Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House
My first novel (middle grade, ages 9 to 13) is due out November 11, 2014
I still can't believe it!
Sneak preview of the back cover. This will be out in hardcover.
Do I look dazed? Well, I am. I can't believe that my new book is a work of fiction.
Ok, I know what you're thinking after reading the title of this posting, but you're wrong. I believe that the oldest profession is storytelling and that storytelling is how our culture, our very lives, have been saved, embroidered, and carried on to future generations. Storytelling, a simple word that goes back to your earliest memories, and usually those are GOOD memories. Storytelling is what grabs a reader or an audience (notice how Steve Jobs always did storytelling when talking to his enthralled audiences) and holds them captive.
Here is an article by Paul Zak that explains the how and why stories are important to us in so many ways and "shape our brains." Stories that are compelling and exciting, poignant and/or joyful engage more of our brains and are better remembered than facts. Please let me know what you think of this.
"Where are you, Sharon?"
This was a question from a worried friend. I've been out of touch for way too long, but please forgive me. I am trying to finish my newest book, which is about some children who live on an island in Maine (hmmm, wonder where that idea came from?). I've been cocooned with my computer and just working, working, working in between welcoming house guests, celebrating my grandson's 7th birthday, getting over bronchitis and an eye infection, speaking in Illinois, and doing lots of cooking.
Of course, I always try to make time for my Cambria Writers' Workshop and Kiddie Writers, which are both invaluable to me. They are my critics, and without their constant input, my book would literally be at a standstill.
Fueling your precious brain:
Every day before work, I try to read something that will refuel my brain. For me the first course is always poetry. It is amazing how just one or two lines can color the way you head into your day. I read classics (right now I'm reading a 1923 translation of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus To Himself) and relevant articles in magazines and newspapers, not to mention the best in arts from NPR. Our brains are precious vessels that always need filling.
Since I posted the photo of my new book on Facebook, I've received hundreds of e-mails filled with relevant questions about publishing. Although I would love to answer every one of those questions personally, I just don't have enough hours in the day.
Let me share some hints to fuel YOUR brain:
Listen to everything going on around you.
Watch everything, and that means social interactions, nature, etc.. All that watching is somewhat like dropping coins into a bank. You never know when something magical or writing-worthy will occur, and you can bank the words and cash them in later.
A little aside: Jeff has often asked me if he should move to the table next to us in a restaurant so that I will hear what he is saying. It's true, I am an eavesdropper, but wow, what great lines I've heard while doing that.
Read, read, read. I laughed recently when a man asked me about publishing, and I advised that he read as much as possible. He said, "I don't have time to read, I am a WRITER." Good, be a writer, but you darned well better also be a reader to improve vocabulary, plotting skills, character development, and more.
Write every day. Even ten minutes a day will add up. Ten quiet minutes of jotting down your thoughts, a proposed chapter, beginning of a book, or poems. My friend Eve Neuhaus wrote something that really piqued my interest. She said that she took a class that advised her to write herself a letter every day. A letter. A good, old fashioned means of communication. I love this idea and am using lovely notecards to write to myself.
Recently a want-to-be-writer told me that he can't write every day because he is waiting for his creative muse. Well, that is like sitting in a train terminal and hoping to go on a journey, but instead of catching the train, you're all tied up in watching arrivals. The trains keep leaving, but you're never on them. You're waiting for the creative muse to tell you what to do. YOU are the one in charge, not your "muse." CATCH THE TRAIN!
Join a writing group! Find a critique circle that will help you build your writing skills. It is important that they help you grow as a writer, but if they are quick to jump in and criticize without helping to build your skills, well, they're not doing you any favors. Our brains literally shut down and whirl around negative criticisms. That happened to me when I wrote Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots. Whenever I got side-swiped with criticism from a woman who was helping my beloved editor, I would lose hours of work. Finally, Jeff said, "You're not talking to that woman again. She is poisoning your writing." So, I didn't speak with her again and worked and worked until Roots was finished.
How nasty criticisms can hurt your creative process:
I loved learning this weekend about the how and why our brains process good and bad experiences. Here is a snippet from an interview with Rick Hanson, Ph.D., who is a neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (Harmony Books), wrote about ways to get past our built-in urge to think the worst. The trouble is, he said, "We've got a brain that's really good at learning from bad experiences. And it's relatively bad at learning from good experiences. That's why I say that the brain is like Velcro for the bad, but Teflon for the good."
Writing isn't easy:
It isn't. It is difficult, painful, sometimes joyful, sometimes exciting, sometimes heartbreaking, but we are humans and part of the beauty of humans is their creativity. Make yourself work, revise, revise again, and don't be afraid to read to others. You must share your work and get feedback.
Once I confessed to my friend Janet Brownell, who is an accomplished and successful screen writer, that I was afraid to read my work to people. Janet laughed and said, "You can write and write and be a writer, but you need others to read your work before you're an author."
So now, my friends, I am going back to work so that I have two finished chapters to read to my writing group this Wednesday. This is a short posting, but it is for YOU so you can follow the path to your dreams. That path is rocky and filled with potholes, but it is your path and if you have tenacity and courage, you can make your dreams come true.
I am happy to offer a reader drawing (in a few weeks) for a signed, hardbound copy of Running Out of Night (not due until November) and a copy of Trowel and Error. Please leave a comment on this posting for eligibility in the drawing. Also, if you don't have a blog or address, you'll need to look for the winner so we can contact you for a mailing address.
P.S. I was overjoyed this week to get this notice about Trowel & Error's 11th printing. Dreams do come true.