Monday, June 30, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

I'm so pleased to be tagged by my dear  friend Maryanne Fantalis in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Maryanne is one of those people who quickly went from "writing friend" to just plain "friend". Though we have yet to meet in person, I know one day our paths will cross. When we do, it is going to be one seriously memorable happy hour!

She is not only a talented writer, she gives wonderfully clear and precise feedback as a reader and critique partner. Her WIP, a retelling of the Taming of the Shrew, is fantastic. She is also a life-long Shakespeare aficionado and a self-professed history nerd. Check her blog out!

On to the writing process blog tour: All of the writers participating in the tour answer four simple questions about their writing process. You can follow a path from this post and see how other authors organize their time and produce their work.
What are you currently working on?
I've just finished edits on my sci-fi steampunk Mina Takes the Sky, based on the reign of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.  I have been getting feedback from a lovely agent for about a year on this-- I think we're in our fourth round of edits-- between the baby and tenure, I lost count. Everything this agent has sent me has been fantastic advice, and now it's back in her court. We shall see.

While taking a break from that, I've been thinking a lot about my very first novel, a mystery featuring a bug-collecting  protagonist. I can't quite let this story go, and right now I'm devoting mental energy to thinking about how I want that story to develop. Because of my busy schedule, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I want a plot to develop-- then when I sit down to write, I can plunge in without hesitation. 
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I must confess, I have been avoiding reading steampunk in the last two years because I don't want my work to be derivative. I have a stack of books that I'm eager to read, including Arthur Slade's The Hunchback Assignments, Megan Spooner's Skylark, and the rest of Westerfeld's Leviathan series (I only read the first book).

I chose steampunk because I wanted to build a world around these clockwork insects and flowers:



It feels odd to me to say that I write sci-fi or steampunk-- to me those are really just the tools I use. I think my favorite books in sci-fi have a cool concept, but don't rely on the "cool concept" to carry the book.

My goal is to create a fully realized alternative world-- but it's not about the world-- it's about the people and the choices they make. It's about adventure, mystery, and a little romance. And, it should make you laugh from time to time.

This is what a aspire to do, and I fully acknowledge that I'm a work in progress. 
Why do I write what I write?
I have always loved mysteries. From obvious Nancy Drew books (it was always the "swarthy" character, which is problematic on so many levels, Nancy) to cunning shows like Sherlock or The Bletchley Circle, which make my mind spin in the best way.

There is a mystery at the heart of all of my favorite books, and that is what I follow. I have written contemporary MG manuscripts, YA dystopian, and this YA steampunk-- but truly, they are all mysteries.

Even more than reading a mystery I love trying to craft my own. How do you leave a trail of clues that aren't too obvious? How do you make such a logical path that the reader can look up from the last page and say "a-ha! it was there all the time, and I just didn't put it together."? It's the best kind of problem, and I hope to keep grappling with it for a long time. 
How does my individual writing process work?
I spend my down time reading and thinking about plotting and characterization. When I finally get the time to sit in front of the computer, I rarely have a problem getting the words out.
That being said, I tend to spend a lot of time re-writing (and likely should spend more). I tell my students that writing IS re-writing, and it's as true for a research paper as it is for a manuscript.
At least for me.
I find my best ideas come after taking a break and coming back to a manuscript.
My biggest weakness is that my need to re-write is often at war with my perpetual impatience. 
Tag, you’re it!
I am tagging the lovely and inspiring Glenna from Blue Lipstick Samurai. She is talented, hardworking, and very very funny. She has been busy with college the last few years (and as a college professor, I fully support this!), but I have no doubt one day she will return to the world of blogging.

And I'd also like to tag, YOU, dear reader. Yes, you. If you've already done this blog tour (and I know many of you have), please leave a link to it in the comments. If you'd like to but haven't yet, consider yourself officially tagged, and leave your link in the comments, too. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What's up Wednesday June 25th

I'm just going to say it outright, because we're all thinking it: I'm a terrible blogger. 

I'm okay with this. 


With all of the stuff I have been working on over the last year, something had to give-- and it was blogging. That's what happens with life sometimes.



Wait-- did I forget to say: 

I GOT TENURE!

That was the most-stressful-unfun-anxiety-inducing thing I've ever done in my entire life (and I had three babies without anesthesia) and I'm so glad it's over. 
Thanks to everyone who sent me words of support while I was in the middle of that experience-- I truly appreciate it. 

Now, on to  What's Up Wednesday


What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, that helps readers and writers touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Join by visiting their blogs and signing in on the widget.

What I'm Reading
When Audrey met Alice by the fab Rebecca Behrens. It is so freaking adorable. I am loving this book! 
I love the mash up of Alice Roosevelt and modern first daughter Audrey. I adore the history that doesn't feel like history (the best kind!), and I am enjoying how Rebecca weaves Audrey's frustrations and triumphs into the larger tapestry of politics and family life in the White House. This MG book is UTTERLY CHARMING. It has moved to the top of my list for my middle grade book club. Read it!


The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett. I only learned about Terry Pratchett a few months ago and I love his complex world-building and his clear love of language. I am enamored with the books about Tiffany Aching (I read Wintersmith and a Hat Full of Sky), and can't stop laughing about the Unseen Academics from his Discworld series. He skewers everything under the sun-- nothing is sacred-- and it is fun to tag along. 


Eva and Sadie and the Worst Haircut Ever by Jeff Cohen. This picture book, written by my friend and neighbor Jeff (he and his wife are the reason we moved to Middletown) is sweet and funny. One daughter decides to cut the other's hair. It's a disaster. Their father (an NPR reporter) interviews them about the incident. The PRX story that went viral is here and it is laugh out loud funny. The book is meant to stand independently from the story and it does-- it's an adorable picture book. The illustrations by Elanna Allen are captivating and the story is reminiscent of many of the moments of life with kids. Share this book with a kid you love. 



What I'm Writing
I just sent another version of Mina Takes the Sky off and I'm awaiting feedback. I'm ruminating on my bug-girl book... and still torn as to how to transform it into something spectacular.  

Now that Mina is out of my hands, I am working on a grant project to implement innovative teaching methods into my research methods class... hooray!



What Inspires Me Right Now
The incomparable Chuck Close

The boys and I checked his Face Book out of the library (it's for young readers) and have LOVED reading it together.

...and this little cutie, who is almost ten months old!




Now, as Chuck Close would say-- "Get to work!"

What's up with you?