Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Highs of Writing

There's a great interview with Coe over at School Library Journal.

In it Coe states how one of her favorite surreal moments as an author was the day she sat and signed books next to Ann M. Martin. She doesn't even mention winning the LA Times Book Prize, which most people would expect to be the answer. That's because the book lover in her is still more jazzed to meet an author/hero, than to be one.

I think it's neat how the things we expect to be big moments for us as writers are often not the ones that resonate the most. I remember thinking that selling my first book would be huge, but getting an agent was actually more exciting for me, because that was the moment I felt I was On My Way. And seeing my books on the shelves is nice, but not as great as having a kid ask me when I'm going to write a sequel.

One of the happiest moments I've had as a writer was at the ALA conference in 2007, where I was able to sit in on a session with Judy Blume. When she got up to the podium I got teary-eyed, just thinking of the effect her books had on me as a kid, and the many, many times I've read them. I think that in my mind and ego, I will always be a Reader first, and a Writer second.

*caroline hickey

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Do Your Research

My new WIP takes place on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where I spent time as a kid. It's a beautiful, rural, somewhat insulated community, and I really want to infuse my book with its atmosphere. I hadn't visited in several years, so last week my husband and I took a two-day trip there and toured a few of the smaller towns.

Just being on location gave me a huge rush of inspiration! I jotted down tons of notes for places my characters should go, little bits of local trivia and details I can add, etc. I want to weave in some of the history of the town without taking the reader out of the story, and since it's told in first person present that will be difficult. But I plan to try it.

I'm still foggy on what the next few major scenes of my book will be, but I feel so in tune with the setting and flavor of the book. I just hope it translates. (And that one day I actually finish this draft!)

*caroline hickey

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Calling Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler...

Anyone read this article in the New York Times about a small wooden crucifix bought by the Italians for $4.2 million because it is thought to have been carved by Michelangelo? Now there's a big debate about whether it is, or isn't.

Where are Claudia and Jamie Kincaid when you need them???

*caroline hickey

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Image Boards

In my ongoing effort to be able to leap instantaneously from the world of dirty diapers and mashed banana to the world I'm creating for my characters in my WIP, this week I'm making an image board.

My hope is that by creating a strong visual representation of my characters, setting, mood, tone, etc., I won't waste so much time "getting into" a scene when I sit down to write. It'll be like putting on gardening gloves and immediately pulling up weeds. I've been ripping pages from summer catalogs, from magazines, and from the newspaper, even putting random words on the board that remind me of key elements to my mc's personality, so that I can put on her voice as soon as I sit down.

Some of you are probably thinking this is a bit of a time-waster, a stall tactic, and you're right! :) But being able to SEE in front of me what I've been seeing in my head for over a year now is really gratifying, and makes me feel that the book is starting to come alive.

When the board is done, I'll post a picture of it. For now, the image here is just a hint of the feel of the book.

*caroline hickey

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Seuss is Loose

These are from Pottery Barn Kids, and YES, you can order them for a queen-size bed! Do you think my husband would object??

*caroline hickey

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Sharper Eye

I've started to notice lately how much sharper and more critical my reading and editing "eye" has become.

As I slowly chug-chug along in my WIP, I'm seeing holes and missteps in my writing that I never noticed in my first two books, and not because they weren't there. After B was born, I took five months off from writing. It gave me some space from my WIP, but it also gave me time to read a list of great books I'd been meaning to get around to. I think the combination of reading really great stuff, not being on a deadline, and taking a little time away from typing has given me a new perspective on my own work.

I hope this means my new book will be stronger and tighter and my best yet. But this new sharp eye is also a little paralyzing, because it won't let me move on to a new scene until I've gone over the current one 50 times. And that's not a good way to get through an early draft.

I'm going to speak to my Eye about this, and tell her to just chill out until the next draft. I'm going to tell her over a cappuccino at Starbucks this afternoon, where I'll be writing a scene where my main character embarrasses herself. YAH!

*caroline hickey

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jump to the Middle

I'm trying something new(!).

After some discussions with Jenny and Siobhan about the progress I am and am not making with my WIP, they both suggested I stop writing sequentially and just pick a scene in the middle that I'm excited about it and write it.

WHAT? I said. How do I write a scene without knowing how my characters got there?

JUST TRY IT, they said. It frees you up. It shows you where you're going, and helps you figure out how to get there. And it keeps you from writing boring little scenes that only serve to get your characters from point A to point B.

So I'm trying it. I'm sitting here now writing a scene that's going to happen about 70% of the way through the book and, unbelievably, it's going okay. The writing feels fun and loose, like it does when you start a completely new project and aren't hampered by the hows and whys yet.

Anyone else write this way? I'm diggin' it!

*caroline hickey

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Wisdom of Vizzini

I've seen and read The Princess Bride about a thousand times. When Inigo botches up killing the Man in Black, he remembers that his boss Vizzini always said that when a job goes wrong, you go back to the beginning (or, in the book, "Fool fool, back to the beginning is the rule!"). Is this good advice for a writer as well?

I'm about a quarter of the way through the second draft of my WIP and I've hit a major snafu. So I've decided to go back to the beginning AGAIN (this is actually the 4th beginning, not the 3rd) and change a few major details to make the drama/tension more intense and more immediate.

In some ways, I fear that is my way of procrastinating writing through the draft. In fact, I would likely advise a friend to just keep pushing through to the end and then go back to fix the intro. But I can't make myself do it!

Eek. What do you think? Am I procrastinating, or since this is such a major change would it be better to get the beginning right?

*caroline hickey

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Apps Wanted!

I love my iPhone and it's quickly become my desk-on-the-go. My home office is in our attic and since I spend most days in the family room or kitchen with Bridget (two floors down!) or out and about, I use my iPhone for email, calendar, surfing, etc.

I'd like to find some apps that might be helpful for my writing. Someone told me about a dictation app, so that if I get an idea for my WIP I can just make a voice memo to myself. Anyone know of that one? Or does anyone have any other apps they can recommend?

Since I'm writing in little fits and spurts these days, I need to make the most of the time I have!

*caroline hickey

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I was answering some messages on MySpace yesterday and I saw an ad for a children's lit agency on my page. It caught my eye, as I'm pretty sure real agencies a) don't advertise, and b) wouldn't advertise on myspace!

So I clicked through and checked it out and it's called the Writers Literary Children's Agency and has a long song and dance about how legit they are and blah blah, but no actual bios of who the "agents" are, or their experience, or their authors.

I checked Preditors and Editors and of course they are strongly not recommended and considered a fraud. What I'm wondering, though, is what are they doing? They say they don't charge to read mss, and only make money if they sell something. But they don't seem to have sold anything and yet still pay to advertise.

Anyone know anything about these weird scam agencies? If they don't charge reading fees, why then do they bother?

*caroline hickey

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood...

I am really stuck between two mss. One is a fun early middle grade, and the other is an angsty tween. One is zippy and plotty, and one is voicey and moody. I like them both. I think they both have potential. But diddling back and forth between the two of them every week or so is not helping me to make any progress. It's helping me to procrastinate! For me to write well, I need to fully invest myself in one of them, and for the life of me I can't decide which.

So what do I do? Let my writing group decide? My agent? Flip a coin? I've been asking my gut to tell me but it's got commitment issues.

Help me!

*caroline hickey

Monday, February 2, 2009

And the Oscar Goes to...

Yesterday the DC Kidlit Book Club met to discuss the ALA winners announced last week. One of our members, Susan Kusel, is a children's librarian and was in Denver at the conference so she shared with us the reactions of the audience as the winners were announced.

Similar to our awards discussion last year, there was a lot of disagreement about whether the "right" books got the big awards or were relegated to the position of Honor books. Particularly in the Caldecott category, where A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever was favored over The House in the Night. In the Printz category, Nation was highly praised as perhaps a smidge more Printz-y than Jellicoe Road. And in the Newbery category, we were (not surprisingly) all in agreement that The Graveyard Book was an excellent choice.

I still haven't read all the of the winners and honor books but that is my mission for the next few weeks. In March, our group meets again to discuss the Cybils winners which will be announced on the 14th. I love awards season!

*caroline hickey

PS- The darling baby in the picture is, sadly, not mine, but Amber Lough's son Henry. He is 10 weeks old. Fabulous, isn't he?

Monday, January 26, 2009

The 30-Minute Writer

I'm currently revising my WIP during Bridget's 30-40 minute nap every morning. It's going all right: I have good ideas about where I want to take the book, and I'm making teeny tiny bites of progress each day. But having only a half an hour or so to write means that I can't sit down at my laptop and diddle around online for awhile to get my brain warmed up (which I used to looooove to do). I've got to get crackin' as soon as my butt hits the seat!

So, here are some tips I've found to warm up for brilliant writing in just five minutes:

*Find a song that captures the mood and tone of the book or main character. Listen to the song as you make your tea and get ready to sit down and type. (For my WIP, I've chosen "Realize" by Colbie Caillat. It's filled with longing. My MC is also filled with longing.)

*Close your eyes and picture your main character. Imagine her doing something, even if it's just brushing her teeth. Imagine her talking to her best friend for a minute. Listen to their voices. Picture them in your setting. Transfer the MC's voice into your head.

*Upon starting up your computer, IMMEDIATELY open your Word doc. Do not check your email, not even for a second. Do not scan the news headlines. Do not check your blog (sorry Longstockings). Open your Word doc and skim the last two pages you wrote. Then put those fingers on the keyboard and TYPE LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!!

If you have more tips, please send them. I'm hoping to get through this revision before spring. Eeeek.

*caroline hickey

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Finally - some good news about reading!

From Monday's Washington Post:
For the first time since the NEA began surveying American reading habits in 1982 ... the percentage of American adults who report reading "novels, short stories, poems or plays" has risen instead of declining: from 46.7 percent in 2002 to 50.2 percent in 2008.

The gain, it states, came entirely from prose fiction. The article goes on, however, to mitigate this jump by saying that "percentage of American adults who report reading any book not required for work or school during the previous year is still declining. "

Check out the article. It's pretty interesting.

*caroline hickey