Friday, April 30, 2010

My Process

So, in conjunction with five other fabulous author bloggers, linked to at the end of the post for your perusal pleasure, I'm writing today on my writing process.

Perhaps you've read about it before, when I gave instructions on How to Write. As exhaustive and sincere as those directions were, here's the thing:

My method is not your method.

Heck, most of the time my method isn't even my method.

With that in mind, read this for the sake of interest only (unless you've already lost interest, in which case go find something shiny to look at. Or a pony. But please no lolcatz, because those really give me the creeps). Don't ask me how to write, because you shouldn't write like I do. And you should probably be glad for that fact.

Here's how it used to work. "Tra la la. My son is napping and I don't know what I'm going to write about. Oh, look, an idea. I'll just write the first scene."

Three sleep-deprived and bordering-on-certifiable weeks later: "LOOK. I HAVE A BOOK."

There was no method other than obsession, living in the story, spinning it out constantly with every spare thought and even some thoughts that weren't so spare and really should have been focusing on the tasks at hand like getting off the correct exit on the freeway. This, of course, left me with quite a bit of fine tuning to do during revision--my revising time on PARANORMALCY was a solid three months, versus the three weeks the first draft took me.

And that was that--a mad-dash-obsessive first draft, after which I read and reread (I usually do between six and ten run-throughs) and analyzed and workshopped and spit polished, but the basic storyline and major scenes remained pretty much entirely intact.

Writing the sequel to PARANORMALCY was very different. A lot more challenging, a lot more wrestling with the story and my motivation, and a lot heavier revision (I added seventeen thousand words. Thousand. Seventeen. It was a long winter...).

Lately, however, my process seems to be this: "The kids are finally in bed and I should write. Look, there's my bed."

Three weeks later: "I should probably write. Look, there's my bed."

Three weeks later: "I should really write. Look, there's my bed."

And that's how it works with me. I have very creative, intense times where I produce a massive amount of work that I can then take my time tinkering with, and I have tired, worn-out times when any creativity is sucked dry in taking care of my day-to-day stuff.

I'm okay with this. I write every day (obviously you know this if you are reading my blog), I always meet concrete deadlines, and if I'm not actively creating, well, I will again soon.


Hey, look! There's my bed.

Other, probably more helpful, posts:

Tawna Fenske (my agency sister and why I did this even though I don't usually agree to do linked posts--yes, it IS nepotism, sorry)
Sean Ferrell (he outcrazies me by about infinite)

What about you? Is there method in your madness, or just madness in your method? Or, like me, a whole lot of madness and really no method to speak of?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Joy Like Pain

He's vomiting again. It sometimes strikes me as laughable what a non-event vomit has become in my life. He starts gagging, I stand him in the tub, wait for it to be over, and clean up. Business as usual.

Tonight as he stands there, shivering and coughing, I'm distracted. Wondering what triggered it this time, wondering if this means my night is shot for writing, wondering if I can finally beat that idiot Dave's high score on Bejeweled Blitz. I grab the bowl and rinse down the bathtub, then fill it up for my son. "I'm going to wash off your tummy now."

He looks up at me with his teary, pale eyes and says in his trembling voice, "Thank you, Mama. Thank you so much."

And just like that my heart is broken. Why is it that these beautiful moments pierce straight through your heart and fill you with a joy like pain? Motherhood is the most terrible kind of love--it takes everything from you, wrings you dry, wears you out, and then fills you back up to bursting.

Sometimes it takes a little vomit to remind me to hold my life in awe.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In Which I am Rescued by a Librarian, Meet Some Literary Idols, and Discover a Previously Untapped Propensity for Blushing

Many of you may know I have a thing for John Green. And by thing I mean, of course, a literary crush (the completely-platonic-non-creepy kind, like I have on Marilynne Robinson and Willa Cather and Sandra Boynton). I like him so much I've even written whole blog posts about how he's secretly a Nickelodeon character, but that's irrelevant right now, because Friday he came to San Diego! Along with the brilliant David Levithan (author of Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist among many other things, and also editor of a few small books you probably haven't heard of, like Shiver and The Hunger Games series). And I had to go. Of course.

But San Diego? Well, turns out it's kind of big. I merrily wrote down my directions, handed off my kids to their grandparents, and set out an hour-and-a-half early, figuring I'd have time to get a good seat and maybe even read before it started.

I wasn't counting on a massive, humongous Google Maps FAIL. (In all likelihood it was, in fact, a Kiersten FAIL, but for the sake of my ego I'm going to blame Google Maps. Bad Google Maps! Bad!) And so when, twenty minutes until the book signing started, I found myself sitting in the parking lot of a high school with no idea a) where I was and b) how to get to where I needed to be, I did what anyone would do.

I called a librarian.

I'll admit I was a little confused when she didn't even know about the event, but then when it became clear that I was absolutely clueless, she said something that I couldn't believe.

"It's not too far out of my way. Meet me in the parking lot and I'll escort you there."


So I met my new hero and followed her to the event. I give you Valerie, director of the Book Mobile for the Rancho San Diego Library district, and my knight in shining Honda:

Doesn't she have a pretty smile? Yes, she does. Also, she is the BEST LIBRARIAN EVER.

So, safely delivered to my destination by my own personal librarian escort, I rushed inside with three minutes to spare. The room was, of course, packed, but once again friends came through for me. The lovely Khy and her equally lovely mom Debbie had saved me a seat right near the front.

Yes, I am short, aren't I? Jordyn and Khy, my adorable teen book blogger friends.

At this point I was a bit flustered. Being lost always makes me nervous because strangely enough I like to be in control. But I was there, it was all good. And then John Green came out and ohmygoshItotallystartedfreakingoutinternally.

Like, weirdly freaking out.

So turns out I do, in fact, freak out over celebrities. Just not the movie star variety. No, I get all gushy and weird over literary stars. But it was totally earned on John and David's part, because they were amazing. Their back-and-forth was hilarious, intelligent, and interesting. Both of them were so thoughtful and engaging, and while I already knew I liked John, David made such an impression on me I'd like to adopt him. (This probably won't work out for several reasons: he's older than me, probably already has perfectly nice parents of his own, and might even be frightened just knowing I feel this way, but hey--he's brilliant, and sweet, and funny. Of course I want to adopt him.) (Erica, don't feel bad, you're still my favorite editor and have first dibs on being adopted. But you guys would also make really, really cute siblings. Just saying.)

Here are some of my favorite quotes of the evening:

A girl asked David a question about becoming an editor, since that's what she wanted to do. John laughed and said, "Wow, that's a rocketship that only goes up." (Not to be discouraging, but because any career in publishing is a) hard to get and b) a looooooong road.)

Another person asked, "How does it make you feel to know that you've changed people's lives?"

John: "Nervous!"

John: "Obviously I am a rapper. I have a lot of sick flow."
David: "That's just wrong. Never say that again." (And David, being brilliant, worked in a joke about this thirty minutes later that only worked in context, but really, did I say BRILLIANT?)

Finally, John was wearing a Draco and the Malfoys band tee, and David was wearing a Death Cab for Cutie one. John: "I don't know anything about Death Cab for Cutie, but I know they don't sing about Harry Potter." Good call, John.

Anyway. I'll stop regaling you with tales of their hilarity, but they had such a great dynamic. Also funny was that neither of them seemed to be able to keep from bouncing...constantly...up and down on the balls of their feet. If you're prone to motion sickness, you may want to avoid a signing where they talk while standing.

So, done with their hilarious readers' theater and question and answer, it was time for them to sign books. I wrote "Kiersten" on a piece of paper and put it on top of their book and, all of my clever and/or interesting things I was going to ask John completely drained out of my starstruck head, put it down in front of him. I started babbling and he looked at my name, looked up at me and said, "Oh, are you Kiersten White?"

And then I died.

It was really awkward, too, what with the paramedics, and leaving my husband a widower and my children orphans, but really, can you blame me? I just hope my dead body didn't ruin the rest of the signing for everyone else.

A picture in which I interpret everyone's thoughts:

Me: OhmygoshheknowsmynameJohnGreenknowsmyname
John Green: Wow, I didn't know faces could turn that shade of red
David Levithan: Ha ha ha, I know how Hunger Games ends

Okay, really at this point I don't have any clear recollection of what I said, other than that a) I was grinning like an idiot and b) blushing more than I ever knew possible. John said "It's great to meet you!" and I rambled and babbled (in case you were wondering how articulate I am upon meeting people I really, really admire, the answer is: NOT AT ALL) and made googly eyes at him, and then moved on to David.

And yes, upon meeting David Levithan, my already broken brain came up with THIS gem to say: "You are a rock star of editing!"

Me: Ohmygosh did I really just say he's a rockstar of editing? Please, brain, connect with mouth! At least I didn't offer to adopt him
David Levithan: Ha ha ha, I know how Hunger Games ends

Anyway. It's always nice meeting idols in person and realizing they completely deserve your adoration. If you get a chance to see them, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Just please, for the love, memorize something intelligent to say while they're signing your books so you don't end up like me.

And finally, the only shot in which I wasn't saying something stupid:

But only because my mouth hadn't started moving yet.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


League of Professional Nappers
333 Somnambulist Lane
Sleepy Hollow, NC 38276

Dear Ms White,

We have reviewed your lengthy and passionate appeal for a review of your membership revocation. And while it is true that in your early years you showed an all-consuming dedication to napping, indeed scheduling work and school around it during college and forgoing a social life for it during high school, your recent showings have fallen far beneath the mark.

We understand that every effort was made and that, while your kids were still in our Junior Nappers Club, you participated every chance you got. But your record over the last couple of years leaves much to be desired. Wanting to nap, craving naps, and, as you put it, "being so desperate for a nap I could cry (and sometimes do)," is not the same as napping. Were you truly dedicated like our Platinum Level Members (who manage to nap in spite of managing entire companies and, in some cases, countries), you would find a way. Those pathetic attempts you make on Saturday and Sunday simply do not cut it.

Being a member of the League of Professional Nappers is a privilege, and we take our requirements and commitments very seriously. As you have clearly not been lying down on the job, we remain by our original decision to hereby remove your name from our records and revoke any and all privileges and rights heretofore allowed. Feel free to keep napping recreationally, though, and best wishes.

Sweet dreams,

Sally Slumbers, Membership Secretary

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

An Ode to My Editor Upon Missing Her Birthday

Erica, editor divine
I'm just so glad that you are mine
Even if we both agree
I use "just" too liberally

Erica, editor divine
Your guidance is always so fine
"Great! Love that! Let's improve this."
Working on your edits? Bliss!

Erica, editor divine
Leaves smiley faces after lines
And smiley faces on my lips
With her doggy-parenting tips

Erica, editor divine
I'm afraid we're out of time
I send my love and adoration
to the Best Editor in the Nation.

Happy birthday, Erica!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Old Haunts

Yesterday I met with one of my best friends. Rather than go and do something fun, like, you know, eat or get books or something, we decided to revisit the scene of our greatest triumphs, the highlights of our lives.

Wait, did I say triumphs and highlights? I meant, revisit the scene of our greatest insecurities and unhappiness. Maybe I'm speaking for Natalie here. So I'll just make this about me.

Cue dramatic, ominous music:


Copy this down in your journal, folks. You can't fail!

I'm going to exaggerate just a tad. But come on, if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know I wasn't cool in high school, right? No one as well adjusted as I am could possibly have been happy those years. (Heh. Kidding. But I personally have the theory that no one is cool in high school, no matter what their social status is. Everyone is scared and lonely and trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world. It's certainly easier for some than it is for others, but I'm proud of the fact that I was a huge, huge dork. And weirdo. And nerd. And, as one of my favorite teachers that I said hi to yesterday put it, "Crazy Militant Feminist." That was an exaggeration on his part. Mostly.)

I'm rambling. Onto the tour!

Scene of my many triumphs of amazing athletic prowess
aka Sometimes I sat in the bleachers, but only when I couldn't get out of it

This was the location of my senior prom. Yup, prom. In the gym. But no worries--they draped a huge, army-camo parachute from the ceiling, so it was really pretty. Put butcher paper to cover the lockers, too!

The worst part of all is, I wrote a really funny newspaper article poking gentle fun at the whole thing (and the fact that my graduating class NEVER had an off-site activity) and, umm, made someone cry. Bad, BAD high school Kiersten. High school Kiersten would have cried if she knew she made someone cry.

But in spite of the dominance of the gym and the celebration of athletics, you cannot find more talented students in the arts. Did your high school have a full orchestra and band to accompany its plays? (Okay, if you live in Utah, probably. But still. Talent, talent, talent.)

Practice that I felt like a creeper taking pictures of

Sometimes I wish I had been more involved in high school. I did choir and newspaper and Mock Trial (ROCK ON), but I never really got involved in anything. Maybe that's the secret to happiness (or happier-ness) in high school--finding something you love doing that takes up a lot of the time you'd otherwise spend napping, or wallowing, or crying. Now, if there had been a napping, wallowing, crying, and reading quietly in your room club, I would have been president. And vice-president. And mascot.

My favorite/least favorite brother has it figured out--band, choir, drama, you name it. He has fun. Also, I'll say it for you: "HIS HAIR."

I was always too afraid of looking/feeling dumb to get involved or be passionate about anything. And you know what? That was dumb.

This is a fairly accurate representation of my level of school spirit then.
"It's a sword. In a rock. Seriously? I'm gonna go home and take a nap."

But I'm kidding. I totally took the following inspirational wall decoration to heart:

I put 100% effort into putting in the least effort possible!

In fact, my senior year there were some classes I skipped more than I went to. I think/hope they've cracked down on that. You could get away with a lot as long as your grades and test scores were good. It wasn't a very good system. Unless you love naps.

But it wasn't all bad. Every day I got a nutritious lunch:

Sugar, or salt? ALWAYS sugar.

And then went to this place:

and walked straight past it rather than walking in and trying to find someone who would think I was cool enough that they wouldn't mind me sitting by them. I'm sure people wouldn't have minded, but it was always the fear that they would--can you tell I was scared a lot in high school? I wasted a lot of time being scared.

So I'd go off to a favorite teacher's classroom and meet a few other friends who daren't brave the cafeteria or the even cooler "commons" area, and we'd download stupid songs on the computer to bug the teacher, and write out weird slogans on the board. (I believe my favorite was "Kiersten and Leah for Supreme co-Dictators of the World." I don't think Leah and I have plans for world domination any more.) (Well, maybe she does, I'll have to ask. But I'm tired just trying to handle my kids--the world can take care of itself, thankyouverymuch.)

It's interesting looking back. I got asked to every dance, had a couple of boyfriends, and a group of good girlfriends. (I was desperately, achingly lonely and had insomnia.) I got good grades and killer test scores and my teachers loved me. (I flunked three terms of math and hid it from my parents.) I was smart and funny and confident. (I was painfully insecure and worried that no one would ever really know or love me.) I was on the ball and a high school success story. (I struggled with depression.)

And I suspect that everyone I knew, everyone you knew, also had a whole hidden subtext to their life. Probably still do. Maybe that's why I write YA--it was all a mystery then, and it still kind of is.

But it wasn't all miserable. Evie, my MC in PARANORMALCY, would be horrified to know how I really felt about high school. She has a tendency to idealize it. But don't worry, Evie. I did have...

A locker. And, yes, lockers? AWESOME.

And surviving high school and taking those experiences to figure out who you really are and who you want to be and find out a way to make a happy life for yourself? Even awesomer.

So I guess high school wasn't so bad after all.

Except that gym. Really. That still sucks.