NaNoWriMo: Half-Way Point!

When I was a kid and we’d make the 2.5 drive from Chicago to Dowagiac, MI for weekend getaways, the whole car load of us would “hoot” when he passed the half-way point. Think of old school Arsenio Hall’s “woot-woot-woot!” with the fist in the air.

So, my fellow NaNo’ers – lets’ Woot Woot Woot! even if you’re not at the desired 25,005 word count, you’ve made it through 15 days of NaNo Mania!

And, for my wager on words yesterday:

Yesterday’s Word Count: 3,297 !!! just shy of the 4,000 goal I had, per Liz ; )

cumulative: 17,770

Mood: Delighted, hopeful, loving the mess that is my novel again! Till next time…

Check in: How are all of you doing? Anyone make it to th half point intact? Are there any NaNo’ers out there who’ve already “won?”

P.S. I’m Super Stoked about getting to meet one of my fav YA authors tonight: Laurie Halse-Anderson. Hoping to get SPEAK and WINTERGIRLS signed 🙂


Filed under Believe, books, NaNoWriMo, Novels


Taken from the wise words of Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo:


“…And please remember: If you write a paragraph or chapter you don’t like, just put it in italics (or change the font color to white). Do not delete! After you write your way across the 50,000-word finish line, you can double back and clip out all the parts of your book that make you cringe (I think you’ll surprise yourself with what you decide to keep). For now, just keep moving forward! There’s an old folk saying that goes: Whenever you delete a sentence in your NaNoWriMo novel, a NaNoWriMo angel loses its wings and plummets, screaming, to the ground.

Where it will likely require medical attention.

These are words to live by. Resist the tyranny of the delete key! Onward! Upward!”

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A Week to Remember: The Characters

The idea to teach a week-long writing studio was actually brought up by several of my Super Saturday students. They whined whenever we needed to move on to another writing exercise, because it either stopped their current writing flow or the fun of sharing each other’s work aloud. They wanted BIG BLOCKS of solid writing and sharing time. So, the week-long Summer Studio was born.

You can imagine how disheartened I felt when those very students were not available for the dates I had planned to run the studio. As the deadline to register loomed, I was nowhere near my minimum number registered of students. I could not get excited about a workshop that quite possibly was not going to happen.

Then, one of my mentors, Christina Katz, chimed in when I asked for advice. “Commitment,” she said. Don’t say you’ll teach the studio “if” you have the right number of students. Commit to teach it regardless of how many register. Once I turned my mind around to saying “when” instead of “if,” I swear the registrations and emails with questions came in a steady stream.

By the first day, I had 8 registered students, with one more signing up after she saw how much fun her older sister was having.

As a teacher, you never know how to prepare for the characters of your classroom. You really don’t know their level of writing experience and you certainly aren’t prepared for their personalities to shine through the interactions of the workshop format.

I’m a planner. To the extreme. But, I also learned to go with the flow this week. My time line for the 3-hour daily workshops were just a guideline. When the young writers began to warm up with our first exercise a *Summer Snowball Fight, I wasn’t going to cut conversations short to get back to work. A writing workshop environment is a sacred place. It needs to be organic, to ebb and flow with the members, to be light and fun and free. I saw in my students that comfort and freedom and growth of creativity when I practiced that need for flexibility.

Our task of the day was to create Characters. The good people at the Young Writer’s Program for NaNoWriMo have spectacular lesson plans for the stages of crafting a novel (on their website.) I gratefully used their Character Questionnaire. Getting to know your characters as well as you know your best friend is key, I told my students. How else will you know what kind of trouble they can get into? The Character Questionnaire asks things like: “What can your character do better than anyone else?” and “What is your character’s pet peeve?” Hint: this exercise is helpful for us adult writers, too!

Then we paired off and “interviewed” each other as our characters. Fun and challenging were the comments of this exercise. But, each student left that first day with a good handle on who their character was and what they might get into.

To be continued tomorrow…

*Snowball fight, is a game I borrowed from my online writer buddy, Michelle. Each student folds a paper into three’s; in each folded section, they write an interesting fact about themselves; then tear the three sections and crumple them into paper snowballs. We moved to a wide open area of the clubhouse to then toss the snowballs at eachother for 2 minutes. When I yelled “stop!”, we grabbed the three snoballs closest to us and took turns reading and guessing which fact belonged to which person. We learned about each other’s pets, awards, clubs and families.

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Book Blog Tour: Danette Haworth, Author of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightening

Tour #2 on the Summer Book Blog Tour presents an Author Interview with Danette Haworth: author of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightening

Danette Haworth webshotDanette Haworth was first published at six-years-old, when she created a comic book series starring Peter Pan. These marvelous adventures usually ended with a defeated Captain Hook raising his sword, shouting, “I’ll get you, Pan!” Her mother still has the first edition, so carefully colored and stapled all those years ago.

Danette’s degree in English landed her a job as a technical writer, which was a fun position because she got to play in tank simulators and explain to scientists that possessive its does not have an apostrophe. She later worked as travel writer and a freelance writer/editor.

VioletRaines-coverHer debut novel, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning, was published by Walker Books for Young Readers, Fall 2008 and will be followed by The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness (2010) and Me and Jack (2011).

Danette will be popping in throughout the day, so feel free to leave a comment or ask her a question or two!

Interview by Mary Jo Campbell

MJC: I love your “About Me” page on your website.  Readers can really get a sense of your good nature and humor.  Have you always written light-hearted humorous pieces?  What kind of advice can you give those of us who take ourselves (and our writing) too seriously?

DN: Thank you! When I write, I take on the mood of whatever I’m writing, so light-hearted pieces are great to work with. One thing I liked about Violet Raines was being able to be stubborn and feisty through her character. She’s so bold!

On taking one’s self too seriously—I don’t have any advice! I tend to take things seriously myself, especially things I’ve poured my heart into. My mother can let things roll off her back; not me, I feel every bit of it. I really do believe creative people are sensitive—that’s our weakness and our strength. Sure, maybe we take things too seriously, but we also pick up on nuances that others might miss. We’re a bit more raw in that area, but as I said before, it’s actually a strength and a gift. I would never trade it in!

MJC: Good point. I wouldn’t trade my sensitivity for anything, either! The book video produced by Scholastic Books is exciting!  Can you tell us how you became involved with Scholastic Books for your book, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning?

DN: I received an email from my editor asking me if Scholastic reps could visit and film me for their video. I was like Yeah! Of course! When the crew of three arrived, I felt relaxed, eager. They’d read my book, and I’d read some of the books written by authors they were set to record. The sun shone, birds chirped, and my hair turned out well. Then they turned the cameras on and my mouth went totally dry!

Larry Decker, Scott Bennett, Juan Cruz were professional and nice. They wanted to see the Econlockhatchee River, which was the inspiration for the setting of Violet Raines. I couldn’t wait to take them there. Larry thought it was beautiful, and it is. Oaks and palms hang over the river, forming a canopy in places. Egrets and other fishing birds wade in the shallows for lunch. We didn’t see any alligators that day—I think Scott was hoping for at least one!—but I was relieved, being the smallest and probably the slowest in the bunch.

They filmed for several hours and somehow, in editing, took out all my um, uh, what was the question? They made me look good and I LOVED the lightning effects they added to the sequence. They did a great job!

(Check out the book video here!)

MJC: You said in a recent interview, that Violet just “walked into” your head one day. Did the rest of the story “write itself” or did the characters stump your flow or theme you were trying to follow?  What was your novel writing process in regards to outlining; rough draft writing; research for setting/characters; revision, etc?

DN: When I got a hold of Violet, she was so complete, so real, I could have dropped her into any situation and I would have known exactly how she would react. Boy, was she feisty! I wanted to come up with a story that would be a match for her.

I wrote a brief outline before drafting detailed character sketches, which then led to a full outline taking me all the way to the end of the book. Having an outline keeps me immersed in the book. I know what I have to accomplish today, and when I’m done writing, my mind wanders down the path of where I’ll go tomorrow.

Sometimes a character will pop with something not on the outline, and I follow that new direction to see where it goes. Who knows? There might be something exciting down that way! I never feel dictated to by the outline; I look at it as more of a guide.

As far as research, it’s true you should always research, even if you’re writing about your own backyard. For as well as I know the Central Florida area, I still researched things like lovebugs (When do they swarm? Lovebug—is it two words, one word, or hyphenated?); Detroit and its monorail system; alligators; and, of course, lightning!

MJC: Like myself, many writers have full-time day jobs that take us out of the house, but wish to make that leap to full-time writer.  Can you tell us what steps you took to make the transition and was there anything you wish you knew then?

DN: The transition for me took place when we started having a family; I always wanted to be home when I had kids. But I still wanted to keep my foot in the door, so I took on freelance editing and writing assignments, doing what I liked (and getting paid for it!) while babies took naps.

The main change for me was giving up work I could count on to taking the risk on my dream: writing a novel. I’m so glad I did!

The only thing I wish I knew then is relax! After I sold Violet Raines and the final draft was accepted, I’d never been through a copyedit before or any of the proofreading rounds. I pored over the pages when these things came through; it seemed as if the entire success of the book depended on if I kept this comma or deleted it! I went through the pages with a red pencil, and when I tried to copy the manuscript, none of my marks were visible! So I sharpened my pencil and pressed hard over all of my marks to make sure they’d show up. By the time I got done, the manuscript looked like a toddler had been through it with a red crayon! How embarrassing!

MJC: I’ve read that you are working on a second novel, The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness (another great title!)  Can you tell us a bit about this upcoming novel? Is your writing process with this book similar or different to the process used for Violet Raines?

DN: Thanks for your compliment on the title! The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness is set in north Central Florida, in the hills (Yes! Florida has hills!) near a freshwater spring. In Blueberry Goodness, a girl who lives in a dilapidating, antebellum hotel meets an eclectic group of friends, including a teenage runaway.

My process for this book was different from every other piece of writing I’ve ever approached. I knew the characters; I knew the beginning, I knew the climax, the denouement, but for the life of me, I couldn’t draft the full outline. For weeks, I struggled with trying to format the story arc so I’d have an outline for support. I knew what I wanted to happen in the story, but I was blocked as far as getting it down in outline form, which scared me—I’m used to having that guide.

Finally, I said Forget it! I started writing. Staying on course without the outline was easier than I thought it would be. I still explored new paths when they popped up, but it was easy to recognize directions that were purely tangential. At the end of each writing session, I’d scribble some notes to myself about what I just wrote, what needed to be adjusted, and what needed to happen tomorrow. So instead of having one big outline, I had guidance in bits and pieces, and it worked.

MJC: That is fabulous! You experienced novel success working both with and without an outline.  What advice do you have for young writers who aspire to be published in fiction?

DN: My advice to young writers is to look now for opportunities! With the explosion of online magazines, there are more venues now than ever before for young writers. Do your research; don’t worry (at first) about the paycheck, but look at the quality of the stories being published and make sure you’d be proud to have your story there.

Don’t forget about opportunities close to home: class newsletter, community newsletter, contests or columns for young people in the local paper, yearbook, school blog, etc. All these places provide the experience of writing, being edited, meeting deadlines, and the best one—having other people read and enjoy your writing!

MJC: What else is next for Danette Haworth? Please let us know about your tours, appearances, etc!

DN: The biggest thing for me is finishing up Blueberry Goodness and then moving on to revisions for my third book, Me and Jack, which comes out with Walker in 2011.

I recently filmed a short video for Mom’s Homeroom on encouraging and keeping your children interested in reading. Later this year, I’ll be in Philadelphia to speak at the National Council of Teachers of English conference; next April, I fly to Chicago to participate in the 2010 International Reading Association conference.

In the meantime, I’ll be blogging and updating my website! Please come visit me at Summer Friend or my website, Danette Haworth.

Thank you so much for having me, Mary Jo! It was fun!

Be sure to check out Danette’s website for dates and places of her continuing blog tour…


Filed under Author Interviews, books, characters, Fiction, Get Published, Inspiration, Novels, Platform/Marketing, writing inspiration

For the Young Writers in your life

If you’ve been visiting this blog for any length of time, you know my passion for teaching young writers. Blessed with friends in the industry that also have faith in my abilities, I’ve been paired up with some incredible people and given door-opening introductions.

Announcing…a great new opportunity for young writers worldwide!

I have the extreme honor to be on the Board of Directors and serve as Secretary for this cool new non-profit organization for young writers:  Capitol City Young Writers.

Read all about it here.

Let me know if you or a young writer you know would like to get involved!


Filed under Inspiration, Organization

NaNoWriMo: I can’t see straight

43,431 and counting. I have 21 hours left, minus sleep…

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NaNoWriMo: I dare ya!

nanobannerlogo_bigger1My current word count is 35,538. I ‘m going to reach 50k by sundown on Sunday. Who’s gonna beat me? I need to write 14,462 more words…

Think you can match or beat my upcoming 4-day word count?

Meet you at the bike racks, punk! Game on…


Filed under Believe, emotion, NaNoWriMo, Novels, Perseverance

NaNoWriMo: Final Push to 50k!

 nanobannerlogo_bigger1We are in the final 5 days to reach 50k. I don’t know about you, but I can use all the inspiration I can get!  Found this posted on Wow! (Women on Writing) Blog from Nov 22:

Tip for Screenplay Writers (and NaNoWriMo Writers Too)

“I’ve been doing something that I thought I’d invented myself and then I discovered in a conversation with Jim Cameron and then I read in an interview with George Lucas where he talked about the trick that Francis Ford Coppola taught him and it turns out everybody’s doing the same thing. We never read what we write. I know that sounds preposterous but the point is you don’t edit while you’re writing. We don’t even dare look at what we’re writing until it looks like there’s around a hundred pages. It sounds nuts but when you have a hundred pages and then you finally look at them, you have the aesthetic distance to edit yourself.”

-Steven Souza, screenwriter
So, I ask you:  what do you do to push through to the finish line?




Filed under Advice, Believe, NaNoWriMo, Novels, Perseverance, writing inspiration

“It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes…

“…What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.” ~ Jim Rohn, Author & Speaker

nanobannerlogo_biggerAre you on the fence with your novel? Did you hit a fork in the plot road? Pick a path and go with it! You need to just keep writing. Be sure to make note, though, of the other options you were contemplating. If the road you took hits a dead end, you can always go back and write from the second idea you wanted to follow in your plot. (In December!)

Write your scenes out of order, if you feel pulled in a new direction. Type in the word “transition” if you can’t figure out how to get from here to there, and go back to it later.
This is fun part of writing, people!
Following your characters around, feeling the items they pick up in their hands, delving into the memories they present for you. It’s the muse, baby.
First drafts are crap.

Accept it. Just get the story out of you on onto the paper. Keep it hidden from the world until you can go back and sculpt in the intricate details, flesh out scenes and weave in the subliminal hints to the climax.

How many words have you written today?







Filed under Advice, Believe, Fiction, NaNoWriMo, Novels, Perseverance, writing inspiration

NaNoWriMo Interview, part two

nanobannerlogo_bigger1Here is a continuation of my interview with fellow NaNo’er and self-published author, Grace Tierney:

Grace Tierney, self-published author, gave great tips and thorough answers to my questions on the planning, procrastinating, plotting and persevering through National Novel Writing Month.

Q: How much pre-work did you complete prior to Nov 1?

A: None, because I swapped onto a different novel on Nov 3. This is NOT a good
idea. I was just blithely writing the first chapter of a book I had no outline
for. Just going with the flow, and honestly, probably not doing very well.

Q: Did you give yourself a word count to meet each day?

A: Yes. I like to think of myself as organised so I printed up a one month
calendar in Word (there’s a calendar template in there somewhere) and filled
in all the days/times I couldn’t write due to existing writing commitments
(although I’d worked extra in October to clear most of those) and due to my
family (I have two small children so when they’re about I can’t write. I
wait until they’re asleep or at playgroup 3 mornings a week). Then I filled
in about 2000 words for each day (I had to make up for some
non-writing-days) and thought that would keep me on track. Hey it was
colour-coded – how could I go wrong? I realised during NANO 2008 and
subsequently that the ideal 1667 un-edited words per day is actually do-able
for me, but if I slip behind, I really struggle to write more than 2500
words per day in order to catch-up. Doing the daily wordcount is vital for
my NANO to work out.

Read more on Grace Tierney:

“The Writing Contest Expert’s Guide to Fiction Contests” – more than 200
contests for flash fiction to novels
“Positive Thoughts for Writers” – Helping your Writer’s Soul Every Day of
the Year
Available now at www.lulu.com/gracetierney and www.gracetierney.com

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Filed under Advice, Believe, Fiction, NaNoWriMo, Novels, Perseverance, writing inspiration