Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 29: Mapping Out Writing Time: Beware the Shifts in Power

See Beau.

He looks a bit fuzzy in this photo, but don't hold it against him. Isn't he cute?

My sister-in-law asked us to puppysit for five days and four nights. Look at Beau. How could we resist?

The girls were thrilled. They love Beau.

He really is cute.

Except...Beau woke all of us at 3:15 IN THE MORNING the past four nights, barking up a storm, quieting down every once in awhile, and then breaking out into low whimpers. Perhaps you've heard them before. The PAY ATTENTION TO ME, MY MOMMY IS GONE whimpers that make you ignore how tired you are so you will protect said puppy.

The first night, I brought Beau outside, thinking he needed to relieve himself, but all he wanted to do was play. The second night, we tried to ignore him and hoped he'd quiet down. By the third day, all of us, even Beau, were a quivering mess of nerves. Thank goodness, Beau is so sweet and adorable.

Imagine, if you will, the shifts in power over the past week. Beau is so cute, we all want to cater to him. Every bark, every whimper, commands a power so great, at least one of us springs into action to take care of the little puppy, especially since he had a couple accidents in the house. Does he want to play? Go out for a walk? Sit next to us and hang out? He's such a loveable dog, we're captive to his charms.

The three girls argue over who gets the honors of walking Beau. The little guy is overwhelmed. He's not used to the noise of our household--plus multiply the chaos with all the friends who stop by to admire him. I'm on edge because of sleep deprivation and trying to keep too many prying hands from grabbing at Beau. The little guy realizes I'm the power source to food, water and calm from the kids, and constantly follows me around. Spy Girl notices my mood and does everything possible to ensure Beau stays, including taking Beau on long walks and picking up the poop, which makes Beau, Ninja Girl and Wonder Girl think she's a goddess.

Ninja Girl loves Beau so much. It turns out she isn't allergic to him, which makes her want to play with him even more. This makes her feel normal, in a world where she's allergic to practically everything, and it makes my heart melt, until she falls asleep in school because she's so tired from Beau's early wake-up nudges. Husband wonders when his sister will rescue us, so our life will return to normal and he gets more attention than the puppy. Wonder Girl and Ninja Girl specialize in terrorizing Beau, pouncing on him every chance they can, showering him with hugs and love and his absolute favorite--playing in the snow. All they have to do is get the leash out and Beau runs and jumps on them, tail wagging, barking with delight.

In the five days and four nights, Beau became part of our family. Yes, we took care of him and loved him, but Beau also watched over us and loved us. A tiny part of me misses the early morning wake-up calls, but...not too much. The next time Beau stays with us, he'll sleep through the night. Right?

Remember in your writing, even though there is one Alpha Dog, there will be little shifts of power, depending on the situation and the characters. Perhaps it's enough to overthrow the Alpha Dog. Or, it can simply be an interesting study of human behavior. Pay attention and let the scenes unfold with the little power plays. It'll bring interesting conflict to your story, as well as keep your readers on their toes. Not everything will be as it seems, and this, my friends, will make your readers want to read more.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Analyze your characters and bring out their dominant and recessive personalities to the surface with a little power play. Figure out your scene. It can be something as simple as taking care of a dog or as dramatic as running for class president, prom queen, or saving the world. Who are the characters? What does each character bring to the table and how must they be appeased, bribed, praised, etc. to bring your plot along? There should be plenty of conflict and great opportunity to bring in emotion and/or humor. Beware the shifts in power...have fun!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writing Inspiration: Becoming a Writer by Junot Diaz

"You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway."
-Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize 2008, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Essay for Oprah Magazine, October 13, 2009

"I don't have any sense other than that writing is extremely difficult for me. People are always asking, "Did it take you so long because writing a novel is really hard?" I'm like, dude, it took me seven years to write one story, one twenty page story. Really? I didn't realize that one was harder than the other, they all seem impossible to me. They both have me through the intestines on their horns, so it's that kind of weird thing like getting gut-shot by a pistol or a rifle. And the process, someone's like "Tell me, which one is worse?" And I'm like [screams]! That's the only way to answer it, I'm usually so busy screaming the fine nuances of loss."
-excerpt from Bookslut interview with Junot Diaz, September 2007

Sometimes it does the heart good to know how hard writing is for other people--even a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. These quotes may have very well saved me last night.

Thank you, Mr. Diaz. And now, it's time for me to write.

readergirlz: Chat with E. Lockhart Tonight!

Psst! Over here! E. Lockart, fab author of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks and other cool books, will chat with readergirlz tonight, 6 pm PST/9 pm EST.

See you over at the readergirlz blog!

Sometimes It's Nice to Win at Plotting Organization

HWM Happiness Giveaway #2

Thanks for all your wonderful entries! I have some good news. I've managed to find a few extra index card organizers so there will be 4 winners!

Please e-mail me at hipwritermama@comcast.net with your snail mail address, by Monday, January 25th. Let me know if you'd like your organizer cover personalized with WIP title, name, etc. Also, let me know if you'd like to have the quotes inside the cover or to keep blank.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy Dance Friday #2

There's some great news in the blogosphere...

Today is Becky Levine's book launch day for The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide! If you're a writer, you're going to need this!

Beth Kephart reveals her gorgeous new book cover for DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS. It is absolutely stunning. I can't wait!

R.L. LaFevers has fantastic news about her NATHANIEL FLUDD: BEASTOLOGIST series. Yay! This will make Ninja Girl so happy.

Farida Dowler's short story, The Scullery Boy Remembers, is published in Enchanted Conversation. Very nice twist to a classic fairy tale. Wonderful story.

Robin Brande sold a new book, PARALLELOGRAM. Congrats!

I made progress on PB and perfected my plot organizer. Whee!

Do you have any good news you'd like to share? Comment away!

Day 28: Mapping Out Writing Time: Brilliant Plots Require Easy Organization and Happiness Giveaway #2

If you wish to be a writer, write.

And write, I will.

But first, I have to tell you about the portable plotting organizer I put together the other day for my new WIP. It's so simple, I can hardly stand it. It may very well keep me sane during my writing and revision process, and that, my friends, is HUGE in my book.

When I start a new project, I usually write a chapter or two, to see whether my muse is inspired to brainstorm. Next, I write the most basic of outlines and get to know my characters. Then, I plot away.

Plotting is hard work. It requires imagination, the ability to make the impossible believable, and incredible persistence, sometimes fortified with strong coffee or tea. I believe if a writer has a good system to organize plot, it makes writing so much easier. Or, at least it's a productive way to unleash writer's block angst, right? Can't figure out what to write next? Bam! Take it out on the system and hash over your plot. Over the past few years, I've tried post-it notes, wall charts, computerized spreadsheets, and journals. And while they all work, they don't quite click with me for one reason or another.

Then, I discovered the beauty of the index card. This may sound strange, but scenes became much easier for me to visualize and then capture the written word. Color coded 3" X 5" cards are cheap, easy to store and rearrange. I love how easy it is to throw away an index card or two if an idea is pure crap. No more scathing notes to myself (within reason) or huge X's crossing out text...simply toss it out. Need to change a few scenes around? Just move the index cards, no problem. I love how there's no organizational eyesores to clog up my brain with unnecessary noise. There's no need to obsess about how I'm going to clean up my plotting, because I can't read through all my scribbles. This clarity of focus helps me concentrate on writing, which is always a very good thing.

Two years ago, Spy Girl came home from school with math facts written on index cards, fastened by a loose leaf ring. I was smitten. If you love office supplies as much as I do, you'll understand why I had to go to the store.

See the pretty cards all fanned out? These loose leaf rings are a lifesaver. I don't have to worry about losing the sequence of events. Instant peace of mind.

I recently came up with a new idea for a manuscript. It freaked me out since I'm still putting the finishing touches on PB, plus I have a few other manuscripts in the works. But, who am I to say, "No," to my muse? So, I went to the store to pick up some index cards, and found this index card organizer.

It may not look very impressive, but I practically drooled over it. Colored index cards, holes already punched in, 2 loose leaf rings, and 2 tabs. All of a sudden, I had the urge to figure out the best way to use this, and soon discovered the D*I*Y Planner Hipster PDA Edition--free downloadable productivity forms that can be printed on index cards. This takes my plotting system to a whole new level of organization.

Inside the cover, I wrote a couple inspirational quotes by Epictetus:
"First say to yourself what you will be; and then do what you have to do."
"If you wish to be a writer, write."

Then I printed out a few forms to see if my printer would print on index cards. And it did! Check out the Story Idea form:

Are you drooling yet? Here's the Plot Point form:

What about now? And, the Character form:

Even though I've always written out characteristics and plot details on index cards, now my plotting system has the organizational function of a planner, but with the freedom I desperately need. 3"x5" cards are small so the forms keep me in check to keep important information to one card. Sure you can write more information on the 4"x 6" or 5" x 8" cards--but the smaller cards keep me focused to one idea per side.

This system isn't for everyone. If you like using index cards but prefer a different method of keeping them together, there are spiral bound index cards and binders for index cards. I just like loose leaf rings. Another thing, if you go into the store and can't find the same index card holder, have no fear. It's easy to make yourself. All you need are index cards, a hole punch, and 2 loose leaf rings. Easy.

Whew. My inner geek is finally revealed. It's quite liberating.

If you want to know more about how this all works, check out the D*I*Y Planner Hipster PDA Edition free downloadable forms. The folks who put these forms together totally rock. You can customize an organizational system perfect for your needs. They have forms to fit any size planner you have, and even adapt to well-known planning systems.

Now, all you need to do is create and write. Doesn't that sound perfect?
Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Tighten up your plotting and write a scene after you spend a few minutes organizing your plot. It may seem like work but you will write closer to your story in a shorter period of time. Have fun!

HWM Happiness Giveaway #2

You didn't think I'd wax poetic about my new plotting organizer all this time and not share my bounty, did you? Well, here's the deal. I'm giving away a little package of goodies (see the photo) to one lucky person. This is what's in the prize:

1 red cover index card organizer with:
  • Personalized cover in black ink (see photo on right for print sample)-- WIP title, name, Secret Project, etc. Or leave blank. You choose.
  • Inside cover with 2 Epictetus quotes (see above photo #3). Or leave blank. Your choice.
  • 2 loose leaf rings
  • 2 red tabs
  • 2 clear tabs (from clear organizer but you'll understand why once you see how the sections are divided)
  • white index cards with colored borders
  • D*I*Y Hipster reference cards so you know where to find forms to personalize for your own system
  • 1 Story Idea card
  • 4 Project cards
  • 5 Combined Action cards
  • 3 Book Note cards - remember books used for research
  • 3 Contact cards - people interviewed or agent info
  • 9 Plot Point cards (3 green, 3 yellow, 3 red)
  • 6 Character cards (2 green, 2 yellow, 2 red)
1 clear covered index card organizer with:
  • 2 loose leaf rings
  • white index cards
2 2" loose leaf rings:
  • in case you decide to combine these two organizers or add more index cards
If you'd like to enter for a chance to win this fantastic package, let's play a little Mad Libs in the Comments below: Plotting is like ___________. The only way to _______ is _______________. OR, tell me about your plotting routine. Deadline is Tuesday, January 19th, 11pm EST. Comment away!

Winner for HWM Happiness Giveaway #1 is...

Thanks to all who entered the HWM Happiness Giveaway #1. I loved all your answers.

Now, the hard part....

Sherrie! You're the winner.

Send me your snail mail address to hipwritermama@comcast.net and I'll mail your package to you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Day 27: Mapping Out Writing Time: Using the Green-Eyed Monster for the Greater Good and Happiness Giveaway #1

January. January. January.

I despise how I've allowed these four syllables to throw me into a funk these past few years. It's not supposed to be this way.

January is meant for new beginnings. We say farewell to the old year and herald in the new. We write up our New Year's Resolutions and try to commit to becoming thinner, fitter, smarter, better, happier, and kinder. We shovel the snow and enjoy adrenalin-pumping winter activities like skiing, skating, snowboarding. And let us not forget January is named after the Roman god, Janus, the god of gates and doorways, of beginnings and endings.

I've alway loved planning out my New Year's Resolutions, but lately, it's difficult to muster up the enthusiasm to set them in stone, to be reviewed in the next year. (Yes, I do this sort of thing.) I blame it entirely on being cursed blessed with a January birthday. Think it's hard to write down New Year's Resolutions? Try it with a January birthday. This double whammy ensures twice the pleasure of reflecting on what hasn't been done. And if you're in your forties (gulp), when every new year becomes more precious, the success and failure of each goal becomes a critical analysis. And yes. Sometimes when you see good things, well-deserved things happen to people you like and respect, sometimes it's hard to tell the Green-Eyed Monster to leave you alone.

Even with friends and family.

Some friends invited us over to their house for dinner on Saturday. They bought a new construction home and it is Spectacular, with a capital S--all the latest and greatest of shiny things. Radiant-heated bathroom floors. Stainless steel kitchen appliances. Custom designed kitchen. Beautiful, big windows. Huge flat-screen tv... Shiny. Shiny. Shiny. When I came home, all I could see was my house, stuck in the 1960's, overshadowed with imperfections. Big Time.

The next day, I picked Ninja Girl up from a friend's house. They invited me in to see their stunning kitchen remodel with incredible slider doors to their backyard, overlooking their personal skating rink.

"This should be you." The Green-Eyed Monster gnashed her teeth. "You've been living with old appliances and a run-down kitchen for years. It's not fair!"

"It's not in the budget right now. Soon." I hesitated.

"Ah, but think what you could do if you knocked down some walls in your kitchen." She curled her slimy hands around my shoulder and shone a light around my dumpy kitchen. "Hire an architect, order designer cabinets. Spare no expense! Look what you've put up with. Don't you deserve better?"

I grabbed a tape measure and started drawing out a plan. Man. I deserve a dream kitchen. The Green-Eyed Monster is right. Fuhgeddaboutit. It should be mine. I deserve it just as much as anyone else. Why do they get the nice kitchen? They're younger than I am. I work just as hard as they do. I deserve it. Fuhgeddaboutit. Forget I need to replace Sophie, my eleven-year-old car first. Forget about our plan to wait another year to replace the cabinets. Forget about the budget. Forget about... Gah!

The nice thing about getting older is I'm no longer a prisoner of the Green-Eyed Monster. She can reel me in, but now, I've accepted I'm wise enough to know there is a time for everything. It's easier to let the Green-Eyed Monster know her place. Sometimes, it's enough to know good things do happen to people, the people you are happy for, and that your time will come.

Work hard. Use the Green-Eyed Monster for motivation and inspiration, to nip at your heels and help you work harder. Great things WILL happen to you. Soon enough.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Let's face it. Most of us succumb to the Green-Eyed Monster at some point. She can drive some of us to evil or put us in uncompromising situations because of all-consuming jealousy. Others, are inspired to harness the Green-Eyed Monster for the greater good. How does your MC react to jealousy? Or, perhaps your villian? Write a scene where your MC or villian is confronted with jealousy. Did someone win a coveted prize? Maybe someone else got the girl or boy. How does your protagonist/villian react? What actions do they take? Drum up the emotion, the intensity and conflict here. Have fun!

Happiness Giveaway because it's my Birthday Month: We celebrate big in my family, celebrating the week before and after the Big Day. Since I'd like to dull the dread of the impending day, I'm going to host a few giveaways in these two weeks.

Today's offering is a pretty LUSH gift pack of Christmas Party. Sure, Christmas is over, but how can you resist the Happy Hippy Shower Gel and Ice Blue soap I purchased at my local LUSH store? Just the thought of these fresh scents makes me happy. Man, I sound like a commercial.

If you'd like to enter, answer the following question in the Comments below: If you had one chance for happiness, what would do you to get it? Deadline is Thursday, January 14th, 11pm EST. U.S. shipping addresses only. Comment away!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy Dance Friday #1

Have you heard?

Our own Tanita Davis is a nominee for a NAACP Image Award, for her wonderful novel, MARE'S WAR. How shout-it-from-the-rooftop is that happy news?

What good news would you like to share?

Go for it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day 26: Mapping Out Writing Time: Visualize Your Goal and Work Toward It

"First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do."

This quote speaks volumes by itself.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Everyone dreams to BE something. Write a scene where your MC comes to terms with what he/she wants to be. Will this be easy to accomplish? What sacrifices will need to be made? Who will stand in the way? Who will cheer your MC on to the end?

If you have time Make the time to tell yourself what you would like to be and map out what you will need to do to get there. It will be well worth the effort.

Here's to a wonderful year of beautiful dreams, great adventures, and the courage to believe and plan in the "I can." Happy New Year!

Beth Kephart Chats with readergirlz, Wednesday, January 6th, 6pm PST/9pm EST!!!!

My friend, the incredible Beth Kephart, will be chatting with readergirlz on January 6th! Tomorrow! 6pm PST/9pm EST.

Please stop by the readergirlz blog to participate. It's easy to do and you will learn so much.

If you want to know more about Beth, check out her WBBT interview, her writing tip on bringing emotion to the page, and her interview podcast with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. All fantastic stuff.

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcome E. Lockhart, author of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks to readergirlz!

We are thrilled to welcome E. Lockhart to readergirlz. Her novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is our January pick! Check out the our interview with E., book party ideas themed around both books, and our Reach Out project idea--as well as the awesome soundtrack E.'s chosen for the book--on readergirlz.com.

Here's a little about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks:

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14: Debate Club. Her father's "bunny rabbit." A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder. And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie is no longer the kind of girl to take "no" for an answer, especially when "no" means she's excluded from Matthew's all-male secret society.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind. This is the story of how she got that way.

And the buzz...
  • National Book Award finalist
  • Printz Honor
  • Winner in the Young Adult Fiction category of The Cybils Awards
  • Starred reviews in Kirkus, PW, Booklist, School Library Journal
We are excited to have the fantastic E. with us this month! Join us all month right here on the blog for discussions and mark your calendars a LIVE chat on Wednesday, January 20th at 6pm PST/9pm EST.

Happy 2010, readergirlz!