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Joy today: How writers can win NaNoWriMo

“Every book in history has been written the exact same way: one word at a time.” ~Ed Freeman

Hello, writers and readers! Are you diving into NaNoWriMo today? Me, too!

For those of you new to this event, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Thousands of people all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words (the length of a novel that’s on the shorter side) in the month of November. There are a lot of great resources available over the at the NaNoWriMo site including a calendar of virtual write-ins, Twitter chat times, encouraging letters from well-known novelists know as pep talks, writing tool suggestions, and a community of other writers writing this month.

This is my third time participating in NaNoWriMo. The first two times I wrote the first drafts of my two Emerson Page novels. The first was published in 2017 (and you can buy wherever books are sold). The second I’m shopping around now. This year, I’m trying a new genre—historical fiction romance set in an Italian bakery in New York City during the Christmas season of 1910. It’s called For Love and Other Reasons.

50,000 words in a month is a lofty goal, and winning it means you get to that goal. However, my p.o.v. is that any progress you make this month is a win. Here are some ways that have helped me the last two times I’ve done this:

1.) Break it down into small parts
Break down your writing into small parts. One scene, one part of a scene, one description. Heck, one good sentence is fine, too. My professor, mentor, and friend, Ed Freeman, is my Albus Dumbledore. He always says, “Every book in history has been written the exact same way: one word at a time.” I think about that every single day. One word, one sentence, one page, one chapter, one book, one library. Everything in our lives is composed of smaller parts. Don’t get overwhelmed by writing a book. Just write a word and then another and another. All the greats have done it that way, and you can, too.

2.) Schedule your writing time
Put it in your calendar and hold yourself to it just like you would any other important appointment. Sometimes people ask me what’s the trick to writing  book. I wish I had a silver bullet for you and for myself! I don’t. Writing a book takes time, dedication, and effort. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

3.) Treat yourself
I don’t know about you but I like rewards so I treat myself for a job well done. When I hit my word count for the day, I have a cookie, a piece of candy, or a cup of delicious tea I bought especially for this purpose. Set up a reward system for yourself to stay motivated and to celebrate along the way.

4.) Outline
I love a good outline. This year I’m trying a new software called PlotPins. You can try any number of different tools and can go as low-tech as scenes on index cards which are my personal favorites because then I can move the order around. The New York Times ran an article this week with a list of great tools for writers, and some are completely free.

5.) Fun it up
This year, my novel includes baking so I’ll be posting pictures and recipes of my NaNo baking on social media and on my NaNoWriMo profile as my word count adds up. You’ll be able to find them on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as on my Author page on Facebook.

Happy writing and reading, friends!

Joy today: Halloween writing and reading with Neil Gaiman

Happy Halloween! Anyone have a writing-inspired Halloween costume? Let’s see ’em – post a pic in the comments.

Also, if you’re looking for some fun Halloween literary entertainment, I’ve got some for you:

Neil Gaiman reading Poe’s poem, The Raven:

The origin story of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman traces its roots to the Middle Ages! This link also has some fun related Halloween content at the bottom of the page, too: https://www.history.com/news/legend-sleepy-hollow-headless-horseman

And when you’re all done with your pumpkins, don’t throw them in the trash. Instead, treat the wildlife in your gardens and local woods who can make very good use of them.

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A Year of Yes: Fan mail from a young reader filled my heart

Today my heart’s so full it’s going to burst. I just got this fan letter and art from 10-yr-old Evie, 1 of my young readers. She addressed it to Emerson Page, my book’s heroine. I’m cry-smiling so much my face hurts.

She said the book “was very well written, with good use of figurative language and action packed. Thank you for your memoir of adventure, friendship, and around every corner was a surprise.” I am overjoyed because Evie is exactly the reader I wrote this book for.

I met her dad thanks to the Ologies Podcast FB group. He said that he believes in providing books with strong female characters for Evie to read so how could we not be immediate pals?!

This is the stuff of my dreams as a writer. You better believe I’m saving this letter, framing this art, and replying to this enthusiastic young woman who is articulate, and by the way, has gorgeous hand-writing and mad art skills. 😊😭😍

A Year of Yes: Open House New York and my inner book nerd

Open House New York is a program here in New York City that encourages cultural institutions to open their doors to the public for learning and discovery. This year, I visited the Center for Book Arts and the New York Society Library. To say that my total book nerd and New York City history obsessed heart is full is an understatement. It’s so full it might just burst right out of my chest. I can’t stop smiling. To be surrounded by books and the people who love them as much as I do was such a treat. It feels good to find your tribe and discover they are your neighbors.

A Year of Yes: How fiction helps us survive reality

How are you doing? This week was a heavy one. I hope you’re taking good care of yourselves and each other.

Whenever I feel like reality is too heavy and I need a break, I turn to fiction. This passage was particularly powerful for me:

Harry: I’ve been thinking about something Dumbledore said to me.

Hermione: What’s that?

Harry: That even though we got a fight ahead of us, we’ve got one thing Voldemort doesn’t.

Ron: Yeah?

Harry: Something worth fighting for

A Year of Yes: Why Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast is so good for writers

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 3.23.22 PMThe Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast has been improving my life from the moment I set ears on it. There are so many life lessons and conversations starters about our society throughout the Harry Potter books and this podcast explores ALL of them with two fantastically intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, and hilarious hosts. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Vanessa, Casper, Adriana, and Julia for the wonder and gift that is this podcast. I’m so grateful and can’t wait for them to do another live show from New York City!

Writers, when we think about the depth of our stories and the work it takes to create this depth, a podcast like this shows just why that work is so worthwhile. Books are a lens through which to look at our lives, the world, and our place in it. It’s a hefty responsibility and an honor to be able to impact people in a positive way through our art. It’s the very best part of being a writer.

A Year of Yes: What’s on your bookshelf?

“What is a bookshelf other than a treasure chest for a curious mind.” ~Anonymous

I buy a lot of e-books but every once in a while, there’s a book I have to buy in traditional print. It’s a book that I want to refer to again and again. A book I feel I need to hold, to underline, and write in the margins of. Mine is getting more eclectic all of the time—science, fairy tales, biographies, yoga, New York City history, books about writing, business books, ancient philosophy, every sub-genre of fiction. It says a lot about who I am—always changing, always learning, always curious. What’s on your bookshelf?

A Year of Yes: David Bowie on books

“Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A: Reading.” ~David Bowie

As if we needed another reason to love David Bowie. He was known to be a voracious reader and traveled with a library on film shoots and concert tours. Earlier this year, his son, Duncan Jones, launched an online book club in honor of his father. The Bowie Book Club will work its way through Bowie’s list of his 100 favorite books.

Another of his quotes about books that just knocks me out:

“I’m a real self-educated kind of guy. I read voraciously. Every book I ever bought, I have. I can’t throw it away. It’s physically impossible to leave my hand! Some of them are in warehouses. I’ve got a library that I keep the ones I really, really like. I look around my library some nights and I do these terrible things to myself–I count up the books and think, how long I might have to live and think, ‘F@#%k, I can’t read two-thirds of these books.’ It overwhelms me with sadness.”

David Bowie, we will miss you forever for so many reasons. Long live your beautiful spirit and the love of books.

A Year of Yes: The power of books

“Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” ~Plato

As I was getting ready for my talks for the Virginia Festival of the Book, I came across so many beautiful quotes and art inspired by the love of books. This one above is one of my favorites. Books give us such strong connections—to one another and to the best versions of ourselves.

A Year of Yes: Never stop reading fairy tales

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” ~C.S. Lewis

I never outgrew reading fairy tales. I became a writer and an author because of them. They’ve helped me to make sense of life, to have hope in times that seemed so bleak. I don’t believe in happily ever after; I believe in stronger and braver ever after. And that has made all the difference.

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