount of research. I’ve had to pull out 20-year-old memories of footnoting (Google APA style and you’ll get lots of hits for proper notation), and citing resources. The editor will need to verify your sources and fact check your research. Even fiction requires some degree of research, but that could be as simple as an afternoon of observing teenagers at an arcade. I might use some of my astronomy research for my novel. Anyone else have any tidbits about research for fiction?

I've found a wonderful website that helps me organize my resources. has a huge database of libraries and books. I usually type in some key words and start getting hits of books I want to use – I like to use the most recently published adult resources I can find – using other children’s books as resources is a no-no. I find the books I want to use – tag them in a list – and then export it into a bibliography. I can request the books I like from my local library – saves time and energy. Very cool.

Depending on the topic, you might reach out to experts in the field. You can footnote an email – just make sure you save it!

Word has a great footnoting tool – lots easier than it was “back in the day.” My 2000 word manuscripts often have upwards of 50-60 footnotes. Not sure if that’s excessive or not, but it is what it is. I like to make sure my sources are properly cited – Anything that isn’t commonly known should be cited.

Researching aside, the biggest difference I’ve found is my ability to generate word count. Three hours of dedicated writing fiction can sprout between 1500-2000 words for me. I’m lucky to get 200 words of non-fiction writing in the same amount of time. It’s mostly because I’m checking sources, footnoting, double checking sources, and trying to filter complex concepts into the grade level for which I’m writing.

It’s exasperating to spend hours on the project and only generate a couple hundred words, but it’s rewarding to “hit submit” and get the project done!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lies, And Bigger Lies

Harold Underdown shared this on his blog, The Purple Crayon (timely!). I thought I'd share it.
Fiction is what we make up, although it might have a basis in fact. As renowned writer Jane Yolen—author of novels, picture books, poetry, and much else—puts it, "Memory is just one more story. And sometimes not a very good one at that. It needs that sandpaper touchup, a bit of paint, a little lie here, and a bigger lie there—and so fiction is born." Although nonfiction can never be based on an entirely invented incident, fiction can find a basis in fact. Fiction is not truth, but it can hold truth within it, such as the truth of personal experience or universal themes. As you delve deeper into these two wide categories, you'll find the boundaries between them are very blurry.
Jane's quote describes the beginnings of my novel perfectly. It's origins were based on memory, nice memories, but {yawn} not interesting to anyone but me. I've added some window dressing (some "paint") and voila -- a sweet story is born.

Given my projects of late, both fiction and non-fiction, I liked this entry. Thanks, Harold!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fiction v. Non-Fiction

My first love is telling a story. I was, after all, a film major in college. Currently, however, my most successful writing has been in the non-fiction arena. On the request of my crit group, I thought I’d blog a little about my non-fiction experience.

I’m currently working on my fourth work-for-hire project for Capstone Press, the leading publisher of preK-12 children’s books for libraries and classrooms. They are fabulous to work for; all my editors have been warm, encouraging, and helpful. I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve done for them.

If you're flexible, work-for-hire can be rewarding. It's been a great learning experience for me. You don’t have the same level of freedom as you would with writing an idea that sprang from your own brain. However, there can be flexibility within the guidelines. Upon submission of the first draft, the editor communicates what she feels is missing and/or in the wrong direction – and a second draft is born. Sometimes there is a consultant involved, and after that person weighs in on the text, a third draft may be warranted. After the final version is submitted, your part is done!

My initial communication with Capstone was through resume and writing sample. I submitted via their published guidelines on their website. I didn't get first assignment immediately – but I was very excited when I got the first call! I had expressed an interest in history in my cover letter, so my first assignment was a history project. That project hasn't been released yet, but hopefully next spring. Since then, I've done something on astrology - and now I'm finishing up two simultaneous astronomy projects.

Stay tuned for my next post – The Ins and Outs of Research: from Footnoting to Final Draft.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Finding Saturn

OK, so maybe I was a bit overconfident last night when I casually commented about my plans to look at the Orion Nebula and Saturn.

I knew where to look for the Nebula, but couldn't get the scope to stay in one spot. I was completely flummoxed by Saturn. At one point I started to be afraid my neighbors would think I was spying on them! Honest, I was looking at the stars, not in their window!

Can I relate that in some way to my writing life? Like, I've been trying to focus on a certain goal, but setting my sights too high? too low? Or not quite focusing?

Hmm. I'll have to think about that one.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Field Trips

I've never taken a writing related field trip before yesterday. Not really anyway. I highly recommend it. It took time away from my work, but it really inspired me.

We saw a planetarium show -- and then came home and looked at the same things in the sky above the house. I couldn't remember where everything I wanted to see was located, and I was too tired to set up the telescope (that'll be tonight). But we found Orion's Belt, the Big Dipper, Polaris (the North Star) and Sirius (the Dog Star, aka the brightest star in the sky). I've got my borrowed 'scope set up and I'm going to see if I can find the Orion Nebula and Saturn tonight.

We also were able to view the sun (safely) at the observatory. If you are ever in the Concord, NH area, the McAuliffe-Shepard Planetarium is reasonably priced, and a really cool place. The food court is tasty for lunch, too.

It was good for writer's block as well. I have some great ideas of where I want to take my book that I wouldn't have had otherwise. Very cool indeed.

Friday, March 5, 2010

No more whining.

I've been whining a bit lately (to myself anyway) about deadlines. Maybe it makes me feel better to whine. Maybe I do it to remind myself to get to work. Maybe it's a wee bit to stroke my own ego that someone's paying me to write something.

But I need to stop whining. Deadlines are a fact of life. They, in fact, give life order. And lord knows I could use more order in my life!

I'm really enjoying this writing thing. I still can't quite believe my luck,skill, talent! Someone is paying me to write -- I'm toying with the idea of seeking out more freelance work. Except that would give me less time, not more, to work on my real passion, affectionately called THE NOVEL.

The coolest thing about the book I'm working on right now is the excitement my daughter has about it. Not that she wants to read it (yet). But, she wants to help me research. We're headed to the Christa McAuliffe planetarium over the weekend in Concord, NH. She's already filled her backpack w/ her space books, her "research" notebook, and a stuffed animal.

What am I going to bring?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Best thing I heard today...

"Mrs. Asselin, I got your book out of the library..." by a one of my daughter's first grade classmates.

I just about died and went to heaven. I wrote a book that a child took out of the library. And I'm incredibly proud of the two more that are in-progress.

What a cool feeling. :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Apologies to Mr. Underdown

I want to extend my apologies to Harold Underdown for inadvertently giving the impression that he had provided misleading information about the differences between the query and the synopsis on his website.

His website and insight into the craft of writing is invaluable to newbies as well as seasoned writers.

In my previous post, I was kicking myself for not having paid more attention to the experts - not that the experts had let me down.

Humbling asking Harold to accept my apologies...

Query v. Synopsis

I have a great critique group. So, it goes without saying that they didn't laugh their butts off when I revealed that I hadn't realized that query and synopsis are NOT the same thing. I mean, I've been seriously writing, and researching the craft and industry of writing for almost four years now. I've read Harold Underdown, I'm a regular lurker on Verla Kay's blueboard, I'm a member of the SCBWI. And I thought a query was a short synopsis. Nope, not at all.

Query is a teaser. A teaser. Something that whets the appetite. Something that piques the interest and makes the reader want more.

Synopsis is a play-by-play of the entire storyline. No surprises. No secrets. All the major plot points of your novel.

So, when I went to package my submission for the SCBWI WIP grant, I realized I didn't have a synopsis. I have a great 250 word query. What I don't have is a great 750 word synopsis. Well, I almost do. Now. But I didn't on Monday morning.

Did I mention how great my critique group is?