Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Frankenstorm is Preparing me for NaNoWriMo

When Dorothy was swept up into the sky during the tornado, she was terrified. Little did she know that she would land in Oz, a world of mystery and color.

Sounds like the creative process, yes? I don't know about you, but with every new project I start, I have a certain amount of trepidation. What demons are going to come up? What talismans (like Toto) do I need to keep me going, to keep up my courage while I'm fighting for my life on the page?

November first is officially the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, and is a tornado of creativity, fear and excitement for many-a-writer, myself included.

Then there's the real tornado of frankenstorm proportions innocuously named Sandy. Sigh. Ah, Sandy you sweet thing!

At this point, we still have electricity, but the kids don't have school and the roads are closed as the wind is starting to pick up here in Bedford County, NY. Chances are, that on Thursday, we won't have any power at all, and won't know when we will get it back, but that can't stop us East Coast writers from . . . well, writing.

Back to some old-school tricks folks, by the names of pen and paper. And our creativity will SURGE when we get our electricity back.

My plan is to go to the gym from 8 - 9 every morning, and then write from 9:30 - 12:30. Three hours a day, and it needs to be focused solid writing. And it doesn't have to be good. I've been working on a synopsis*, so I can sit down on Thursday with my butt firmly in my chair and write.

I haven't made it to 50k yet, but the past two years I've participated in NaNo, I've written more than I would have; I've relished the collective mojo of the community. My first year was 2010, and Edges was just about to be born and I was FREAKING OUT. NaNo had me write 30k of something else that turned into a novel. Last year, I wrote 40k, and rewrote that into a novel too. (I don't have contracts yet for either of them, so make of that what you will. For me, writing is practice and process.)

This year I hope to write 40k too, even though I will be leading some day long workshops and there is the whole issue of THANKSGIVING, but I need help pushing through my new project. I have a couple of scenes written, but I've been dancing around plot points and using that to procrastinate.

I have to get in the eye of the storm, and NaNo will be my Dorothy. And I won't surrender, I won't give up. I'll face the witch and her monkeys in my own writing.

As for this actual Frankenstorm, we're still waiting. Maybe it will miss us, but if it doesn't, we have games, books, flashlights at the ready, and have prepared in all of the ways that a family without a house generator can. Let the chips fall where they may, and in the meantime, stay safe everyone.

Read and Write on!

PS the power just flickered off - this may be it folks!

*CRUISING: 18 year old Harper shocks her parents by taking a job on a cruise ship instead of going to college. She wants to separate herself from her boy-crazy twin sister, Bianca. But when Bianca shows up as a guest on the cruise with their dying grandmother, Harper gets more than she bargained for.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Writers, Glitterfy! Keeping the Faith . . .

CELEBRATE the small stuff, find community, discipline yourself. Wear glitter. Feel your feelings about the publishing biz, but LOOK for silver linings everywhere, and strive for a constant state of WONDER.

If you have been reading my blog, you've been with me every step of the way on this rollercoaster ride. The latest is that FSG says that Edges is going out of print. But as someone pointed out to me, now I've been published, I can never be unpublished.

When FSG says that Edges is going out of print, that's really not true - it just means that they won't be printing it anymore. All rights revert back to me, plus I am buying out their stock so that I can do with my book as I please. I will have books to give away, donate and sell at my discretion. $16.99 for a hardback is crippling - and $10 for an e-book is just stupid. Now - or at least soon - I will get to set my own pricing. And when I run out of hard copies, it's been digitized, so it will have longevity.

I will have longevity as a writer, as a human being, because I keep writing no matter what, and I am going to CELEBRATE by joining forces with my community and participating in November's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.)

Keep tuning in for my struggles, successes and inspiration, and share yours with me! Be ready for a slew of NaNo related posts - I will get my Survival Kit ready over the weekend and share with you on Monday. We are in this together, as human beings and as writers. Make sure you follow me on this blog, twitter and Facebook, and leave me info on how to do the same for you, if I haven't already!

Also: If you would like me to send you a signed copy of Edges, please let me know. I will be selling it for $10, and that includes shipping and handling. Or if you are a teacher or work for a non-profit, I would be happy to donate a box of books to your organization.

And always wear glitter!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tales from the Conference

"Challenge every word you write, forget about publishing and have fun," Tom Robbins told us at lunch on Saturday as he lounged in a chair on the stage, looking more hipster than octogenarian. His words echo the ones I have been telling myself lately, and as I ride the train back to New York, leaving Richmond, Virginia and the James River Writers' Conference I feel invigorated by my time with other writers on every stage of the journey.

From pre-published to poet laureates and everything in between, we are one big writing community.

It was thrilling to be asked to be a speaker and panelist, to travel and make new friends, and stay with old ones (Kristi and Adam Austin. Kristi got me down to Richmond after EDGES came out, and as conference chair, brought me down again.)

I arrived in time for a cocktail party on Friday night, held in a grand old Southern house where I had some fabulous one on one conversations with the incredible Eleanor Brown (Weird Sisters), Josh Cane, agent Ayesha Pande and I met debut author Kristen-Paige Madonia (Fingerprints of You) and Gigi Amateau (Come August, Come Freedom). It was inspiring to learn about the James River Writers and how it came to be, how the torch has been passed and that now they are celebrating the tenth conference. (I'd love to have something like this in Westchester!)

Saturday was my opportunity to soak in the whole conference and meet lots of people. I had never been to a conference like this before and I was amazed. Allan Wolf blew us away with his performance poetry in the opening session, followed by "First Pages", a panel where two agents and an editor gave feedback on some brave writer's first page of their manuscript. I hadn't realized that agents and editors make a habit of going to conferences to find talent. (I know, where have I been?) So all of you pre-published authors, get thee to a conference! (I know that Tom Robbins says not to worry about being published, but it can't hurt to network!)

There were two success stories on display from the conference of 2009 where authors Jeri Watts and Lana Krumwiede (Freakling) met their respective editor (Liz Bicknell) and agent (Molly Jaffa with Folio) and are now published authors with Candlewick!

It was a whirlwind of fun and of sharing ideas, and we didn't stop. A bunch of us went out to dinner in downtown Richmond, and got to bed very late!

And guess who else I met - Malinda Lo! (Ash, The Huntress, Adaptation)  She is the coolest.

On Sunday morning, it was Camisha Jones' turn to blow us away with her spoken word poetry - she is relatively new to the scene, but this is someone to watch out for - surely a prodigious talent! Later that morning I had the opportunity to be on a panel with her called, Finding the Time, Keeping the Faith. Joining us were editor Cherise Fisher and Jeri Watts. We all had a great time, having much to say on the subject! (I brought my glitter with me, and even anointed another young writer at the end!) I led a lunchtime discussion on teaching creative writing and then I was on another panel called Creating Atmosphere with Virginia poet laureate Kelly Cherry and  author Emily Mitchell (The Summer of the War).

The conference closed with Pitch-a-palooza, the American Idol of pitches as created by husband and wife team David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut (The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published). I heard that several authors were asked for partial or full manuscripts - awesome!

I was even able to meet with my friend Randy, songwriter and singer for Lamb of God for a strong cup of coffee and intense conversation about the value of art and our obligations as human beings. He spent the month of July in a prison in Czeckoslavakia - you can read the Rolling Stone article here.

On that tantalizing note, Randy got me back to Kristi and we went out for pizza with some of the JRW crew to celebrate the completion of a successful conference. I'm so proud of Kristi, and I hope to be invited back next year!

Now I'd better practice what I preach and use the rest of my time on the train for fiction writing - although Malinda's book Adaptation is calling me . . .

Friday, October 19, 2012

Silver Linings

I am on the train, speeding my way to sunny Richmond, Virginia (from rainy Katonah, NY)  to take part in a conference full of writerly folk. It is an honor to have been invited to be a panelist at the tenth James River Writer's Conference. It is an honor to be wanted. It's one of the silver linings in the rocky road of publishing.

The train ride from Penn Station is almost seven hours long and I just finished reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown on my kindle. (My mother gave me a kindle almost two years ago, and Eleanor's was the first book I bought on it. I was half-way through it before I put it down - it had hit too close to home.) I started reading this morning, in Penn Station,  knowing that I am going to meet Eleanor in person tonight - she will be coming to the conference from her home in Colorado.

We have been internet buddies, as we both had debut books coming out in December of 2010, me going at the beginning of the month, her at the end. In fact, she had asked me to do a guest blog post for a group blog of "debutantes "she was facilitating that year.

I have tears in my eyes because The Weird Sisters jives so well with my last blog post, Redefining Success, and it DID hit close to my heart: Three sisters converge at home in the midwest ostensibly to help take care of their cancer-ridden mother but have underlying issues of loss of their own to deal with. Each feels like a failure in her own way, comparing themselves to each other in both lackluster and stellar ways. They all have much growing up to do. And I promise you, the character arcs in this book are beautiful: it is truly a coming-of-age novel.

As I am also always "coming-of-age" and becoming more and more comfortable in my own skin and what I do . . . so it is both ironic and fitting that I *just* got an email from my editor's assistant at FSG saying they're very sorry, but EDGES is about to go out of print because sales are low and they don't have the warehouse space.

Are you sighing for me? Ah, the glamorous life of a writer!

It's been out for almost two years, so I'm surprised that this email didn't come sooner, I'm already prepared for it.

I feel so lucky to be on my way to a writer's conference and to always be in the process of redefining success. Am I worried that others' will perceive me as not being successful because my book is going out of print and I don't have another contract? Am I comparing myself to Eleanor whose book is a NY Times best seller and is now out in paperback? Hmmmm . . .  yeah, a little. But that's not what matters, is it? What matters is that I do have a lot to offer, about where I am in the process and keeping the faith no matter what. We keep on truckin'.

Hey! Now I will be allowed to sell copies myself at hugely discounted prices! Is this a silver lining or what? I'll buy out the warehouse, and YOU can get a signed copy direct from the author herself! So what do you think?

(Or you can wait a couple of years for the paperback. Heh, heh, heh.)

Anyways - I have about 90 minutes more on the train, where I will be reunited with my dear friend Kristi (who I met because of my blog!) who has been instrumental in putting this shindig together and is responsible for getting me down South.

And tonight I get to hug Eleanor!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Redefining Success

I was such an asshole when I was younger. I had this dreadful combination of inferiority/superiority complex, where success was defined by external things.

Oh, that's society you say? So I'm not alone?

The definers of success were my grandmother, a famous novelist, and my father, a rock star priest. Everybody else was a loser, including me. If you weren't making a major impact on the world, you just sucked. What about doctors? Lawyers? Nah. They didn't have a big enough of a captive audience - my dad's preaching drew huge crowds and my grandmother's words were read by millions - they both had a similar philosophy/theology and they WERE ON MESSAGE. What about teachers then? Surely they have a captive audience. They were the biggest losers of all. Those who can't do, teach.

The standard of my grandmother and father's success was impossibly high for everyone. (See, I told you I was an asshole.)

Well, what was the MESSAGE of your grandmother and your father then? That we ALL matter, and that we're not losers! Basically, we're all children of God, or we all have God within us, however you want to look at the semantics of it.

I see you scratching your head. Why then, couldn't you internalize this? 

(And then there's the whole money issue - you not only have to captivate an audience, you have to make money too! Because everyone knows success is about money, right? )

I internalized everything - there was good stuff of course, but a lot of BAD stuff, and my foggy brain couldn't sort it all out. I had to grow up and have my own struggles with this ethereal notion of "success". I continue to grow and the more I am in touch with the Divine, the more in-love with the world and my life I am.

I am not my grandmother and I am not my father, but like them, I am a writer and a teacher. I have internalized their message, and I share it with you as you share with me.  I write to remind myself of who I really am, because this is the best way I know how to think clearly.

I needn't define myself by their success, or by anybody's. My definition of success is the ability to embrace and appreciate life, and having the physical and spiritual space to do the things that make you a better person, and bring you more toward your authentic self.

Which is what writing and teaching do for me. It's not making me rich for sure, but I am solidly middle class.

And best of all, my life is right sized, no better or worse than anybody else.

(This is the good part about getting older folks!)

What about you? Do you struggle with any of this?