Posts Tagged ‘creative writing’

Michael Geisinger is the Gildajoyce.com June/July Reader-of-the-Month!

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Michael Geisinger with Jennifer Allison at the International Spy Museum

When he isn’t writing poetry or spy fiction, you might find Michael Geisinger reading a book (or two, or three), getting ready to attend middle school in the fall, playing the piano, coaching a winning Battle of the Books team, or publishing book reviews for his school’s website. Michael recently completed a top-secret mission at the International Spy Museum’s Spy Fiction Writer’s Workshop, and luckily, he lived to write about his experience. I recently managed to track him down, expose his “cover,” and ask him to share some of his tips for other adventurous young readers and writers.

Check out his summer reading tips; Michael’s passion for literature will inspire you!

Gilda: Michael, how would you describe yourself as a reader? What types of books (fiction and/or nonfiction) usually appeal to you most?

Michael: I love to read and usually am reading 2-3 books at the same time. I enjoy both fiction and nonfiction but fiction is my favorite. I love detective stories and paranormal stories, so when I found the first Gilda Joyce book, it was a dream come true.

Gilda: I’m glad to hear it! How did you get interested in creative writing?

Michael: I have been interested in writing as long as I can remember, and I love to write poetry. In fact, I have always wanted to be a writer. I sometimes think I would like to be a teacher but also still a writer. When I was little and didn’t know how to write, I would dictate stories and poems to my parents.

Gilda: Word on the street is that you recently led your team to victory in a highly competitive “Battle of the Books” competition. What was the key to your success, other than the usual corporal punishment? (haha)

Michael: The Battle of the Books is a competition between seven of the elementary schools in my town. The students on each school team had to compete just to make the team. The competition required the teams to answer questions about the books. The team that answered the most questions correctly won. The books we read are The Mysterious Benedict Society, No Talking, Alvin Ho, The Beloved Dearly, Jackie and Me, and Clementine. The key to our success was to assign one book to each person on the team to really study. The students on my team (I was team captain) all know their books well so we were able to win.

Gilda: You also recently completed a Spy Fiction Writer’s Workshop at the International Spy Museum. Did the workshop give you any ideas for your own writing?

Michael: Yes. For example, I learned that it can be a good idea to put some real traits that people you know like your friends and family have into your characters because that will make your characters more real.

Gilda: You also write book reviews for a school publication. What types of books do you usually review?

Michael: I mostly review fiction. Usually, I review books that I really like so other students may enjoy them too.

Reviews also help me find books. For example, I first discovered the Gilda Joyce series in 4th grade when Mrs. Stern, my school librarian, showed us the first Gilda Joyce book with a review of the book. I found the review so interesting that I had to read the book.
When I wrote my own review of the Gilda Joyce series, I wanted other readers to know that the Gilda Joyce series is great because you can easily relate to the characters, you feel like you are there with Gilda, and the books always have an amazing plot.

Gilda: I salute your good taste, Michael! Do you have a favorite book in the Gilda Joyce series?

Michael: My favorite Gilda Joyce book is Gilda Joyce: The Ghost Sonata. It is my favorite book because I play the piano. I loved the plot twists involving a piano competition.

Gilda: Since you’re a musician, you could probably relate to Wendy’s performance anxiety during the competition in THE GHOST SONATA.

Michael: Definitely. I have played in a few recitals and for my school talent shows over the years. Every time I perform I feel very nervous and have butterflies in my stomach.

Gilda: Let’s hope you don’t have a ritual involving strawberry-scented shampoo, like Wendy did.

Michael: No, nothing like that. No ghosts either.

Gilda: Can you share one or two summer reading suggestions for our readers? What’s on your “can’t-wait-to-read-it” list at the moment?

Michael: One book that I am really looking forward to reading is the last book in the Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley. It’s called The Council of Mirrors. I also can’t wait to read the last book in Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordon.

Gilda: Thanks for the great tips, Michael! Keep reading and writing, and have a great summer!

AT LAST! How to Get Published – part 2 – An Interview with Eric Kahn Gale, who shares the slightly unconventional path he followed to publish his wonderful first novel!

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Eric Kahn Gale has just landed a book deal for his great first novel, THE BULLY BOOK!

GILDA: How would you describe your first novel, THE BULLY BOOK, to new readers?

ERIC: When you’re submitting a book to publishers, you get very good at summarizing your book; in order to get editors interested I had to get my summary down to 7 sentences:

In The Bully Book, there’s a book that teaches kids “how to be a bully” – a book that’s about to ruin Eric Haskins life. Upon entering 5th grade, he is mercilessly tormented by a group of boys who turn the entire class against him. Eric learns of a conspiracy theory about “The Bully Book,” a manual that has been passed down from 5th grader to 5th grader throughout the years, teaching how to be the coolest kid in school. The lynchpin of the system is the selection of “the Grunt,” — one kid to be “lowest of the low.” Eric investigates the mystery behind the Bully Book: like a detective, he follows a paper trail and seeks out older Grunts, hoping to discover why he was chosen to be the victim of bullying. If he can discover why he’s the Grunt, maybe he can change himself and escape from his terrible fate.

GILDA: Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for this story and your writing process?

ERIC: I was bullied pretty severely in 5th grade, and I always wanted to write about it but hesitated because I felt it would be too boring. It would just be a regular story about a kid. There was no “big concept” to make it dramatic.

Writing about yourself can be great, it’s probably where you have the most to say, but there’s a trap there because you don’t have much perspective on what you’re writing, you’re too close to it.

Listening to an episode of the radio show “This American Life” gave me the Big Concept that I needed. The episode was about “The Cruelty of Children” and in the first piece, a 2nd grader told the interviewer that he’d seen his bully with a book that taught you how to be mean to people. The interviewer was surprised that such a book could exist and asked the kids teacher and librarian about it. They both said the book was probably in the kid’s imagination.

Yeah, I thought listening to the story, that kind of book could never be published; it would be something that kids made and passed around amongst themselves. The Bully Book.

Holy crap. I pulled off my headphones, got off the street and immediately went into the nearest Starbucks. I wrote out the first paragraph of “The Bully Book” on my iPhone. It was the story of me in 5th grade but my bullies had this mysterious book.

Later that night, I talked out the entire outline with a good friend of mine. It was in that conversation that we discovered the book would be a mystery novel and crafted the twist ending.

If this sounds like one of those fairy-tale stories of a great idea coming right out of the blue—it totally is. But you need to keep in mind that I then spent the next year or so writing it. And it went through a lot more changes during that process.

GILDA: I understand you have a background in the performing arts. How has this helped you as a writer?

ERIC: The main thing I learned from writing movies and plays is how to keep things tight. In screenplay writing, “formula” is not seen as a bad thing; it’s considered an achievement to make an original and exciting story that is still tight, structured, and hits all the “beats.” (You can find countless books on screenwriting structure; my favorite is Save the Cat)

The culture of novel writing is considerably more “loose,” but most published writers still pay incredible attention to story structure. It’s just a question of perspective.

GILDA: You found a literary agent to represent you through the usual process [find more info about how to contact literary agents below], but your path to publication took an unusual turn: when your agent shopped around your novel, publishers initially failed to snap up THE BULLY BOOK. Many writers would have given up at that point, but you thought “outside the box”; you generated an e-book audience independently, and then landed a book contract with traditional publisher. Some of us are still hiding our brilliant manuscripts in the back of our closets and hoping to be discovered by virtue of our fashion sense alone (not naming any names, but we know who we are). Can you share with us exactly how you succeeded?

ERIC: My literary agent and I sent the book out to 8 publishers in the first round, and over the course of 2 painful months, they all rejected the book. They were kind about it and most professed to liking the book themselves. They often said they were on the fence about it because the book seemed too dark or mean for a young audience.

Years previous, I had read Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book Blink, where he analyzes the way people make decisions. In one chapter, he describes experiments that demonstrated people’s difficulty deciding what someone else would like. Often, the act of deciding whether another person would like something altered your own view of it. Gladwell was referring to focus groups advertisers would use, but I had a feeling something similar was happening with The Bully Book.

So before we decided to send it out to a second round of 8 eight editors, I decided to put the book up for sale online.

I’m not sure this is for everyone. I’m lucky because some of my best friends have an insanely popular youtube channel that they graciously allowed me to sell my book through. The Bully Book (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPvgXKX9Szo)

We got some impressive sales data and a lot of really nice blogging/twittering from readers that we sent out with the next round of publishers. Half of the editors didn’t even have time to read the manuscript before we had 2 publishing houses making offers.

GILDA: Backing up a bit, what advice would you have for young writers who have a finished manuscript and feel they are ready to get published, but don’t know how to go about it? What should I (ahem, I mean *they*) do first?

ERIC: The first thing you should do is try to take a few writing workshops – ideally with a published author. My workshop with Jennifer Allison at the University of Michigan turned out to be really helpful to me in navigating the publishing process, for example.

GILDA: Never heard of her.

ERIC: You should check her books out; you’d probably like them.

GILDA: Will do.

ERIC: The next thing is to try to get a literary agent. There are a ton of books on how to do this; just ask your librarian if you need help.

GILDA: Other than wearing stiletto heels, what is the key to confidence as a writer? In other words, how did you know that you had a book on your hands that was worth investing so much of your time in even after being told “NO!”

ERIC: Since deciding that I wanted to be a writer 7 years ago, I’ve had 4 of what I consider to be Good ideas. I’ve had a lot of Bad ideas. But in those 7 years just 4 were good.

For each idea, I’ve had prophetic and, borderline maniacal, faith that:

1. This was something I COULD write.
2. This was something I WOULD write.
3. This would be a SUCCESS.

GILDA: Sounds like my approach to becoming a psychic investigator.

ERIC: Exactly. Each time I spent a little more or less than a year of my life on the project and each ended up being a success. But it always took an insane amount of time.

My 1st good idea was a play called Marlin and the Jaguar. All my friends loved it, but it didn’t even place in the University of Michigan’s (insanely big money) annual writing contest, The Hopwoods.

The next year, I changed ONE WORD of the manuscript (which implied a different ending) and the play won TOP PRIZE, the most money any play had won in the Hopwood’s history up to that point.

My 2nd good idea was a play that went through several incarnations and only became realized YEARS after the original concept. (There are now plans to stage this play in New York.)

My 3rd good idea was a webseries called Little White Lie my friends and I made with money we’d won in a contest hosted by Disney. We spent our entire senior year of college writing, shooting and editing this monster, and in the end Disney didn’t even put it up on their website. It languished on youtube for 2 years until something else my friends made became popular, (again Starkid) and now the series has millions of views and thousands of fans have bought the sound track.

The 4th good idea was The Bully Book, and you already know that story. So I guess the point is, if you don’t like the idea enough to spend a year working on it and years waiting for it to be successful, you should maybe look for another idea.

GILDA: You’ve said that you like reading the Gilda Joyce mysteries (otherwise I would have gently escorted you to the exit – haha), so I’m guessing that lots of my friends will also enjoy checking out The Bully Book! What other books would you recommend to young readers? Any favorites?

ERIC: I love kid detectives. I wish I had been one. That’s what makes Gilda so cool (aside from being psychic and a writer, of course). There are so many restrictions placed on you when you’re a kid and the world can seem like a closed-off place. I love the way that Gilda dives into the mysteries of the world, (especially of her school in Ladies of the Lake) and takes charge of her own experience.
As far as other great books about kids, Harry Potter is a favorite, as well as A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Graveyard Book, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Thanks for chatting with us, Eric, and sharing your interesting perspective on the writing and publishing process! I’m sure lots of Gilda Joyce readers who are working on their own stories and books will be grateful for the time you took to share this helpful info! We’re all excited to see THE BULLY BOOK in our favorite libraries and bookstores!

P.S. For more information on approaching literary agents and book publishers, we recommend asking the ever-helpful (really! Don’t be scared!) reference librarian at your local library and/or taking a look at the following resources:

\”How to Write a Bad Query Letter\” (article by a young literary agent-in-training)

Literary Marketplace 2011(this directory of literary agents and publishers is available at most public libraries) http://books.infotoday.com/directories/lmp.shtml

Society of Children\’s Book Writers and Illustrators (the children’s book author’s source of information on workshops, conferences, and publishers:

http://www.scbwi.org/

Gilda’s “Up All Night” Famous Chocolate Fudge Cookies!

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Okay, I’ve been gone for a while, and I appreciate the many notes asking whether I fell into a ditch, whether I was hit by a bus, and other gentle and not-so-gentle inquiries as to my whereabouts.

Suffice it to say, ladies and gentlemen, that when you read my next adventure (my fingers are still sore from typing it), those questions will be answered, and you will be AMAZED that I am even still here to type at all. And the answer to one of the above questions is “yes,” by the way. But probably not in the way you’d expect.

How’s that for being vague? Read THE BONES OF THE HOLY on June 10th to find out more….

But on to more important matters. For those of you who are studying for final exams or getting “spring fever,” and just plain tired of doing your homework, I thought I’d offer you something to help you stay perky during the final weeks of the school year.

That’s right, I told you I would post some recipes, and I didn’t lie. It took me a lifetime to get the work done, but I’m finally going to reveal…. TA DA!

Gilda Joyce’s “UP ALL NIGHT” Famous Chocolate Fudge Cookie Recipe
Note: We writers should give credit to our sources, and my “Up All Night” cookies are not solely the result of my own late-night, chocolate-fueled writing sessions. My favorite chocolate cookie recipe is based on a recipe in Craig Common’s wonderful cookbook, The Common Grill Cookbook, which I highly recommend. And hey – if you visit Chelsea, Michigan, make sure to eat at the Common Grill! You’ll no longer believe people when they insist that the words “Michigan” and “yummy” don’t fit in the same sentence!

NOTE: for best results, consume two cookies along with a double latte. Now—get back to that term paper or the last chapter of that novel-in-progress!

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
½ cup unsweetened chocolate
1 2/3 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup butter
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Sift together four, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

Over medium heat, in bottom half of double boiler, heat 1 inch of water; do not boil. (Set aside.)
Place semisweet chocolate pieces and unsweetened chocolate in top half of double boiler and melt slowly. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. (Set aside.)

Set mixer to medium speed and cream brown sugar and butter in large mixing bowl for 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl and continue mixing while adding eggs one at a time, until combined. Add vanilla and beat for 30 seconds. Add melted chocolate and beat for 10 seconds.

Slowly add sifted flour mixture to creamed mixture and continue to beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides with rubber spatula.

Drop 2 tablespoons per cookie onto cookie sheet, spaced 2 inches apart, and bake for 15 minutes. Cool.

If you don’t know what to do next, I can’t help you.

Are You Ready to Get Published?

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

From time to time in this blog, I will turn my attention to some of the letters and requests for advice I’ve received. One of the more familiar questions goes something like this:

“Dear Gilda,

I think you’re awesome! More importantly:

HOW DO I GET PUBLISHED?”

To which I respond: “Are you sure you’re READY to be published?”

“Of course I am, Gilda!” you answer. “I have such a cute idea for a novel, and I’ve heard that people like J.K. Rowling and the writer of those Twilight books make millions. I would have no problem spending that cash, Gilda, and I wouldn’t blow it all on Twinkies and lip gloss, either.

The Bones of the Holy will be published in June, 2011.

“So how about it, Gilda?” you say. “When is it going to be MY turn? HOW ABOUT ME?!”

“Fine,” I reply, “I will tell you how to get published, but first you must perform five feats of superhuman strength.”

Just kidding. What I actually tell you is: “Before you think about how to get published, you should first be able to few simple but oh-so-difficult and crucial steps”:

BEFORE SEEKING A PUBLISHER, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU CAN CHECK OFF THE FOLLOWING ITEMS ON YOUR “TO-DO” LIST:

1. You have finished writing your entire first book (for a novel, this will usually be approximately 200 pages in length or longer).

2. You are aware that most authors do not publish the first draft of their manuscript, and you have faced the gruesome task of revising your own work. (See my previous blog entry on REVISION MADE EASY for tips on revising your work.)

3. You have shown your manuscript to several avid readers (meaning people who actually read entire books for fun) including at least one trustworthy adult who is not related to you. Seek out opinions from young readers, but include people who are not your closest friends. Your friends know they have to love your manuscript; otherwise you’ll stop texting them and sitting next to them in the cafeteria. (Note: see the website www.spillinginkthebook.com for great tips on how to start a writing club.)

4. You are willing to listen to and consider the comments and feedback you receive without storming out of the room or dissolving into tears.  (Believe me, this is harder than it sounds. But you’ll hear even more comments from a real editor, so toughen up and get used to it!)

“But Gilda,” you say, “This is your most depressing blog entry ever. I can’t check off anything on that list yet! Are you saying that I’m not a writer?!”

Of course not. You’re a writer when you actively work at the craft of writing, not merely because you’re published. There’s one thing that we writers all have in common: we write. And every time we start a new book, we’re starting over, from ground zero. In fact, sometimes book number five is even harder than book number one.

“But darn it, Gilda,” you say, stomping your foot, “I REALLY WANT TO GET PUBLISHED RIGHT NOW!”

“Of course you do,” I say, wiping the ink stains from your fingers and the drool from your chin. “But have you ever considered that what you really want—and what you could have right now—is an audience for your writing?”

We writers can be reclusive creatures, and personally, I love knowing that my secret stash of unpublished manuscripts is hiding in my closet, just waiting to be discovered someday. Still, there comes a point when you need to share your stories with other demented individuals. (That was a joke, for those of you who don’t know my sense of humor.)

Some suggestions for finding your audience:

1. Create a website or start a blog to share your writing and that of your friends. We live in an exciting, dynamic, and strange time in the history of publishing, so take advantage of it. (When in history could an “unpublished” writer reach such a large audience so quickly?)

2. Start an after-school or weekend writing club. Sometimes it’s heartwarming to meet with other writers in person –not just online.

3. Try sending chapters of your novel-in-progress to a friend in installments (I once sent my friend Wendy a novel in weekly chapters that kept her laughing all summer.My creative writing teacher hated the book, but Wendy is still begging me to write book #2 in the never-published Penelope Stunn series.)

So keep writing, but until you can check off each item on my handy list, my advice is to focus on finding your audience rather than “getting published.”

“But Gilda—” someone shouts from the back row. “What about those of us who CAN check off every item on that list?” A spitball whisks past my head as I turn to answer.

But just in time, the bell rings.

Sorry folks; another session has ended, and we’re out of time. But tune in to my next blog for yet another answer to the eternal question that has driven brilliant minds to near-insanity:

“HOW DO I GET PUBLISHED?”

“I WANT A DO-OVER!” GILDA’S GUIDE TO REVISION MADE EASY

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Now that it’s almost time to go back to school, it’s time for me to set aside my cat’s-eye sunglasses, SPF 200 sunscreen, spy stories (both real and imagined), and turn to a writing topic I usually avoid.

Revision.

There, I said it. Now that I see the word sitting there on the page all by itself, I see it’s not such a bad word after all. In fact, it almost sounds pretty.

Still, I avoid it.

Whenever one of my stories doesn’t work out I prefer to simply move on to the next idea—the next journey. To me, what’s interesting and fun about writing is inspiration, discovery, and self-expression. Sometimes I think the best part of writing is that exciting first moment—the moment you wonder WHAT IF…?

What if that guy I’ve been staring at in chemistry class suddenly broke up with his girlfriend and asked me out on a date?

What if I suddenly sprouted wings during my sleep, and when I woke up, I could actually fly?

What if I discovered that I could hear everyone’s thoughts?

What if my best friend and I ran away to join the circus?

Compared to the “what if” stage of the writing process, the revision stage feels like the moment your mom announces that you aren’t allowed to attend the best party of the year. Instead, she hands you a toilet plunger and a broom and tells you to get busy cleaning the bathroom.

But before you stop reading this blog in disgust, I have a secret to share. Unlike cleaning the bathroom, revision actually gets EASIER if you wait a few days, weeks, or months before starting the job. Can you believe it? A case when procrastination actually pays off?

In fact, whenever I’ve just finished writing a fantastic story that I’m dying to share with Wendy and my English teacher, I stop myself. Even though I’m imagining everyone turning cartwheels, congratulating me and slapping me on the back, I remind myself that I could probably improve the story just a teensy bit if I wait a few days and then read it again. So I hide it at the bottom of my sock drawer (where nobody would ever bother to look) and take it out after two whole weeks.

When I re-read the story, I usually still love the characters, but I still find a bunch of things I could improve.

“What are you talking about, Gilda?” I can hear you asking me. “I don’t have two weeks to stick my writing in a sock drawer! My paper on the history of origami is due tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM!!”

In that case, I admit that the revision tips I’m about to share probably won’t help you very much. Instead, you need to read the recipe for “Gilda’s Up-All-Night Chocolate Cookie Surprise,” which I will post as soon as I find myself sitting at the computer at 10:00 PM with an English paper due the next day. Once school starts, you won’t have to wait long to read that one!

But for those two or three of you out there who have NOT waited until the very last minute to do your writing homework—or for those of you who are working on an independent writing project to make your New York publishing debut—do yourself a favor and check out the following GILDA’S GUIDE TO REVISION MADE EASY:

*GILDA’S GUIDE TO REVISION MADE EASY

Remember—your sock drawer is your friend.

I know: you’ve just finished your first novel and you’re so excited, you can’t even sit still. Your grandma loves the old lady character. Your dog can’t stop licking the pages in appreciation of all the popcorn you ate while writing that fifteenth chapter. You have the envelopes addressed—ready to send off to J.K. Rowling’s publisher, the president of the United States, and the Queen of England. In short, you’re sure your story is the best thing since whipped cream in a can.

STOP. Just stick the manuscript in that drawer. Not forever, of course! Just for two weeks. Okay, at least a few days. I promise it will still be there when you go back to look for it (unless, of course, a fire, flood, or snooping relative destroys it).

“But why would you say that, Gilda?” you ask. “Wasn’t it you who encouraged me to write? Nay, and share what I have written?!”

“Because,” I answer, wiping the crumbs of frustration from the corners of your mouth, “you have no emotional distance right now. You’re too close to what you’ve written, and you’re likely to punch anyone who dares to tell you that your baby isn’t perfect. Days from now, when you pull those pages from the drawer and clear away the dust bunnies, you’ll have more mental stability. You’ll either love that story or notice things that could actually be improved.

Two weeks later…. (Imagine that last line narrated in a French accent.)

Okay, now that you’ve had a chance to look over your own work, you’re ready to share it with a trusted friend or teacher. You’re ready to actually consider any constructive comments they give you. (For more information on how to find this elusive, helpful person, see my forthcoming blog entry on “ANGELS AND EDITORS.” And sorry – I haven’t posted that one yet either. Look, I can’t solve ALL your problems in one evening!)

But before handing it off for comments, first read through the story yourself:

Do you see anything that should be clarified?

Did you notice anything that sounded hard to believe?

Are character motivations believable? Is the dialogue colorful or boring?

Now take the plunge—pick a page and start writing: see and experience the work from a renewed perspective. (I personally love to scribble in the margins of my typewritten work, but you might prefer to get a new notebook page.)

That’s right—I said writing.

“But Gilda,” you say, “I just FINISHED writing a whole manuscript. I’m DONE.”

Listen, I know just how you feel when you hear me say you are definitely NOT finished with your work. You feel like Cinderella in the castle. It’s like you just worked your butt off to finish your housework, but instead of throwing a party to celebrate your effort, the world tears down the castle walls with a wrecking ball. You’re standing there with nothing but pieces of broken plaster, a glue stick, a vacuum cleaner, and of course that same old toilet plunger your mom gave you. And of course, you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to clean up this huge mess.

Don’t despair! There’s still hope! This is the moment that separates the A papers from the C-minus papers and the professional writers from the “wanna-be” writers. If you can bite the bullet and dig in to the work, a fairy godmother of inspiration may turn up to illuminate your darkest hour. Now just put aside your tears, seize that inspiration, and push through to the end of your revision.

Repeat the process as needed.

One more tip: a funny thing might happen if you’re actually brave enough to revise your writing. Once you reach the point where your teacher is actually writing an “A” on your paper or the point at which your publisher actually wants to throw a party to celebrate your book, you’ll be happy—but not as happy as you thought you’d be.
Why? Because it’s kind of like saying “great job!” to someone who’s just finished climbing Mount Everest. The journey speaks for itself. At this point, you’ll already take genuine pride in your work no matter what comments you get.

*The author of GILDA’S GUIDE TO REVISION-MADE-EASY does not guarantee results of these habits or claim to consistently adhere to any of the above guidelines.

Feel Better; Write More!

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Gilda Joyce the Dead Drop by Jennifer AllisonEvery now and then, we writers have what is commonly called a “blue day.” Maybe that story that we pictured becoming a NYT bestseller ended up getting rejected by the school magazine. Maybe that boy we’ve had a crush on for the past year decided he likes the very girl we can’t stand (or vice versa). Maybe something genuinely terrible or simply mortifying has happened, and we’re ready to catch the earliest train out of town. Or maybe we’re simply feeling uninspired and “stuck.”

Here, my dear reader and writer, are some of my favorite tried-and-true tips that will not only help you feel better; they’ll get you writing again!

1. My first suggestion is so simple it sounds ridiculous, but you should get a new writing pen. I personally prefer pens with pink or purple gel ink. Sparkles are good too. Will this magically transform your writing? No, but you’ll suddenly feel better as that sparkly pink ink flows onto the page. Or try using a typewriter for fun if you’re used to writing longhand or using a computer. True– it’s not for everyone, but I swear by it!

2. Treat yourself to a new notebook and decorate it. I just used some babysitting funds to purchase a pink leopard-print notebook that will house the next chapters of my “Penelope Stunn” mystery-in-progress. But I also have a stash of notebooks decorated with my own original book-cover art – stuff I’ve created from collages of magazine photos and even my own cartoons. (On those rare off-days when the words aren’t flowing, you’d be amazed at how proficient I remain at using scissors and glue.)

3. Hit the high road and go exploring.. Now might be a good time to take a walk in a new neighborhood or visit a new museum. It doesn’t really matter where you go so long as it’s unfamiliar. Whenever I visit a new place, I pay more attention to details. Suddenly, I find myself getting new ideas for stories and seeing old stories in a new light.

(more…)

Do Writers Make Good Spies?

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Those of you who know my work already know that I’m a writer and an investigator. And yes, in some circles, I’m considered a spy.

No – I don’t work for the CIA (although I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask for my help one of these days). But I have been known to use my spying skills to snoop out the characters and stories that lurk around my neighborhood just waiting to be turned into scintillating fiction.

I’ve discovered that the techniques that help spies sniff out crucial bits of intelligence can also help writers locate fascinating stories. So button up your trench coat and lower your dark shades; it’s time for GILDA’S GUIDE TO EAVESDROPPING AND WRITING!

1.    Always be curious. At the moment, your neighborhood may seem to be full of nothing but homework assignments, overcooked vegetables and Monday-morning blahs. But I assure you, it also containshidden mysteries. Who lives in that house with the overgrown garden down the street? Why does that elderly gentleman always walk his dog at midnight? Is there any truth to that ghost story about that stall in the girls’ bathroom? Clues abound around your home and at your school. Being a writer begins with simply being curious and paying attention at all times.

2.    Use all of your senses. NOTICE DETAILS. Spies are trained to remember tiny details: we notice the man wearing a baseball cap who stands waiting for a bus, the parked pick-up truck that sits at the curb, the mother and child who stroll down the street. We take a mental picture, memorizing information as detailed as license plate numbers when necessary.  In this way, the spy is more likely to recognize potential danger when that same man turns up in different parts of the city (“Am I being trailed?” we ask ourselves). Usually the answer is “No, you’re being paranoid.” Still, we pay attention.

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