Episode 78 Encore Episode: It Always Goes Dark

Since we are on a temporary hiatus while our editor catches up from his mysterious and zombie-like illness, it’s time for another encore episode. Another Mom Writes favorite. It goes to a place that’s deep and dark. We connect my middle grade novel about a girl and her father’s magic library to something more. Something Jennie said this episode has always stuck with me. That it doesn’t matter what you’re writing, it always goes dark.

In today’s episode:

  • Jennie and I chat about my daughter’s amazing male kindergarten teacher, “Mr. E,” while we wait for Mel to dial in.

  • We chat about the Pete the Cat empire, Mr. E’s Pete the Cat scavenger hunt, and Jennie makes a confession about Amazon.

  • Mel and I have a little mom competition over diapers. I talk about the Fort Worth Competitive Mom Circuit, and Jennie talks about the dreaded school car pool.

  • “All the people are just alone in their own little bubble” of SAMENESS.

  • I talk about going to see a medium, who I end up interviewing for the podcast (episode to come)! Jennie jokingly tries to edit my conversation as I tell the story. But I connect my visit to the medium with my writing as I tell the story about my best friend, Robyn, dying over a decade ago and how it has affected both my life and my writing. Jennie goes into full-blown therapist mode and reminds us that these deep WHYs are what we come to writing for. She also connects the book world I’ve written about in my story to the psychic realm, where characters go and can’t come back.

  • I write about the first moment my main character notices a boy in middle school. I had just attended a workshop where the instructor said not to write about bodily sensations, which only served to challenge me to go back and write about bodily sensations… Jennie translates “don’t write body sensations” to “don’t write bad crap!” She persuades me to read part of the “body sensations” scene I wrote, and we talk about why it works.

  • Massive amounts of information go through our heads really fast in the real world. Sometimes you have to figure out how to work in small connections in your writing, small important bits that your characters will process without belaboring them.

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Episode 77: #TBT Encore of the Mom Guilt Episode

It’s Thursday. And who doesn’t like a good #TBT? Especially when your podcast editor is deathly ill and temporarily out-of-commission. So, let us present you with a #TBT episode of Mom Writes.

The Mom Guilt episode was our first “real” episode. I say “real” because not only were Melanie and I just starting our writing journey, but we were also starting our podcasting journey. This was pre- Jeremy Noessel (our fabulous and currently sick editor), so the audio was crappy. Crappy with a capital C. This is because I taught myself to edit a podcast using YouTube. This episode is definitely a snapshot of me— learning to write, learning to feel less guilty about chasing a dream, learning to edit podcasts.

Despite my questionable audio editing skills, I am unashamed of this episode. (Despite an ugly review saying our advice was good but audio quality “unlistenable.”) Let this episode be an encouragement to the rest of you struggling under the mantle of self-doubt. When we first released this episode- and all the other early ones- I would press “publish” and immediately question if it was good enough. I would suppress feelings like, “Ugh! My voice!” and “I wish I had said X instead” and “I wish I hadn’t over-shared.” I still pretty much feel this way, just to a lesser degree!

But here’s the thing. I kept hitting publish. We eventually quit interrupting each other so much. We eventually became more comfortable with each other and being recorded. We eventually had enough listeners to justify hiring an editor (who could edit out our chronic oversharing, of which we are still guilty).

The early episodes were GOOD ENOUGH. You can’t get better without being good enough first.

I just had a conversation about this with a writer in the Author Accelerator Membership Circle. I am hosting a beta reader speed dating event at the end of the month in our forum (details HERE, if you’re interested). She was worried that her jacket copy wasn’t ready. My answer was, “So what. Share it anyway.”

If you wait for things to be perfect, they will never see the light of day. So, that said, here’s our first #TBT Mom Writes episode all about MOM GUILT. Now, go forth and embrace your crappiness and rejoice!


Today Jennie, Mel and I talk about the issues we face as creative people and parents, how to fit writing into your busy life, and the value of doing “intangible” work.  

The best way to guide children without coercion is to be ourselves.
— Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet

Some things we cover in this episode:

  • Mom guilt -- how to lean in and accept that your creative endeavors matter to you.

  • How do you balance motherhood/parenthood and maintain a productive writing habit?

  • Sharing with your kids and your family what you’re doing -- tell them you’re writing and what you’re writing about.  

  • Click to tweet: @@One remedy for Mom Guilt? Show don't tell- model hard work and creativity for your kids.@@

  • Your kids DO come first, but there is value in doing what matters to you.

  • The importance of making an active decision to give something else up in order to make time for your writing (laundry, dishes, etc).  

At the end of the day, there is nothing more important for your kids than doing what you’re called to do.
— Jennie Nash


Jennie’s Recommended Reading

A Circle of Quiet
By Madeleine L'Engle


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Episode 76: Word(s) of the Year

In this episode:

This week it’s our now-annual January reflection/resolution episode.

Melanie shares a great Emily McDowell quote. She paraphrases it to say that instead of looking back at the last year thinking it sucked, you should be congratulating yourself for being a survivor. Abby and Melanie look back at their successes, all while Melanie drinks from a coffee cup that says, “Disappointment Awaits.” We hope it’s not an omen!

In 2018 both Melanie and Abby finished the first drafts of their novels, and Melanie talks about having to “accept success.” The book-writing process is far from over but finishing the first draft is a huge success. Both Abby and Melanie want to make 2019 the year when they finish revisions and (at least for Mel) start the pitching process.

The holidays are exhausting, even with all the time off (or perhaps it’s because of all the “time off”). And getting back into the swing of writing is a challenge, especially when you’re tired. Melanie walked 19.5 miles (according to her phone) over the course of 4 days on vacation. And Abby did a lot of manual labor fixing fences and getting a 200 lb pig to the vet. Physical exhaustion overrode both of their brains this holiday season!

Word of the year. This year that seems to be a big trend, having a word of the year. Abby laughs that everyone’s words are “business sterile.” Her first gut reaction was to make the word community her word of the year. After all, she is the Manager of Community Engagement for Author Accelerator. But the word community wasn’t deep enough for her. You can be a part of a community at a surface level, but Abby really wanted something that reflected a deeper connection. So, she chose the word friendship. She points out that the friendships she’s developed in the writing community help keep her writing, help keep her motivated. If she ever decided to quit writing, she wouldn’t have the heart to tell Melanie!

While Abby points out that anyone with an internet connection can have an “online writing community” there’s a difference between a bunch of random strangers who write and actual writing friends. In 2018 Abby and Melanie joined a small group of writers who all have an Author Accelerator connection. They bonded over this shared experience and formed real friendships. So as part of Abby’s 2019, the Year of Friendship, she would like to continue to foster those strong writing friendships.

“The fear of disappointing others is a great motivator.” -Melanie Parish

Melanie does point out that the fear of disappointing our friends is pretty superficial. Real friends will still love you. And the level of their disappointment is greater in our minds than it is in all actuality. It’s more likely that we would disappoint ourselves. Yet fear of disappointing our writing friends and being kicked out of our super-fun writing group gives a great (even if made-up) external motivator!

Melanie’s word of the year is persevere. Melanie says writing is hard, and she can always find reasons in her life not to write. Whenever she sits down to write, she has anxiety over her work and often has to talk herself into writing something, even if it’s not perfect. She has to persevere and work her way through those feelings of self-doubt. Melanie says she is a “high-functioning person with mental issues” and she has to persevere to get shit done!  

Abby and Mel talk about getting back into the swing after the holidays. Leading up to Christmas, it’s a hectic race. Then you have that odd few days between Christmas and New Year where, as Mel puts it, time doesn’t really exist. Discombobulated was the word for the end of 2018!

As they talk about getting back on track, Melanie confesses to identifying yet another huge plot hole in her book. So, it’s back to the grind for our two Mom Writes hosts, while they persevere through the first month of 2019. 

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Episode 75: The Boneyard

In this episode:

 This episode starts with Melanie’s car accident, after which she was so shaken that she couldn’t work the insurance app on her phone. She’s also surprised to learn that both Abby and Jennie have only ever been pulled over by a cop once. (And Melanie won’t divulge her driving record…) Jennie coins the phrase driving under the influence of children.

Besides the car accident, Melanie also starts a new job and has a death in the family, which just goes to prove that life never stops.

 Despite all the stressful things going on in Mel’s life, she met her deadline and wrote well. Jennie asks her how she did it, and her answer was, basically, I didn’t want to disappoint you.  Jennie talks about how you have to be in the headspace to do this (by this, she means write a book). You either do it or don’t do it-- no matter what else is going on-- because it’s easy to make excuses (no matter how valid) all day long.

This time Melanie revised two chapters because she had some logic that wasn’t holding together. Jennie points out that Melanie was able to solve some of these big problems beautifully. Jennie says that some writers fear that a book coach is going to take over your story or mess with your story. But she points out that what she and Melanie did was identify where Melanie’s story wasn’t working and do a little brainstorming, but that Melanie’s fixes were NOT things that they had talked about. Our listeners were privy to these brainstorming sessions in previous episodes, yet Melanie talks about how she played off that brainstorming and came up with smart solutions to the logic problems that needed fixing.

Melanie points out that it took 3 or 4 revisions of this chapter to get it right. Each time she revised she was still unsatisfied with it. Jennie asked her how she knew when it was right. Melanie’s trick is to not look at it for a day, then reread it pretending she hasn’t ever read it before. She said when nothing stood out, she made the call to move on.

Melanie’s WIP is actually a rewrite of an earlier draft, which she started fresh on when she started working with Jennie. Melanie confesses that she pulled some of the material for this chapter from the original, original draft and incorporated it! Our writing friend Jocelyn Lindsay calls it “the Boneyard.” That’s all the stuff you throw away. Jocelyn never actually throws it away, she just moves it to the Boneyard to mine later when you need it. Jennie says that strategy involves discernment, which some writers have trouble with. Too often they try and stick with the original version and just retrofit it—WHICH DOESN’T WORK. You have to take the old and weigh it against the new. Will it pass the test? What do I need to do to tie it in?

Mel is also writing what Jennie calls “high action”: car chases, drama, blood, guns, possible murder, unconscious people, and… gravel skidding. But when your actual life is boring, sometimes you have to be creative with your research to make it believable on the page. Mel gets creative on a back road in the desert and confirms for Jennie what a skidding car with an open door on a gravel road would actually do.

Jennie spends a few minutes talking about writing physical scenes: sex scenes, action scenes, any scene where you zoom in close on the action of bodies in motion. Resorting to straight up descriptions of physical things is not good writing. Why does it all matter? What does it reveal about the characters and what they know or what they discover about how they feel?

 

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Episode 74: Writing Backwards to Write Forwards

It’s the final stretch in the race towards the holidays and the New Year, and we at Mom Writes are right there with you. It’s a challenge to find a way to get everything done: school projects, school parties, last minute gifts because you realize you forgot Great Aunt Muriel, finding enough stamps to send the cards (heck, finding all the addresses to put on the cards)… PLUS all the regular stuff. Like laundry. And dinner.

And writing.

Do yourself a favor and breathe. Then give yourself the gift of grace. The good things is, grace is free. And unlike Prime shipping, it’s instant. You can’t do it all, and kidding yourself that you can just leads to extra holiday stress.

The first 10 minutes we spend chatting about my up-coming move and my disappointment that the sellers of our new house wouldn’t leave me their pig. All of this gets loosely connected to writing and two of our favorite writers: Lori Richmond and KJ Dell’Antonia. If you aren’t into the chit-chat, I suggest skipping ahead roughly 10 minutes!

Next we dig into my assignment for the week. Last week, I paused in writing forward to look back and sketch out my (three!) books. I also summarized my character's backstories, which went a long way in figuring out where my characters end up and nailing down the rules of the particular magic in the book. Again, the iterative nature of writing comes through as we go again and again through our stories, building our worlds and our characters and plot. The plot really does thicken, along with everything else!

"I didn't know what I needed in order to make my world stick together. I had the basics, but it wasn't until I started asking these questions of myself that I really could answer them." - Abby Mathews

My backstory for the parents in my book is actually very adult (no, not like that) - just real adults, with real problems. I wrote how they met, what the problems were, and what really happened to Bernadette's mom. I even wrote out the timeline of what happens during Bernadette's early life so that her story makes sense. As I wrote this backstory, I was very conscious to leave out the details that don't matter and stick directly to what actually mattered to my story. Now, I have to figure out how and where to put this information over the course of three books!

"How do you take this information that you now know, and weave it into the book in a way that's organic?" - Jennie Nash

Jennie tells me I have a few options. I can go back to the very beginning and weave the "golden thread" (as Jennie calls it), sprinkling in and dotting in clues and information. Or, I could start where I am right now, knowing there are big revaluations coming for my character, and write forward with that new information (and later on during revisions go back and weave in those other bits). I’m dealing with not only the backstory timeline, but the story-present timeline, and a very important piece - what does Bernadette know, and when does she know it. I need to find big moments of revelation for my character and start to plant clues so we can watch Bernadette can figure it out for herself. Jennie uses the example of JK Rowling's Harry Potter to point out the layers in the story - we know what's coming in the story from the second book, but we still read through all of them to find out how it happens. 

Lastly, we mention another of our favorite people ever: Dan Blank! I had the idea to get Dan to come back on the show and talk about creative obsession. (We’ve already released that episode, by the way! It’s Episode 49: Creative Obsession with Dan Blank. So if you missed it, might I suggest giving it a listen sometime.)

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Episode 73: Baking It In

First, some important news: Congrats to Abby, who was hired at Author Accelerator as Manager of Community Engagement! She's in charge of several upcoming retreats through Author Accelerator scheduled for 2019, so if you've ever dreamed of picking Jennie's brain for a weekend, stay tuned!

In this episode of Mom Writes, Abby and Jennie brainstorm her book into a series. Jennie has a saying that is--while simple--very effective: THINK BEFORE YOU WRITE. Now, we're not treating you like you're stupid. Of course, you think before you write! But we're talking PLAN. You don't have to make a super detailed outline with three different colors and various fonts or anything, but you do need to plan. Know where you're going and what your characters want and how they're going to get it (or not)!

Episode73Quote.jpg

Last time we talked about Abby's book she shared with us that she realized that she was not writing one book, but a series! She's had to understand that not only does each book have a an arc, but the whole series has an arc as well. She's been doing some serious plotting and planning in the past couple of weeks, trying to figure out what to disclose to her readers, where to disclose it, and how best to wrap up one story while prepping the next.

Abby had this to say about plotting out her series this time: "I learned so much doing Blueprint the first time that while it wasn't easy, the process and how iterative it was, was not daunting to me."

The question is, how much of the series do you "bake in" to your first book before you write the following books? "Baking in" refers to the story building and world building you do - the why and the how of the plot and character motivations. What drives your characters to do what they do? What moves the story forward? You have to know these things in book one, so you can use these things when it comes to writing subsequent books in the series. Jennie gives Abby some homework so she can find out what her characters want, and what they know and when they know it.

"You can't really only figure out book one - you have to figure out some of those other big things too." - Jennie Nash

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Episode 72: It's In The Details

In this episode we listen as Abby channels Jennie to use her writing powers for...good? Or at least, channels them in the process of house-selling! Writing skills are applicable to pretty much all aspects of life and you should bring them out as necessary, and Abby uses hers to write a response to a letter she got from a prospective buyer. 

Mel also unleashes the dark recesses of her brain and kills off a (sort of?) beloved character. RIP Harrison, he of the khaki pants. Jennie compared his ride to a roller-coaster. "It builds and builds and then wheee, hands up, here we go!" We delve into the nitty gritty of Mel's chapter - she got the big picture stuff down but there were a lot of little things that need attention. We also go over some logistical details in the background - character motivations and decisions aren't ringing true, and Mel needs to go over it again to make sure everything makes sense. The readers need to know why her characters are doing what they're doing in order to move the story forward. 

One thing we cover is the use of "muttering" - Mel uses it a lot in this chapter. SO MUCH! Too much. But it's not because she can't find the right word - it's because she's using "muttering" as shorthand. You know what it means, but the reader has no idea. 

My Post Copy (16).jpg

"This is a huge mistake people make, and it's not a thesaurus problem. If you want to convey something about the way people are talking to each other - SAY IT! It's kind of passive aggressive, for example, for a character to speak too softly to hear, or to turn their head away so the other person can't hear them talking. If it's important, put it in there - if it's not, get it out. If the way they're talking to each other doesn't serve the story, don't put it in there. I think you use it as shorthand sometimes." - Jennie Nash 

When you find yourself short-handing your writing like this, it's totally fine to go back and fix things after your first draft. The important thing is to not do it so much that you're only working halfway and find yourself with a first draft where the big stuff, the meaning and the why, isn't there. 

Lastly, Jennie brings attention to something else Mel keeps doing - saying her protagonist "stood there wordlessly"  "had nothing to say", etc etc. We want our protagonist to speak, but if she can't, we need to know why. We need to know what's going on inside, so much that she cannot speak, and we need to see our protagonist putting things together, making decisions, making judgments. 

"One of the reasons you want good feedback on your work is because it's hard to see your own habits. It ultimately makes for a multi-layered, much richer story." - Jennie Nash

In the meantime, I did promise in the intro a link to the revision class that starts December 8th. And here it is!




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Episode 71: Story Begets Story

In this episode

This week, Abby's thankful for a lot of things - a sound editor getting the episodes done every week, the fact that Mel writes the show notes (hi guys! WHEN I REMEMBER TO DO IT, which is most of the time but not all the time!), thankful to eek out time to write - and thankful for solid advice from Jennie on how to split up her story into one, two, three books? It's not the first time she's encountered these questions, and it won't be the last - but she's getting there.

Shoutout to Lori Richmond, and all the books Abby tells her to write: Andrew Jackson's duels, children’s chicken books, etc etc. It's a faux pas to tell a writer what they should write (not in a coaching context though!), but we love you, award-winning children's book author Lori Richmond, and you can write whatever you want. :)  

(But Mel would totally buy that Andrew Jackson book.) 

In this episode we also talk about appropriate middle-grades word count - 30-50k, by the way, but there are always exceptions. Abby wonders - if she goes way way over on word count, is it better to turn her book into two, or three books? "What is going to serve my purpose and my readers' purpose in the long run? Is it better to write a series or squish it all into one?" 

Jennie says that she's asking the wrong question - there are no "rules" about writing books. "It's always always always about what serves the story. You always have to have the end resolve the question that was brought up in the beginning. We WANT that resolution, because we don't get that resolution in real life. We want that in a book." Jennie points out that even in a series, each book stands alone - it has too. Ask yourself, even if you're working on multiple books, "what is the thing I want resolved in book one?" The other books will have questions of their own, but each book has to present and solve a problem. children’s

Word count averages in genre DOES deserve your attention, and you can't ignore it - but if the story warrants going longer, look into that, too. Excessive word count has to be earned, but don't let it dictate what you do. 

P.S. We are also thankful for our friend Lori Richmond. So if you have any of her books, will you pretty please remember to go and review them?

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Episode 70: (Un)stuck in the Middle with You

Mel and Abby are smack dab in the middle of the stories, and today Mel and Jennie talk about "public service announcements" in your story - not a good thing, even if you're writing nonfiction. The good news is, it's a high level problem - it means you know what your story is, and now you're working on the nuances of how to tell it.

In the middle of your story you need decisions and consequences and action at every turn - don't let your character stop idly for a smoothie (or whatever) unless it's moving the story and the characters forward. Make your reader decide whether or not to go to bed, or keep reading your story on a Sunday night at 10 pm!  

Jennie tasks Mel with recognizing over-explanation in her story - "The thing you do want in there, always - you always want to have the character's reaction and response, and how they're making meaning of something. That's what we come for - the making of the meaning of every little thing...we do always need that."

Mel gets caught summarizing and not recognizing the difference between big-story meaning and line-by-line meaning. By the time you're in the middle of the story, the set-up is done - you don't need to remind us of where we are in the story, because if you've done your job the reader is already there! We're now onto individual reactions of plot developments: What does Character X think of this? What does Character Y think of what Character Z just did? What are they feeling, what do they do because of what happens? Why does it matter? When it works, characters making meaning of plot development doesn't sound explain-y - it flows, it snaps, and the reader doesn't notice - they just keep turning the pages. 

We also talk about Chekov's gun - if the gun is on the mantle in the first act, it has to go off in the third! Don't introduce a great plot device and pay attention to it, and not use it later. Readers are smart, they pick up on things, and anticipate things - if you pique their interest in something, and are leaving breadcrumbs along the way, you've got to let them run into that cake later on. 

Stay tuned next week, where Abby discovers that her two-tier outline is actually...two books in one. 

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Episode 69: Writing Sex Scenes with Michelle Hazen

Episode 69: Writing Sex Scenes with Michelle Hazen

Welcome to the most appropriately numbered episode ever… Book coach and romance writer Michelle Hazen joins hosts Abby Mathew and Melanie Parish for a primer on writing sex scenes. Join them as they take questions from the audience and talk all about doing it on the page.

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Episode 68: Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Welcome to our Halloween episode, regarding one of the scariest things for two awkward 30-something moms - WRITING SEX SCENES.

Abby and Mel talk about the horrifically sexy things Abby learned while thumbing though a confiscated high school freshman's notebook ("Erotic pen pals, oh no!") and what is common/expected in modern YA regarding sex. We agree that the comfort level with bodies and sex with the YA crowd is way higher now than we we were young, or when Abby was teaching high school eight years ago — and that can be a good thing! But also a really hard thing (no pun intended) to wrap your mind around if you're in Generation X/Y writing for Generation Z. 

And then there was that one time Abby accidentally bought a whole box set of Anne Rice porn.

MelKhaki.jpg

Mel's still on the fence, while writing her adult novel, on whether or not her love interests are going to do the deed. How to you write something sexy but not outright erotica (unless that's what you're going for! In which case go for it!) and write it well, and still have it serve the story?

And Abby wonders how, as a mom, you write a kiss in a middle grades novel that's a) real and b) not TOO intense. 

All these questions and more are answered in next week's episode with Author Accelerator book coach and romance writer Michelle Hazen! Join us next week on Episode 69 (hehehe) as we try to tame our awkwardness as Michelle holds our hands through a magical journey of love, anatomy, and writing sex scenes that don't suck. 

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Episode 67: Author Intrusion and Time Looping

In this episode

Author intrusion and time looping… and middle school kissing!

Abby had a hell of a few weeks, putting her house on the market. She basically sucked all the fun out of her family in preparation to sell their home, and she wouldn’t even let anyone sit on their bed. The house must not look lived in! The result was not only a major dose of #adulting in real life, but also #adultvoice in her middle grades novel.

Some of it was easy to fix. As Jennie points out, often times you just go in and erase those bits of author intrusion. (Because that’s exactly what happened in this case. Abby the Mom stepped in for Abby the Writer.) But it also created a big logic hole, which Jennie, Abby, and Mel pick apart. For the story to work, the characters needed to LIE TO A MOM. And Abby was like, “NOPE. Can’t encourage lying.” How to you write a realistic conversation about lying between two 13-year old characters while not necessarily endorsing the act itself? Jennie advises her to get creative about the lie while still acknowledging it. Sometimes acknowledging it is enough - readers know they shouldn't lie to their parents, but they also know what's going to happen in the story if they don't.

“Have the vultures be circling!” –Jennie

Time looping. It’s a super common problem. You’re in story present, and you loop back just a couple minutes or a couple beats back in time to explain something. Then you move forward again.

It's fine to inject the information, but it needs to be in the context of story present. Time looping is something that's really easy to do, and really easy to miss. Regardless of how you choose to solve it, it has to make sense in the context of the story. 

 

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Episode 66: An Interview with Mae Respicio

Today MomWrites welcomes the long-awaited Mae Respicio, author of The House That Lou Built. We've been referencing Mae since day one here on the podcast because Jennie's so fond of telling us how Mae literally sometimes wrote her book in 5 minute increments (which is AMAZING and what every parent writer wants to hear!).

Mae's found that her writing practice changes with how her parenting changes. When her kids were little, the only time she could find to write was when everyone else was asleep (even if a tiny person was sleeping in her arms). Now that her kids are older she can utilize her kids' homework time to get her own writing done, and everyone works at the kitchen table together.  But when her kid were little and she was writing her first novel, she committed to spending time on her book every day - sometimes it looked like 5 minutes, sometimes she could get as much as an hour or two. Concrete, realistic, every day goals helped her to be more efficient with the time that she had. 


Mae also got creative with her tools, too - standing in line at the grocery store she'd read through her pages, keeping her story in her head until she could sit down later in the day and work on her scenes. Goals shifted and modified based on what was going on that day, and flexibility with those goals combatted the persistent mom/writer guilt we all feel from time to time. 

The House That Lou Built is a middle grade novel that tells the story of Lou Bitao, a 12-year old girl who builds a tiny house over the course of a summer with the help of her family and friends. "If home is where your heart is, the my home is wherever I am" is an overarching theme as Lou learns what home really is - and it's not necessarily where you live, but the people around you. The House That Lou Built can be found at Amazon, IndieBound, and your local library.   

Thanks, Mae!  

The House That Lou Built
By Mae Respicio

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Episode 65: YA and the Khaki Pants Man

In this episode:

Today on Mom Writes, Mel gets to be the sacrificial rabbit again when she learns that a mere 4 complimentary lines about a secondary character turns him from a nice guy into a love interest. Whoa. 

How did that happen? According to Jennie, when you spend a long time (even four lines!) describing the way someone looks, that's what stands out to the reader - and the reader's brain says "That's what I need to remember about this! Look at those khaki pants and messy curls and a lopsided smile!" Mel merely intended to make him likable, but when writing descriptions--especially introductory ones--it's important to pay attention to what the reader is going to pick up on, and write your character's reaction with intention. In this case, Mel's protagonist needs to pick up on the fact that this secondary character really is a nice guy - a nice, platonically interesting guy. 

"In YA, all the things about human nature (am I lovable, am I desirable, what's my relationship with my friends, my parents, what am I going to be) - all the big questions - are happening right now." - Jennie Nash

We also get into a discussion of what makes YA vs Adult. What's the difference? It can be hard to pin down. In YA, the themes we're paying attention to are things readers are going to care about up to ages 18, 19 - things that are different than what a 25 or 35 year old would be concerned about. Mel gets some great advice about weaving in the seriousness of her characters' situations and turning up the adult in her adult novel (and not necessarily in a sexy way!). As Jennie says, it's more about Mel needing to embrace the seriousness and the BIGness of her novel's implications. Embrace what you have going, and don't let your story or your characters off the hook. 

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Episode 64: Time and Space... and Sacrificial Rabbits

In This Episode:

“If the reader is trying to figure out where they are in time and space, they aren't thinking about the story! Give them cues and clues.” - Alison Hammer (@ThisHammer), an attendee at the Women’s Fiction Writers Association conference, quoting Jennie Nash on Twitter! 

One of the things you're doing when you're writing fiction is moving people through time and space. Save your readers confusion, don't make them wonder where your characters are standing in a scene, how time is passing, or how they move from one place to another. Be mindful and conscious of it, OVER-explain it if you have to (you can always tweak it later if it feels too obvious), even if it feels ridiculous at the time. Often when we're writing we don't put down everything exactly the way we're seeing it in our head and a LOT can get lost in translation. Abby has questions around this via a chapter transition in her book, and we learn that sometimes we really DO have to fill in the gaps for our readers so they don't have to make mental leaps that take them out of the story. 

We also talk about Mel's flat chapter 9. Mel's dreaded rabbit scene comes back with a vengeance and she and Jennie figure out a way to make it work. Mel's been using the killing of the rabbits as a stand in that her antagonist is a horrible person, etc., but she's not bringing it home yet. We don't feel it. This would be true with any demonstrably dramatic thing, which we tend to put a lot of weight into, but the writer and the characters always have to make meaning of it - it can't just stand alone. It's the characters' interpretation of the events in the story that we're really here for.  

"This is the way it works - you lay [the first draft of something] it down like a track, a music track. How do we ramp it up, lock it down?" - Jennie Nash

Next week: ThE CaSe Of ThE KhAki PaNtS 

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