Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Maker of the Treats!

The other night I took my PYRAMID of RICE KRISPIES TReATS to the Scout Court of Honor, and one of the boys said, "Wow, Sister Griffith. Are you the Maker of the Treats?"

Why, yes. Yes, I am. In fact, I'd really like a t-shirt that says this.

I'm still plugging away at my edits. Just a couple dozen pages to go! I can almost smell the cake I'm going to make for myself when I'm done. Mmm. Chocolate. The recipe from the side of the Hershey's Cocoa can, with the frosting recipe from it, too. (That delicious frosting has officially turned me into a Frosting Snob. I can never again appreciate a canned frosting.)

The Cake of My Editing Accomplishment Dreams

Of course, naturally I'll only be eating ONE BITE of this delicious cake, since I'm not eating sugar anymore. Well, not very much sugar, anyhow.

When I was 19 I worked in the Pepperidge Farm Cookie Factory for a summer. Perhaps I've mentioned this before. Well, the point of it was to earn money to spend on a trip to Europe with my roommates. I spent a lot of my time there looking like Lucille Ball in the candy factory, and probably cost the company more money than I made for them. It was a bit of a disaster. However, my sweet Dad put a poster on my wall: "As you work, think 'Eur-ope, Eur-ope, Eur-ope, Yurrr-up!'" It really helped.

Then the trip was the incentive for the cookie work. Now, the cake is the incentive for the writing work.

I work well with incentives.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Life Has Shifted--and Pumpkin Cookies

Autumn is in the air. Well, sort of. My gauge still read 109* when I got in the car yesterday, so it's certainly not the autumn chill yet.


And that means autumn schedule. And that means a chance to write!

Can I express even an iota of how exciting that is?

It gets even better. The 3yo qualified for preschool (read: potty trained herself) and gets to go have fun a couple of mornings a week with Ms. K. Very exciting for her--and for me!

A lot can happen in three hours. Seriously. This morning during that kid-free block, I actually finished the hard-copy edit of my book. Yeah! I've been laboring at it for a month, taking bits and chunks at a time. Today my method was edit 5 pages, do one batch of laundry; edit 5 more pages, clean the play room; edit 5 pages, get a pan of pumpkin cookies going for the pack meeting refreshments.

PUMPKIN COOKIES! What says autumn more than the spicy smell of pumpkin cookies baking in your house (even if it's now over 80* in here because the oven's been on for 2 1/2 hours)?

The only downside is we picked this week to get our first puppy ever. A dog. An indoor dog. She's cute--darling, actually--but, didn't we have a prenuptial agreement about this? I've got to dig that thing out. Just 48 hours before I got my first real taste of freedom in almost 14 years, dog. But the kids begged.

It's just more evidence that my kids are turning me into a better person than I ever had any interest in being.

Anyhow, I'd better get back to turning these paper edits into digital info in my Word document. Then maybe I'll stop getting up to taste the pumpkin cookies.

Not My Pumpkin Cookies, but Really Close!

1 box Spice flavor cake mix
1 14.5 oz can pumpkin
1 bag mini chocolate chips

Combine all three ingredients. Drop onto cookie sheets. Bake 325* for 30 minutes.

(Oh, but note: the ones on the dark pan burned a bit on the bottom. I'm only sampling those. I promise.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

WriteOnCon! Free Writers Conference Today! + a Pepperidge Farm Surprise

This week (Tues-Thurs) there's a free writing conference online. I spent yesterday eating waaay too many goldfish crackers and reading forums and watching vlogs by editors and agents and top authors.

It's been really helpful and inspiring. One class featured advice on great first lines of novels. (Thank you xxx. I'm going now to tweak my first line.) Another was a vlog (video log) by Beth Revis, the NYT Bestselling author of Across the Universe, about failure and success.

The forum with agent Sara Megibow was filled with great advice on how to build a platform. (What's that? It's basically an online presence.) She gave her opinions on the best way to go about that, and how not to be afraid of jumping in.

There was a very touching presentation by author Alan Silberberg about drawing from memory, and how he was able to mine his own emotions and past to create a middle grade comic strip type book, Milo: Sticky Notes & Brain Freeze, with a lot of heart and depth. Loved that.
Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze
It's primarily geared toward authors and aspiring authors who write Young Adult or Middle Grade novels or to those who write or illustrate picture books. However, I have found it useful in dozens of ways so far. Those who write for an adult audience won't be sorry they checked it out.

One of the coolest features of WriteOnCon is the option to put your query up for critique. Any participant can give you feedback, and hundreds of queries will get feedback from agents, editors, and other professionals. Shoooooweeee that's cool.

The organizers really did a spectacular job lining up true professionals and talent. If you haven't already logged onto it, you can still go over there and access all the information.

Did I mention the best part? It's FREE. Yup. Totally free. You can donate if you like, but there's no obligation.

So, how many goldfish crackers did I down during said sessions? Let's just say, I had the BIG CARTON nearby. Last month I stopped by the Pepperidge Farm Cookie Factory (a place I was fortunate to have a summer job during college. Mmmm.) They have a thrift/seconds store, and I got myself quite an array of Pepperidge Farm finery. White chocolate chunks? Yessiree. Mint Milanos? Who can resist those?

The best surprise was the goldfish, though. Now not only do they come in orange and parmesan and rainbow flavor, those little fishies have a brown cousin:


It's like goldfish and choco teddy grahams had a love child.

I love them.

And you'll love WriteOnCon. Don't delay! Check it out NOW!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kool Aid on the Floor and Crayons in the Dryer--Emotions to Draw From

It's messy work, being a mom. This afternoon I was in the throes of discovering a melted green crayon in the dryer had speckled and streaked and ruined an entire batch of whites when the 8yo and the 6yo entered the laundry room baring gifts of red-soaked dishtowels.

"What's that?"

"She dumped it. We told her not to."

Red Kool-Aid. All over the newly mopped kitchen floor. Thanks, 3yo chica. Making my day, here.

At least they were trying to remedy the situation. I do have pretty darn good kids.

But life does get in the way of writing a lot of the time. My goal was to edit another 20 pages today. I'm doing the hard stuff, cutting from 95,000 words down to 85,000. Whole paragraphs and scenes are getting the ax. It's painful.

Yeah, it's painful enough to see my words, my creation circling the drain--I didn't need destruction swirling around me too.

Then again, it's these moments that give me experience to draw from. One of the things we have to do as writers is to imbue our characters with strong emotions (frustration and despair included.) And even though I hope I never write a story about a haggard mom slogging her way through the drudgery of housework, I can tap these experiences, notice how I feel and put it into words. Then I can transpose these feelings (no matter what source they come from) onto my characters and into their situations.

So, it's not all a loss. Not entirely.

I guess.

Red Kool Aid is my nemesis. (Even though it tastes fabulous. Especially Tropical Punch.)

Click Here for How to Get Red Kool Aid Out of Carpet

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Terrible Secret (and the hidden candy)

The other night at my writers group, it was my turn to give the lesson. We have a short 5-7 minute writing lesson at the beginning of our meetings, before we share for critique. I pulled out a book I bought a while back, Conflict, Action and Suspense by William Noble. It's part of a really great series called "Elements of Writing," published by the good folks over at Writers Digest. I've read several of the other entries in this series, by such authors as Orson Scott Card and Jack Bickham.

The great tip from Mr. Noble was on adding suspense to the novel by giving a character what he called "The Terrible Secret." He asked a class full of writing students whether they had a secret they'd never, ever divulged to anyone. Almost everyone raised a hand. He asked who wanted to write about it. All the hands went down. "Good," he said. "Then you have a secret you want to protect." That helps you know how a character would feel (and how far a character might go) to prevent the secret from becoming known.

Two things happen with a secret (and it must be TERRIBLE. It can't be a quest-related secret. It has to be something AWFUL.) If it is divulged at the beginning of a story, it will set things in motion, and the whole story can evolve due to the letting out of the secret. If the secret is kept, the suspense is higher and the threat of what will happen if the secret is made known will keep things taut. Your story can be about the great lengths a character will go to in order to keep the secret under wraps.

I'd read this before, but not at the beginning of a "plotting time" like I am now with my new story. I have a woman in my story I haven't gotten a great bead on yet, but I LOVE the idea of giving her a terrible secret she will almost do anything to keep. It adds dimension to her character, and it will give the story a lot better conflict.

And we LOVE conflict! Conflict makes the story happen!

So, I'm in conflict with myself, as well. I still LOVE sugar, but I have to think of ways that seem less like baked goods and candy to get it. And the cold cereal thing is making me feel guilty, too. So....my latest way of getting a sugar fix is...hot cereal!

I love hot cereal. So much. Beyond expression. I eat cracked wheat to make a 1950s housewife proud. But for a candy fix, I'm talking about the candy version of hot cereal: the kind in the packets, already sweetened with fruit and spices. That stuff is fantastic! There's maple, brown sugar, a version called cinnamon roll (!), another with peaches, one with strawberries. All just candy disguised as oaty goodness!

Apple cinnamon is my favorite. I just buy the WalMart brand, and it's fantastic, probably filled with LOADS of sugar, but I've decided to be in denial about it, and I'm refusing to read the label. I'll let pre-packaged oatmeal keep it's own Terrible Sugar Secret.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Captain America (Dialogue Tension) and Hot Tamales

We went to see Captain America last night. I know, Tuesday night date night--awesome! While I was on my roadtrip, we got behind on movies and had to get back on track with the summer blockbusters.

I loved Captain America. For one thing, it was great to see a superhero that wasn't flawed. He was chosen to become super for his integrity and values, and he remained true to them in courage to the end. It was refreshing after years of anti-heroes.

I love going to the movies for a lot of reasons. One is the popcorn. So salty, so fabulous. My friend Tina told me (possibly it was a comment on this blog!) that popcorn mixed with Hot Tamales candy is fantastic. I can't imagine she's wrong. I bet it's great. Cinnamon, sugar, salt, butter, heat. Yeah!
Are there too many references to hot things in this blog?

Which reminds me, the guy who played Captain America also played the Human Torch in Fantastic Four a few years ago. (Not my favorite film. All they did was stand around and complain they had super powers. Come on!)

As I was listening to the movie's dialogue, I noticed some great things about it. One, no phrase was wasted. Every single line served to reveal character of the speaker. It either explained some kind of background, some values he/she held, or some dream he/she had. Well done, screenwriters!

Another thing it did well was convey tension. Each line had conflict. Every sentence challenged another character's feelings or beliefs or ego. The romantic lines were especially good--no mushiness, all tension and strength.

I know, I know--a show like that shouldn't be a primer for how to do dialogue. We should refer to Woody Allen's older works or something. But this was good stuff, and I'm excited to get back to editing this morning and take a lesson from Captain America.

I think we all could.