Thursday, July 29, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
I rode this race 25 years ago, in 1985, on a quarter horse/mustang cross named Daniel. I was fitter, lighter, tougher, and boy I'd do it again tomorrow if I thought I could. I wax nostalgic just thinking about it.
Riders start from a point near Squaw Valley, California (base camp was in the meadow at Squaw Valley when I did it) and ride all the way to Auburn, California.
They begin in the wee hours of the morning - 5:15 am - after months or years of preparation, involving long hours of trotting their horse up and down mountains several days a week, until the horse is not only physically but mentally prepared for the challenge. The trail itself snakes over granite ridges with insane elevation gains and descents,and trail hazards including a swinging suspension bridge and the infamous Cougar Rock (imagine rock climbing for horses.) Riders routinely clamber off and run alongside on the steep downhills, and follow behind, holding on to the tails or "tailing" their horses uphill. All this in order to save their horses for the long haul home.
Why would anybody do this? I don't know. Because they're half-crazy? To say they can?
Here's a picture of me and my horse, Daniel (my head is turned away from the camera.)This picture was taken at Squaw Valley about three weeks before we accomplished the actual Tevis ride itself, when a girlfriend and I pre-rode the trail in three days, camping out and completing about 30 miles a day. We carried all our food and gear with us, and it was hands-down the most fun I've ever had horseback. For the actual race, I traveled much lighter, with a crew of great volunteers at rest stops.
Today, the Western States Ride has its own website, with a live report on each rider in the race and even twitter updates. Finishers are still awarded the coveted Tevis Cup belt buckle.
Do I own one? No. Daniel and I made it through each and every vet check, and with just a few miles to go, in the wee hours of the following morning (after riding for about 23 hours straight) my horse was all done in. Tired. I urged him forward. "Come on boy, just a couple more miles, you can do it." Nothing. Nada. He had given me everything he had, so with tears in my eyes, I got off and walked my superb trooper, my palomino horse Daniel, to finish the last few miles. We came in just overtime. We didn't win a buckle. But we finished the course, and I brought my horse home tired, but completely sound. The endurance motto "To Finish is to Win" has made me feel like a winner all these years later.
The publishing world is a lot like endurance riding. You've got to train hard, hang in there, and there are peaks and valleys and tests of your endurance. My best horseback riding days are behind me, but I hope my best writing days are still in front of me. And believe me, I'm in it for the long haul.
What have you done that you're really, really proud of, that still brings nostalgic memories? Would you do it again? Feel free to share.
Monday, July 19, 2010
So as I begin these revisions, I realize this will be an entirely new draft of my manuscript. Here's how I keep track of it. I have saved the earlier version in four different ways - on my hard drive, on an external hard drive, on a flash drive, and by emailing it to myself.
Then, I copy and paste the entire document into a new blank document and rename it. Whatever works, something like: Life on the Run, Summer 2010 (and no, that's not the name of my ms, but it's cool, huh?) Name it something so that you can definitely know which version you are working on.
At this point, some people might use Track Changes (a feature on Word.) I have never become comfortable using this, because even though all the changes sit out to the side in small print and a different color, it messes up the margins and the formatting.
I prefer to just make changes as I go, but here's another helpful thing I do. I open another blank document, and I label it "Unused scenes and paragraphs from Life on the Run." Then, if I decide to delete a larger portion of the manuscript (more than just a few words) I just cut and paste it into the new document, making a note about where they came from - like end of chapter 12, or something. Presto, those awesome words are saved, and I can continue on with my revisions, knowing I can always find them again, quite easily, if I need to.
I don't often want those words back. But I might want to use them elsewhere, or I might just want to read them again and compare. Besides, we are writers, and we do sometimes become enamoured of our own writing. See my post Killing your Darlings.
Anyway, this is how I do it.
How do you revise? Any tips or tricks you'd like to share?
Friday, July 16, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Well, truth be told, I sort of like to iron. It's one of those mindless chores that allows your mind to wander. I start with the collars, then I press each sleeve, front and back. Then I start on the main part of the shirt. As I move the material around the ironing board, set the iron down, and press the next part, my mind moves on to other things.
Like my work-in-progress. Like maybe how I could fit in another scene between my two main characters during that long stretch between chapter six and chapter sixteen. Like how I could bring out the mother's personality more, or the conflict between the boy and his dad.
You've heard how people get their best ideas in the shower, or while driving, or walking or doing the dishes. It's funny how our brains work, isn't it?
If you think and dwell and worry about something, you can't seem to untangle the knot in your mind. But if you just start in on some mindless activity, like ironing, your mind somehow frees itself up from all that thinking, and just goes to some amazing creative places on its own.
So try it some time. Pull out those wrinkly cotton clothes, fire up your iron to HOT, and press away. Who knows what might happen?
Does this work for you? How many of you still actually iron? Do you have other mindless activities that help you get ideas?
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
"Oh, that must be so fun," they might say, naming off some of their favorite picture books. Then I'd amend my answer to say, "No, I write Middle Grade," at which point my well-wishers would look at me blankly. To a large portion of the general public, there are only two kinds of books - children's picture books, and everything else.
So now when people ask me what I write, I say "novels for children." They get that -sort of. "Like Black Beauty?" they might answer.
In the publishing industry, the names for book genres for young readers make sense, up to a point. Picture books, easy readers, early chapter books, middle-grade, tween (is this a new classification?) YA. But where in the world did the term Middle Grade even come from?
When I try to explain to anyone outside of the industry that I write Middle Grade books, they think of middle school, junior high, grades 7-8, so it makes no sense to them when I say that Middle Grade means grades 4-6, and up.
Publisher age ranges further compound the problem. Some are labeled 8-12 (which means no 13-14 year old kid would want to read it, even though they might Love. It.)
Our library system uses J for junior and YA for young adult books, and has them shelved in completely different areas of the library. This is unfortunate, because there are great middle grade books shelved over in the YA section that fifth graders will never find. And Junior itself is a term that seems kind of secondary in nature anyway, don't you think?
There are a couple of great new blogs right now that champion Middle Grade books: Middle Grade Ninja and
From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors.
At the moment, all the buzz is about YA. Young Adult. When blogs run contests (including mine) offering a YA books as a prize, I get easily double the entrants than if I offer a Middle Grade book. Why is this? Does this mean that Middle Grade authors feel they have to push their writing, adding more romance and older themes in order to get a coveted YA title on their books and perhaps make them more attractive to the general public, or sell more?
I hope not. What I think we need is a new name. A new name for the genre of book for 8-12 year old. Those kids who (because of the influence of television, movies, and the internet) are not nearly so innocent as they were even a decade ago. I don't particularly care for Tween, because of the connotation of being In-between, not this and not that.
But I truly feel that if a New Name (for middle-grade) was developed - one that more accurately portrays a novel filled with plot lines that kids would relate to, but not necessarily nitty-gritty sex stuff - then this genre of book would:
a) be easier to describe to the public
b) be more willingly grabbed up by kids and parents, and
c) maybe finally garner the respect that it needs.
Thoughts? Comments? New Names or Suggestions for the Middle Grade Genre?