Stories found and made: The difference between fact and fiction

shark-coverorientationWhere do stories come from? One of my favorite topics when speaking to readers is where writers get their ideas and how to turn ideas into stories.

Before I wrote The Mermaid Game: A summer short story, I wrote Shark and Minnow: A summer memoir, a nonfiction essay about sisters at the beach, a boy next door, and a shark found in the shallows. This telling is as true as my faulty memory can make it.

Read it with The Mermaid Game to see where the story and essay converge and diverge to create the different kind of truth that can be found in fiction.

Nonfiction: Shark and Minnow: A summer memoir

Fiction: The Mermaid Game: A summer short story

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    Celebrating my one-year publication anniversary

    Anniversaries are bittersweet, and that’s why I’m celebrating.

    deadwood-coverToday is the one-year anniversary of the publication of my middle-grade novel Deadwood. I’ve sold books, but not as many as I wish I had. I’ve gotten some incisive reviews and honors, and been bypassed as well. I’ve met readers, and every single meeting has been a privilege. I’ve written new words and submitted new works (still waiting!). I’ve started drafts and abandoned them. I’ve gotten a contract for my debut picture book, Mira Tells the Future, and I’ve been awed by the illuminating, imaginative sketches I’ve seen. I’ve made new friends and lost others. I’ve worked my day job. I’ve raised my daughters. I’ve been a wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I’ve tried to figure out what it means to be a writer even though it’s not everything I once dreamed of.

    It’s bittersweet — the good with bad, accomplishments with losses, milestones achieved and time gone forever. The publishing journey is long, but it’s not lonely because of my friends, family, and readers. I’ve learned that I have to make The Mermaid Gamemy own high points and celebrate each one.

    That’s why this month I published The Mermaid Game: A summer short story (DIY high point!), 99 cents for Kindle and free to read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. And if you haven’t read Deadwood, it’s only $2.99 for Kindle and in paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your favorite independent retailer, or a library near you.

    Thank you for supporting me over the past year and all the years before. And thanks for making this a high point for me.

     

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      The Darkness of Nursery Tales

      The other day my family and I was listening to an audiobook during a car ride — a middle-grade fantasy that retells a Grimm fairy tale. And of course, the princess’s father died right in the beginning.

      My husband complained — he’s tired of all the dead parents of children’s literature. I defended the plot because that’s how stories work. Happy lives make dull books. The main character has to act on her own. She must suffer before she triumphs. She must face conflict.

      Still, like my husband, I have tried to shelter my children from some literary losses — we haven’t read Charlotte’s Web or The Bridge to Terabithia. We never watched Bambi. We haven’t read the gruesomest Grimm tales that fascinated me as a child — the murdered stepson served as stew, the barrel studded inside with nails.

      I remember my daughter flipping through my copy of Sing-Song, A Nursery Rhyme Book by Christina Rossetti. She was attracted by the little girl on the cover cavorting with a lamb, one of the gorgeous original illustrations by Arthur Hughes, the Pre-Raphaelite whose illustrations for George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin.

      Read the rest of the post on Project Mayhem >>

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        SCBWI Crystal Kite Finalist in the Atlantic Division

        I’m so honored that DEADWOOD has made it to the second and final voting round of the 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards. The SCBWI is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I’m in the Atlantic division (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland). The Crystal Kites are  member-voted awards, and I’m thankful for the support of my SCBWI peers.

        Crystal kites

        If you’re an SCBWI member, vote for books in your division from April 18 – 30.

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          I See a New Book in My Future

          While everyone in the Northeast is glued to weather reports, it’s the perfect time to announce that my weather-prognosticating picture book will be released in 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books. Here’s the announcement from today’s Publishers Marketplace:

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          There are no snow storms in my book — Mira Tells the Future is a summery story about a young would-be boardwalk fortuneteller who saves her beach town by using meteorology, instead of clairvoyance, to predict the weather. I’ve had such fun working with my wonderful editor Zaneta Jung on this book, and I can’t wait to see what an illustrator does with it. Thanks always to my agent, Kathleen Rushall, who saw Mira’s potential — I suspect she has a crystal ball of her own.

          Think warm thoughts, everyone!

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            Headlight Goals: Seeing What’s Next

            headlightsI’m working on a new novel, one that I have outlined in a synopsis but no further. I have a clear creative vision, but not a clear outline. I have novels that have been waylaid in the process of outlining, where I couldn’t solve a plot point and then the whole thing fell apart. As much as outlines have helped me in the past, this time I’m using the Headlight Method, which I first learned of in James Scott Bell’s indispensable reference, Plot & Structure.

            E.L. Doctorow is credited with the saying, “Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you make the whole trip that way.”

            Neither pantser nor plotter am I, but something between. I need to see the next step, but if I have to have every detail done, I will never be done.

            Read the full post on Project Mayhem >>

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              New Website Look

              girl and treeI spent far too long making a new header illustration for my site. I was aiming for a more flexible design that works for both middle grade and picture book writing. The color palette was inspired by my writer friend Colby Marshall. Colby has color-grapheme synthesia, like the main character of her much-praised new thriller Color Blind. While Dr. Jenna Ramey is a forensic psychiatrist who uses her unique way of interpreting the world to help solve crimes, Colby was kind enough to answer me when I demanded to know what color I am. She said periwinkle, and that color dominated this twilight design.

              Note that the trees in the design are still American beeches — the same kind of tree that stars in Deadwood, although these are a little more at peace. Please let me know what you think.

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