A Blog of Writing Tips, Interviews, Thoughts on the Writing Process, Book Reviews, Blog Hops, and Things NESCBWI Conference Related.

Friday, April 29, 2011

T is for Time and Thanks

I know I won’t quite finish the A to Z Challenge on time, but I had family to be with and mourning to get done. I will finish, and I hope to continue to blog more often. I’ve enjoyed this challenge.

To all you A to Z challengers, thank you for visiting my blog. I have read some spectacular blogs and met some incredible bloggers.

Thank you to everyone for your kinds words and support this week.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

S is for Seven Weird Facts About Me

I thought it would fun to give you some interesting facts about me. It’s the stuff that doesn’t usually come up in conversation.

1.    I value honesty. I try, even when I really don’t want to - to tell the truth.
Sometimes, this can’t be accomplished tactfully. Often not. So if you don’t want to know if I think you drink to much, have bad judgment in men, or drive badly, don’t ask. I will tell you the truth.

2.    I’m not afraid to die.
I’m afraid I’ll die before I get a chance to do everything I want to do.

3.    I love living in New Hampshire.
Truly, I do. I have lived in many different places and my current residence is by far, my favorite.

4.    When I was kid, I hated my name.
I wanted to change it to Aimee (spelling it this way, mattered). For six months I wouldn’t answer to anyone if they called me Joyce. This was problem at school. I was always being reprimanded by a teacher.

5.    I was adopted.
On October 12, 1991, my birthmother found me.
On June 22, 1992, she married my birthfather. I’m the oldest of 8.
   3 1/2 brothers
   2 1/2 sisters
   1 Sister
   1 Brother

6.    The Geraldo Rivera show called to ask me if I would be on their very first reunion show. A friend of my birthmother had called them and told them about our reunion.
I said no. They didn't like it.

7.    I have been the human in the life of 10 dogs.
Their names were:
   Wolfgang (my son's middle name is after this dog)
   Brownie (he came to live with us after my Grandfather died)
   Katie (my duaghter's middle name is after this dog, but spelled Cait)
   Thor, my current dog. He is a 3 year-old black pug. I love this dog!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Revision Tools For Revising Your Manuscript

Just the thought of revision can make you quake in your chair. Where to begin? What to think about? Revision can be overwhelming. Here are 10 points about revision to help get you in the mood for revising.

1.  What is the story that I am telling?

2.  How will my character change?
    • Does my character get to where s/he needs to be?
      No – How do I make her change?
      ~  Introduce a crisis situation that makes my character  change.
      Yes – Do the things that happen along the way help get my character where s/he needs to be?
    3.  What does it mean to move forward?
      • Reveal something about the character.
      • Propel the plot.
      • Build a relationship that is important later in the book.
      4.  Summarize the things that don’t move the story forward.
      • An example of this is Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy speaking, but the adults always sound like,
        “Blah, blah, blah.”
      • One sentence summary of the scene.
      5.  Is my main plot a character development arc?
      • Subplots
        ~  Do they fit in?
        ~  When do they resolve?
        ~  How do they resolve?
      6.  Characters
      • What are my character's quirks and personality traits?
      • Do my secondary/minor characters grow with each appearance they make in the book?
      • Do my characters have unique voices?
      • Do they reveal everything about their characters?

        An example of this is sub vs grinder (sandwich)
        Their socio-economic placement
      • Does the dialogue let their relationships evolve?
      • How authentic do they sound?
      8.  Setting and Description
      • Picture it then brushstroke the description. Let the reader envision it, unless it must be specific.
      • For it to be specific, it must be important later in the book. If not, take it out.
      9.  Wordsmith
      • Search for commonly used, but unnecessary words.
        ~  Examples are just, so, next, that, but.
      10. Show, don’t tell.

      What works for you?

      formerly my 11/17/10 post ~  Revision Toolbox

      Q is for Questions Asked by First Time Conference Attendees

      Are you going to your first writer’s conference this year? Are you wondering how to get the most from your first time?

      If your first time is a large regional conference, I recommend you focus on craft. The New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators Conference is designed to have something for all levels of experience.

      For first-timers, there is a Friday afternoon workshop, Conference Orientation. This workshops is an excellent way to get a quick over view and great tips on making your first conference work for you.

      Peer Critique Workshop will explain how to give and receive critiques. Other writers are some of the best sources for Learning from. Most have been exactly where you are, at the beginning of their writing journey. And remember, there is something to be learned from each person, even if you don’t agree with their style or comments. Dig deep and be objective. Take what you learn home and start your own critique group.

      I hope you registered for Saturday’s Publishing Basics: The Myths and Realities. You’ll learn about the basics of manuscripts, researching and finding publishers, agents, how to handle rejection, and what to do when you sell your first book.

      Sunday has a great workshop for beginning illustrators. The Illustrator’s Academy focus on revision in illustration.

      Most of all, relax and smile. Say hello and introduce yourself. We’ve all been a beginner at something. Writing can be solitary but that doesn’t mean you are alone.

      What tips and suggestions can you give first time Writer conference attendees?

      Wednesday, April 20, 2011

      P is for My Pug!

      Yes I have a Pug!

      I used to show and breed Rottweilers.
      Both are black, make rude noises, and think cats belong to them.

      But my Pug,

      Makes the best faces!

      See what I mean?

      Outer vs Inner Journey

      What’s the difference?

      The Outer journey is all about what your character wants, it’s their ultimate goal. The goal is always tangible. Moving through the outer journey means they have to overcome the obstacles that prevent them from attaining the tangible. More often than not, this journey involves dealing with treachery, duplicity, physical dangers which are all about keeping your character from easily achieving their goal.

      The Inner Journey is the emotional path your character needs to navigate so they can grow and change. In the end, your character may or may not get what they want.

      Your character’s journey is comprised of these two aspects. For your story to be successful, your character must travel both simultaneously. This creates the tension which moves your story forward.

      Which do you think has more power, the inner or the outer journey?

      Tuesday, April 19, 2011


      Stands for New England Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators. This year, NESCBWI celebrates its 25th anniversary at the May 13-15 Celebrating Milestones conference. Keynote speakers are Jane Yolen, Tomie DePaola, Lin Oliver, Steve Mooser, and Harold Underdown.

      Watch for my up to the minute tweets @thewritejoyce and hourly blog updates!

      Follow the New England SCBWI Twitter account, @nescbwi and use the #nescbwi11 hash-tag to folow the conference discussion.

      Sunday, April 17, 2011

      M is for Mourning

      I haven't always been the perfect daughter! Who is? My mother and I have always had a somewhat volatile relationship. Three and a half years ago, we had a terrible falling out. I chose not allow her behavior in front of my children to continue.

      I stopped speaking to her, and because of my choice, the remainder of my family chose not to speak to me. I mourned this "death" for a very long time. I wrote this poem long before I knew she was ill. Dying from brain cancer.


      The mourning happens
      When I miss you most,

      Each longing, a small death,
      Leading me through our
      family crypt of dysfunction.

      I break the lock, swatting cobwebs of tangled
      memories from my face, spewing angry epitaphs,
      etched into your granite heart.

      Is your skin now paper, thin?
      Have you forgotten what it is, you need to remember?
      Or do you prefer age as your excuse.

      The sharp shards of your slated words
      impale me, one at a time.

      "I. Wish."

      The “Never,” scraping, flaying me,
      The “had,” exposing, tearing away,

      I inhale, turn back to my life without you,
      Shrug off the mourning cloak
      Of my life, of you.
      I lock the crypt once more.

      As of today, she is home from the nursing home, Hospice caring for her.

      I saw my mother two months ago, she still recognized me, her grandchildren, and my husband. She could hardly speak. But she knew us, knew we had come, that I was there.

      We've visited her twice since. Her last words to me were 4, 5 , 6, 7. This is how she responded to all questions, counting. Counting down, counting seconds?

      Now she is completely lost now, locked inside her head. No more words.

      I love you, Mom!

      YAtopia: Pitch Contest with Natalie Fischer!

      YAtopia: Pitch Contest with Natalie Fischer!: "Hello guys. I have another amazing opportunity for you. Fantastic agent, Natalie Fischer of Bradford Lit agency, is going to be hosting this..."

      Saturday, April 16, 2011

      Labyrinth, Lost, Ladder, and Lager

      Sometimes you become tangled in the structure of your book. You go back to check a detail or fact, and you find yourself lost in a labyrinth full of dead ends. The structure you thought you had so carefully crafted, has unraveled. 

      Being lost is not the worst situation to find yourself in. We all have a writer’s toolbox, but do you have an escape route?

      How about a ladder?

      Sometimes you need to be able see the whole structure and rise above the Labyrinth to find your way around the dead ends. My ladder does this.

      It's my outline.

      When I started my first novel, chapter one spilled out. Wow, writing was so easy! After six months, I had a perfect chapter one and no more. I knew where I wanted my book to end, but I had no idea how to get there.

      A very wise, very well published writer said to me, write an outline. I cringed. That would be so much extra work, I said.

      The look she gave me conveyed how lazy she thought I was and that I would never be a real writer. What she actually told me was was:

      1.     Write one or two sentences about what needs to happen in each chapter.
      2.     Don’t feel locked into the outline; let it be alive and allowed to change.

      I started with a ten-chapter outline. I know, I can see your eyes rolling, only ten chapters, but from that short outline I was able to expand and build my story’s structure. The final revision of my middle grade novel has twenty-eight chapters and clear path.

      I just like how this word makes my mouth move - say it! Lager.

      Wednesday, April 13, 2011

      K is for Kendra

      This is an abridged version of an earlier post.

      Well it’s official, my daughter is a poet. This year has marked a major change in how Kendra’s feels about writing. A positive change, something I was sure would never happen.

      Everything changed in October 2009, once she was diagnosed with Dyslexia. Kendra hated writing, cried on the mornings she had to go into school knowing it was spelling test day.

      This is what dyslexia looks like to Kendra.

      Kendra figured out how to compensate for her dyslexia, and overcame the dyslexic obstacles preventing her from reading. To this day she can’t explain how she figured it all out, she just did. Now, two years later, she is an avid reader, who cannot spell at all. I don’t know how she does it, but it is amazing!

      Kendra keeps trying though. She writes her own poetry and stories, and spell check is her pal. On most days, writing is all done with a pencil, and on these days she is still frustrated. She has to go back and read what she has written, which is hellish for her. It’s not easy to read her writing, everything looks the same to her. Phonetically spelled words are never written the same way twice. It’s hard work. But, she keeps trying and this is why I am so proud of her.

      The poem below is beautiful, just like Kendra. Here it is:

      What If Trees Had No Leaves
      By Kendra Johnson

      What if trees had no leaves?
      They would look bare,
      shiver in the cold,
      look lonely, like all their best friends
      will never come back.

      And everything would darken in the snow,
      Finally, the snow melts,
      The leaves don’t come back.
      Though it is lighter than in winter,
      The trees were yearning for their leaves.

      After crying a hundred tears of missing them,
      the trees finally go silent.

      J is for Just Remember

      I’ve been thinking about how the small things that happen to us, change us. I’m well traveled. My honeymoon was a three week adventure, driving around Namibia (what used to be German Southwest Africa) in an unair-conditioned Ford, diesel station wagon and camping under the stars. A weekend adventure to Costa Rica to zip line the canopy, only to sprain my ankle so badly, I couldn’t. Skinny-dipping in November in the Baltic Sea off of Sweden.

      Visiting the German City of Dachau, on a rainy winter’s day to visit the concentration camp.

      From the car, we followed the signs for the entrance, down a path along a gray concrete wall. A group of Czech teens were laughing and joking ahead of us. I think I looked up then because the wall seemed unnaturally high. That was when I realized we were walking the exterior perimeter of the camp. A guard tower peaked through the trees and vines, chilling me.

      My husband took my hand.

      Approaching the entrance wasn’t difficult, what made it hard was knowing that I was about to willingly walk through the gate when others had never had a choice. I needed to compose myself. I closed my eyes and was instantly swept back by the smell of fear coming from the railroad bed under my feet. Time was disjointed, I had to open my eyes.

      I heard my name and moved closer to the gate. This is what I saw.

      Being there was eerie, as again time wavered between then and now. The place wreaked of despair. My eyes watered the entire time.

      As dusk approached, groups of people moved toward the gate. The Czech teens, subdued.
      No shouts of Halt as I exited through the gate. No rapid fire machine guns popping. Silence except for the footfalls of those around me.

      Then the sky exploded. A sonic boom, my husband said. I felt time tear and this is what happened.


      Metallic drizzle glazes the decades.
      Knees tremble stepping from the car.
      Our forced march through time defies fear.
      Subtle grays disguise the truth,
      a spasm of recognition etches guard tower, ruined wall.

      Now covered in vines, leaves of brown
      plaster tightly to bricks and mortar.
      I walk, eyes straight ahead.
      Grays shift in the corner of my vision,
      twist into muted shapes of rigor mortis.

      Wrought iron lies greet me.
      Beyond, the shadows coagulate into ghosts of the once-living
      wearing gray and white stripes like the criss-cross of barbed wire.
      Gravel crunches underfoot; I taste ashes in my mouth.
      Forced march -- double-time -- down the avenue to the gate.

      I feel the noose around my neck, choking.
      Ovens cold and dark, hungry lips coated with what I do not want
      to see. I can’t close my eyes,
      I don’t want to look.
      I can’t stop.

      Jostled and bumped by mournful souls, I flee
      through the gate of lies.
      Truth explodes around me.
      A sonic boom rips through the air, tearing time.
      Ghosts walk along side me, through me


      Monday, April 11, 2011

      The Glimmer of an Idea

      That glimmer of an idea, the one that won’t let you sleep, or focus on your family. It shimmers at the most annoying times, just out of reach. You can hear your brain scream as you try to snare that illusive thought. Stretching your gray matter, hoping to capture any essence of this magnificent idea before it slips away.

      If you can lasso that runaway thought, form a solid, cohesive concept, you may just have the start of something brilliant. It’s the holding onto that hint of an idea which causes the brain scream.

      I’ve tried the “carry around the notebook and pen” approach, but no idea ever forms when I’m prepared for it. Instead, it raps the inside of my skull every once in a while, reminding me it’s still there. Then the day comes, when it dislodges from the gray matter and bursts forth in full color.

      If I don’t stop what I am doing the moment this happens, it’s lost. So now I scribble on whatever is available, usually on my arm. Sometimes my kids arm. Just a word or two is all it takes for me to remember. Then I race home, power up the laptop and tell the kids to fend for themselves for the rest of the night.

      How do you do it?

      Sunday, April 10, 2011

      A little Spring for Sunday

      A little something for Sunday. 
      I can't wait for Spring! 
      This view is just around the corner.

      I love walking under this tree on the way to my office. 
      I love trees. 
      There, I said it!

      H is for Historical Fiction and Teens

      I love Young Adult Historical Fiction! Done right, I get lost in it. I feel it, can taste it, and know I have been transported back. Over done, and I close the book. You know what I mean. The pages and pages of description, the words you skim.

      This happens because the writer seems to thinks the reader needs to be told, over-and-over again, what the important things are. Just because they are teens, doesn’t mean they don’t get it the first time. Actually, I think teens get it faster than many adults. The writer has to learned to trust their reader.

      That’s right. There comes a point when you have to trust the reader to get it, the first time. (This is an example. I’ll do it again throughout this post).

      Show it well just once, the reader will devour your words. Tell them, and tell them again, they’ll put the book down.

      Repetition isn’t a good thing in any novel, but in YA historical fiction, the reader begins to feel patronized by the repeated historical references and facts. Use what you have, but disseminate the information and move along.

      Teens are smart. We just need to be smarter. I know how to make them want to read historical fiction, pass a law saying they can’t read it until their twenty-one.

      I’ve said it enough.

      Friday, April 8, 2011


      Sometimes I have to be hit in the head with it.

      Today I share it.

      I am grateful to my husband for allowing me the flexibility to pursue my dreams. I’m grateful for my children who love to travel, aren’t followers, dream big, and are voracious readers.

      I am especially grateful for my writer friends. They challenge my writing, expect nothing but the very best, and always tell me the truth. Even when I don’t want to hear it.

      I am truly and sincerely grateful for the unexpected encounters with some of the most amazing people from around the world. Whether here in the United States, or when abroad, or via the web. These are the people who end up never knowing they have had a profound affect on me and changed me. Given me some small thing, whether a word of encouragement or a smile, that has made me a better person.

      Thank you!

      Thursday, April 7, 2011


      Got you to look!

      Isn’t that what the F-word is all about? Getting attention.

 Problem is — the word is so overused, no one cares anymore. Overuse has diminished this word’s power.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been known to drop the f-bomb on occasion. What made me realize the word had lost it's power, was the day I cut my finger slicing carrots and couldn't find my keys to go get it stitched up.

      I must have sounded like a cannon battalion shooting off F-bombs. My eleven year-old daughter, called to me from her bedroom. “Nice mouth, Mom! You have a large vocabulary, use it,” and slammed the door. I was stunned. She didn't even bother to come see if I was all right. I stood there dripping blood on the kitchen floor, finger wrapped in a wad of paper towels. Waiting.

      No one came.

      Except the dog.

      And he didn’t bring my keys.

      Guess what I was thinking?

      Later, when I had finally made it to the emergency room and sat waiting for my turn, I thought about this word. I knew I have always preferred not to use the F-word when I’m writing. Particularly, when writing for Young Adults. Most teens use the word more frequently than I do. I knew it wouldn't be a problem for them. Rather, I knew it was my problem. I like to make up curses.

      I'm good at it. Like Shakespeare.

      I should be honest here. I've used the F-word once, in my first YA, and only because I’d chosen to do so for a specific reason. I wanted to show my character evolving and changing, becoming hard and edgy, due to the circumstances of her journey.

      I thought about how when you say the F-word out loud, you can say it low or shout it. You can snarl or soften it. Make it mean different things by the way you say it.

      On paper though, it’s hard. Angry. And carries intense meaning.

      On paper, it looks just like what it is.


      Now, I try to use it wisely.

      Wednesday, April 6, 2011

      E is for Email Queries

      Don’t leave! Yes, I used the word query. Truth is, you can’t get published if you don’t query. Most editors and agents prefer this method of submission. It’s green, eco-friendly,  and postage-free.

      It’s also so darn easy if you do your homework.

      Just like in the “old” days, there are submission guidelines you need to follow. There is no excuse not to know them. Just about everyone has a website or blog where these guidelines can be found. This is not a hardcore, you must do it like this, set of directions.

      I'm just offering some common sense things to think about. So here goes.

      Use the correct email address. Does it go to a Query@email.com address or to s specific person's email. Make sure you know.

      Subject Line - use it. Include the word query, that’s what it is. Not using the word, won’t get them to open the email any faster. Actually, it might be the reason they delete it, unread.

      Salutation - be professional. No “Whaat’s up, Dog! Dear Mr. (insert last name), Ms. (insert last name), or if you are on first name basis, Dear (insert name).

      Body Text - keep it short and to the point. You know the cliche; hook, line, and sinker. Use it.
          Hook - Exactly what it sounds like, with name of project and page count.
          Line - One paragraph, description or pitch.
          Sinker - Tell them if you have have included sample pages and who you are.

      Signature Block - Name and contact information, Include your email, web or blog address, and  a phone number.
          Example:    Samantha Writer


      Know what to include:
      Did they ask for a synopsis and the first chapter?
      Do you insert into the email or as an attachment?

      Everyone has different preferences. Make sure you know them.

      Do you have any great email query tips? I would love for you to share them. Post them in comments.

      Tuesday, April 5, 2011

      Dystopian, Not Didactic

      Dystopian novels continue to be popular with Teen readers.

      Is this because many dystopian worlds mimic current trends in today’s young adult society?  Or, could it be, this group of readers more closely identify with oppression and control and how it leads to rebellion?

      Teens want to be allowed to chose their friends, destinations, and relationships without parental intervention. In The New Yorker article Fresh Hell, writer Laura Miller says, “The world of our hovered-over teens and preteens may be safer, but it’s also less conducive to adventure, and therefore to adventure stories.”

      Today’s teens live in well-defined, segmented worlds. Their days cycle through home, school, activities, sports, all of which have rules set forth by adults and must be followed. They can be reached by parents at all times by cell phone and texting.

      Many Dystopian worlds emulate the oppression and control which many teens feel they are made to endure. For today's teens, their everyday encapsulated worlds are really dystopian in nature and camouflaged as daily life.

      These dystopian heroes do what many teens cannot, they go beyond questioning, they resist authority, and in the end successfully rebel. Often, finding the outcome far from perfect, but knowing change occurred.

      If you were to write a dystopian novel, what would your world be like?

      Recommended Reading List

      The Ember Series by Jeanne Duprau
      Feed by MT Anderson
      The forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
      The Giver by Lois Lowry
      How I live Now by Meg Rosoff
      The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suazanne COllins
      The Maze Runner by James Dashner
      Unwind by Neal Shusterman
      The Moon Crash Trilogy by Beth Pfifer
      Birthmarked byCaragh M. O’Brien
      Matched by Ally Condie
      The Uglies Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

      Monday, April 4, 2011

      The Importance of Crafting Compelling Characters

      You know Katniss Everdeen, Harry Potter, and Bella Swan - these aren’t just names, they’re characters whose secrets you know, desires you understand, and whose fears you wish you could quell. Characters so alive, you’ve fallen in love with them.

      Why does this happen?

      Not by accident.

      These characters are carefully crafted so their actions, dialogue and choices show (yes, show) how they think and what they believe. Crafted to make their flaws stand out, their secrets weigh heavy, to allow their fears to be exploited.

      As my character’s life unfolds, my goal is to make it easy for the reader to get caught up in the character’s actions and words.  If I do it right, I can facilitate an internal dialogue where the reader reacts emotionally and wants to tell my character not to make that choice or say those words. Where the readers wants to send warnings, because they care about what is happening the character.

      Of course my character will make the wrong choice or say the wrong thing, they have to. The reader can’t change what will happen, but they will love my character more for making mistakes, for being human.

      Ultimately, I want my reader to cry when my character pays the price for their mistakes, and laugh and cheer them on when they grow and change. Most of all, I want to make reader believe in my character. 

      Once a reader believes a character can save the world, fight evil wizards, or love a vampire, you've succeeded in creating a compelling character.

      Sunday, April 3, 2011

      Something for Sunday - A to Z Challenge

      Right now, I have Snowdrops. Proving spring is just around the corner.

      Tulips! No, not from my garden. From the vase on the kitchen table.
      Although, soon my tulips will be poking up from the ground.

      Soon, I whisper. Soon, I shout.

      Saturday, April 2, 2011

      Brilliant Books for Boys

      My son thinks a list of books for boys, not just a list of books, should be the blog entry for B.
      Ethan lugged a stack of books from his room down into the kitchen and we went through them, until they were all entered below. So here is his list of books, in no particular order.

      Ethan’s list of Brilliant Books for Boys

      Tangerine by Edward Bloor
      (any) Percy Jackson book by Rick Riordan
      Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers
      Pendragon series by D. J. MacHale
      Viking Warrior: The Strongbow Saga by Judson Roberts
      Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage
      How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life And a Dog by Art corrieveau
      Wilderness by Roddy Doyle
      Dear Reckoning by Laurie Lawlor
      Leven Thumps series by Obert Skye

      Ethan says, “All these books have action, blood, and violence. That’s what makes them great!”
      (Not all of them)

      Some of my choices, (though he says they don’t count):
      Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
      Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
      The Watson Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
      Holes by Louis Sachar
      Head Case by Sarah Aronson
      Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos

      For more on Books for Boys, go to:

      Articles on how to get boys to read:


      Friday, April 1, 2011

      An Absolutely Amazing Attempt At Blogging All of April

      Alright! I’m attempting to blog all of April, except for Sundays. I’ve signed up to do the A to Z Blogging Challenge because I’m hoping to awaken the abeyant blogger within.

      What is this A to Z Blogging Challenge all about? It’s blogging a letter of the alphabet every day, the month of April. I’m not exactly sure how this is going to work, but I feel that I can do it.

      I’ve read that it can take 30 days of doing the same thing, to make a new habit stick. Here’s a list of 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick.

      Let the blogging begin!