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My Writer's Journal

Between Books

This has been a busy summer--teaching kids at the ABQ zoo and writers at a conference in Taos, but mostly working on BEAUTY'S DAUGHTER with frequent interruptions to fix loose ends and read galleys of VICTORIA REBELS. But now Victoria is in production and yesterday I hit SEND on the Hermione ms.

So now what?

I used to worry that I'd run out of ideas. Or that the ideas I'd been sending to editors would all be accepted and I'd be buried under deadlines. So far I haven't run out of ideas, but occasionally I'm swamped. Then it's over, and my friends urge me to "Relax, take it easy, take a break."

Not going to happen. I need two days to straighten up my office, pay bills, clean out the refrigerator, answer emails--and then I'm ready to go. Today is Friday. On Monday I'll start my next project: a series of ebooks. More about this later. Read More 
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What's the Matter with Grammar?

I remember learning to write, probably because my mother saved some of my first efforts, but, oddly, I don't remember learning to read. I don't remember learning grammar, either, but it must have happened before 6th grade, because by the time I was in junior high (7th grade), I had it down. By the time I was in high school, Miss Frankenberry had taken over my writing life (see Grammar Dragon), and she simply didn't allow anyone to use bad grammar. Misspellings didn't go down well. And when I was a college freshman and took whatever that Writing 101 course was, 3 errors of any kind (grammar, spelling, punctuation) in a writing assignment and you were down one letter grade. Didn't matter how brilliant or creative your writing was--if you couldn't write correctly, well then, you weren't really writing.

So whatever happened to that idea? I worked with some 7th graders at the zoo this summer, and I could barely translate their sentences. 2 mch txting, I think. There was also this notion for awhile among educators that making kids write correctly somehow impeded their creative process; better just to let it flooooowwww. Were they kidding? I hope that has changed. At the risk of sounding like an old fartress, let me just say that grammar and spelling, and punctuation, too, are the basic tools of writing, and if you haven't mastered those skills, you're not going to get anywhere. Read More 
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The Simple Life

I try to keep things simple. When my sons were young, they used to complain that I didn't pay enough attention to them. "You were always thinking about writing," grumbled Alan, the oldest. He was right--I didn't help with homework ("Aren't you supposed to do that yourself?"), didn't take them to hockey practice ("Just find something to do you can walk to"), didn't bake cookies for the neighborhood kids ("We're out of milk? Drink some water.") What I did was write books.

So the boys are long grown up and gone with careers and families of their own, and I haven't changed much. I still don't want to spend time on things that don't interest me, and my goal is to keep things simple. Simple but good. Take breakfast, for instance. Here's my hot-weather recipe.

Part 1: throw a couple of big handfuls of thick-rolled oatmeal in a bowl with a few craisins and some chopped dried apricots and dump enough milk on it to cover it. Part 2: go for a 3-mi walk and think about what I'm writing, shower, and dress (tee shirt, pants, sandals).
Part 3: stir chopped apple, cutup orange, whatever, and a big blob of plain yogurt into the oatmeal. Serve with banana, nuts, cinnamon, milk.

This will feed 2 people a terrific breakfast for 3 days. Yes, boxed cereal would be simpler, but it's not delicious. Did I mention that food should be delicious, especially breakfast? Especially if I'm going to be at my desk all day?

And then I make my first cup of tea for the day and write books. Read More 
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