Sunday, March 31, 2013

“Middleview” Interview with Debut Author Elisabeth Dahl


Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, Elisabeth Dahl is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Elisabeth’s debut middle grade novel GENIE WISHES, Amulet Books/ABRAMS, releases in two days, on 4/02/2013! Congratulations, Elisabeth!

Here is Elisabeth’s official biography:

Middle Grade Author Elisabeth Dahl
 Elisabeth Dahl writes for children and adults from her home in Baltimore, Maryland, where she lives with her family. GENIE WISHES is her first book. Her shorter pieces have appeared at NPR.org, at TheRumpus.net, in Little Patuxent Review, and elsewhere.





Here’s a description of GENIE WISHES:

This sweet, funny novel follows fifth-grader Genie Kunkle through a tumultuous year. From the first day of school, Genie knows there will be good, bad, and in-between. The good? She’s in homeroom with her best friend, Sarah. The bad? Sarah’s friend from camp, Blair, is a new student at their school, and is itching to take Genie’s place as Sarah’s BFF. The in-between? Genie is excited to be elected to write her class’s blog, where she’s tasked with tracking the wishes and dreams of her class. But expressing her opinion in public can be scary—especially when her opinion might make the rest of her class upset.

Elisabeth Dahl authentically captures the ups and downs of a tween girl’s life, and the dramas—both little and big—that fill the scary transition between childhood and adolescence.

Here are the links to Elisabeth online: Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Website And as a special bonus, here is the link to the GENIE WISHES book trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=etqOnGzE39Y

Now it’s time to hear from our guest:

Smack Dab Middleview with GENIE WISHES author Elisabeth Dahl
1. What does your main character, Genie, want?
Genie wants to do a good job as class blogger and get through fifth grade happily without being forced to grow up faster than she's ready to.

2. What is in Genie's way?
There's a boy-crazy and kind of mean new girl in the class, Blair, who wants Genie's longtime best friend, Sarah, all to herself, and that's a problem. But Blair's arrival is just one of the many changes that are occurring within the fifth grade. For instance, popularity is playing a bigger role than it ever has before, and puberty (a word the whole class hates) is rumbling like an earthquake beneath the surface. 

3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?
I discovered it as I wrote it. The story began with a girl (Genie) and a scenario (she's elected to be her class blogger) and my impulse to create line drawings that would be Genie's. Originally, the story was rather episodic. I worked with my agent and editor to give it more of a narrative arc.

4. Was GENIE WISHES always for middle grade readers or not? If so, why did you choose middle grade? If not, what had to change for it to be considered a middle grade novel?
I didn't know the term "middle grade" when I started the book (I learned it as I prepared to query agents), but yes, this was always the age group I was thinking of.

5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?
Oh, they're just so charming and devoted. They disappear so deeply into a story.


Thank you for joining us for a Middleview at Smack Dab Blog, Elisabeth. Again, congratulations on the release of GENIE WISHES! We’ll look for it soon on bookshelves!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Taking a Break: March Theme Jen Cervantes


Writing is joyful. It is wondrous. It is often times miraculous. But it can also be challenging and even painful.  And with so much energy flowing into our work, it’s no wonder we often need to recharge, to restore the soul so we can return to that which we love with a renewed vigor, a new view, a new spirit. But breaks can be hard when you're an impatient writer. My recent break is one of patience—not intentional as much as it is intuitive.  I recently finished a manuscript I’ve been working on for quite some time. It feels so good to type “end”, right? In the past, I would have given it a last good edit and sent it off to my agent excitedly, but this time it feels different. It feels sacred somehow and it’s not a matter of me not being done with the story; I don’t think the story is done with me. I’ve put it away and am letting it percolate. And in doing so, I feel empowered, restored and so grateful to have this “break” that feels as natural as writing. I guess I’ll know when the story is ready when it begins to whisper to me again, but for now, it needs more time and I am happy to oblige.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March Theme: Taking Breaks


My thoughts on Taking Breaks-
1. Taking one day off a week from work and chores is a wise thing to do...
2. Taking one day off a week from work and chores is a very hard thing to do...
3. When taking longer breaks (a.k.a. vacations) I do not like to record any of my thoughts and or create any kind of fantastic illustrative illustrations about my experiences but...
4. I love to read about creative people who record their thoughts and create fantastic illustrative illustrations of their experiences while vacationing...
5. It’s weird--I know.
6. My favorite artist/writer in that category is a guy named Rockwell Kent. If you are not familiar with him, I’d recommend his book ‘N by E’ as a great introduction to his travel writings and illustrations...
7. Someday I plan on taking a trip up the Hudson River to a little Museum full of his paintings and art...
8. I will not write about this trip and or make any illustrative illustrations of my experience.
9. Someday I will take a break and learn how to make cool wood block illustrations (that rock) just like Rockwell Kent. (The two illustrations in this post are both by R. Kent and from his book ‘N by E’- a story about him, a 33-foot cutter, and a trip from New York To Greenland...)
by Michael Townsend


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kitchen Staycations


This spring, I’ve been struggling with my writing.  So, as a type of vacation from the gloom of not being able to get the words right, I’ve been spending time in the kitchen. 

I’ve made loaves and loaves of peasant bread, minestrone soup, biscuits, pancakes, chocolate chip cookies, pao de queiro.  I’ve spent many happy hours looking recipes, shopping for ingredients, and reading up theories about flour and the proper way to manage yeast.  

But before you accept an invitation to come to my house for a meal, there is something you should know.

I am a really, truly bad cook.   

It’s not just that I regularly forget to add all of the ingredients, or that I still mix up baking power and soda, or that I burn things because I always turn the stove on high so things will cook faster (although this is part of it).  It’s not just that I never seem to learn from any of these mistakes (although I really don’t), or that I can fail spectacularly when making a “never fail” recipe (just try me.  Seriously.  Send me your best “never fail” recipe and I will screw it up beyond recognition.)  

It’s just that I don’t actually care about getting it right. 

Cooking is the place where I give myself permission to suck.  It’s a place where I don’t care that my enthusiasm has no correlation to success.  It’s a place where I never seem to improve, no matter how much I work at it. (as I write this, I am eating a slice of yeasted pumpkin bread that I just took out of the oven.  The recipe said it would be a “light and airy loaf with a wonderful nutty taste.”  What I’m eating is flat, dense, and tastes like soap.)

Cooking—for me anyway—is different from writing.  It’s a craft where there is no room for revisions.  Once the loaf of bread, or casserole, or cake is cooked, there’s no changing it.  There are no second drafts.  There is only the opportunity to try again later some other time. 

Cooking is where I get to laugh at myself—and cooking is where I’ve learned to enjoy doing something that I’m terrible at.  It reminds me that perfection isn’t what’s important in life.  It's about enjoying the process.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March Theme: Book Break by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

I've got a WIP that's been a WIP for a long time.  In fact, me and this book go way back. Way, way back. It's been simmering in my subconscious since childhood, and I wrote a few cautious words more than ten years ago. In the years since, I collected newspaper clippings, random thoughts, illustrations, photos, and ephemera that I knew were somehow part of this story, but I wasn't sure how and why or what was going on. Yet. Then two years ago, I wrote a lot of it. A couple of hundred pages and it was getting closer to having a shape and a form and a feeling and I was glad to be knitting all of these threads together in a fair-isle story full of color and complexity. But I knew it needed work. It just wasn't right.  There were loose threads and dropped stitches. And I played with it and worried it and frogged it and got angry at it for not being what I wanted it to be.  I wondered if I could really make it what I wanted it to be.

Then last Spring, I took a break from it. I put it away, and decided that I knew that I would write it someday; I wasn't giving up, but getting it right meant stepping far, far away to contemplate what was deeply, utterly wrong. In my favourite of C.S. Lewis' books, Till We Have Faces, the main character writes

 "Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, 'Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that's the whole art and joy of words.' A glib saying. When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you'll not talk about joy of words."

It has not always been joyful, this break. But all of the things that it has been -- all of the things that my life has been --  have made the story richer and wider and deeper and more true. And now, after almost a year, I'm ready to dig back into it. To examine what's been simmering, and taste and see what's good. I may not make it what it should be. But I will be closer. It was a long break. And a good one.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March Theme: A Long Winter's Nap

by Stephanie J. Blake

I've had a bad case of Writer's Block for months. I haven't felt like writing anything new. You see, I've been waiting on editor-type news on book #2. When you are a writer, you are always waiting for something, right? I tend to lose my muse when I'm waiting. And I'm frozen. Like I shouldn't move forward until I know. It doesn't help that winter is the hardest time of year for me. I hate being cooped up in the house for weeks. I can't stand being cold.

Last week, we had a few warm days in Colorado. There was a promise of spring and new beginnings. As a result, a tiny kernel of an idea for a new book popped into my head. I opened up a blank word doc. and started writing. The first day, I only came up with 391 words, but the second day, I wrote over a 1,000 words in one sitting. I have some notes, I did some preliminary research. I have plot ideas floating around. It's encouraging. I hope I can execute the idea successfully. Isn't this always the worry with a new idea?

Two pieces of amazing news this week about my book, The Marble Queen.

1. I already earned out my advance and my publisher is going to start sending monthly royalty checks.
2. The Marble Queen is a finalist for the 2013 Colorado Book Award. (Woot!)

I'm excited to work on this new book while I continue to wait. Of course, today we're having a blizzard and my kiddos will be home on Spring Break for the next two weeks. That's okay. It feels like my muse is finally waking up from a long winter's nap.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

When the Spring Breaks: Bearing the Weight of Your Creativity by Dia Calhoun. March Theme


























I saw this fountain on a walk during a break from an amazing day. I'd worked on three different creative projects. When I saw the stone woman, I understood why, though I felt exhilarated, I also felt exhausted.

The stone woman holds a vase spilling bright streams of water. She holds it on her shoulder. Her creativity is a great gift flowing out of her to bring beauty to the world. She loves it, is blessed by it, and yet is also bowed by its weight.
I named her Eustress. Wikipedia defines eustress as “positive cognitive response to stress that is healthy, or gives one a feeling of fulfillment or other positive feelings."

Yes. But it is still stress.

As wonderful as it is to feel your creative power flowing, as exhilarating as it is to be a ringing bell, both take their toll. For unless the stone woman is strong enough to hold the bright water surging through her, she will fall. Unless the bell tower is strong enough to hold the bell, it will fall.

 I don't know how to rest from the creative stream. I'll be writing about that next week in my 7:30 BELLS series on my blog. if you have any ideas on how to rest, let me know.


Friday, March 22, 2013

SPRING BREAK??? (HOLLY SCHINDLER)

One of my favorite smells of all time are hyacinths.  Every spring, I rush out to cut them so I can enjoy them as I work:














This year, I also saved the hyacinths  from this















...the snow that's currently falling. 

Ahh, spring...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

UNKNOWN DESTINATIONS



On Monday, my official spring break starts.  As a college professor and a parent, spring break has meant a week out of the classroom, and sometimes if we’re lucky, a chance to see something of the world.  But travel in our household also comes with great uncertainty; uncertainty because my husband is an airline employee which means mostly we fly standby to a place we didn’t expect.   This year, we’ve contemplated Paris and Puerto Rico, with fleeting dreams of Istanbul, Barcelona, Mexico, and for one short night we talked about the possibility of Prague.   All of this imaginary travel means hours on the Internet, books borrowed from the library.  I’ve planned more trips than I’ll ever live to take, and when Sunday comes, I can’t tell you where we’re going, or where we will be staying, or what it will be like; I only know the pet sitter will arrive and my journey will begin.

“Isn’t that nerve-racking?” people ask. “All of that unknown?”  

And of course, it absolutely is.  Every year, I long for a vacation of stability, a chance to buy a ticket, book a regular hotel room with our destination known, arrangements set, maybe an umbrella on a beach, or one of those luxurious blue pools I admire in the pictures.  But then I think about the fabulous surprises: our sudden week in Nice, the blue doors of Delft, the village in the French alps with the beautiful canals—and my adventure-self comes to life again, suddenly I’m ready to set out with nothing but a suitcase and the faith that we’ll end up someplace worthy in the end.  

I suppose it’s mostly temperament, how much unknown anyone can take, and maybe it’s the years I’ve clocked at writing, embarking on so many novel-journeys with no sense of what’s ahead, that makes this kind of travel possible for me.  

“Isn’t that nerve-racking?” people ask when they hear about my writing.  “All those years of working without guarantee? Spending all that time on a book that won't be published?  Tossing out two hundred pages at a time?"     

And in truth, it absolutely is.  Some day I’d like to write a book I could predict; a book where all the twists and turns were known, a book without the messy detours, the missteps, the characters that turned out to be flat, the plot that petered out.  I’d like to sit down at that blank page that marks every beginning and know exactly where I’m going, when and where it will be published, the reviews that will be written, how many copies will be sold.   Better yet, I’d like the book to write itself while I sit beside the pool sipping fruity drinks.  And I’d like it to be perfect.  Is that too much to ask?    

But then I think about the story trips I’ve taken: The day I met Gray James, first saw his old guitar, heard the shy, sweet way he asked Raine to take a walk.   I think of Pride and Nightingale and Baby setting up their souvenir shop, or Faina McCoy seeing her first snowfall.  I think about Justine’s secret letters in that drawer, how broken Old Finn was the day I finally found him in Duluth.   I think about the orphans coming to the Arts Extravaganza, watching Raine dream Lyman into life.  I think about the summer nights I swam under the stars, the turtle pond, the way Sparrow Road smelled like candle wax and lemon.  Unexpected destinations every one.  And I think about how glad I was to be there, to meet the story people, to enter their new world.   The thrill of unplanned travel. 

Now my husband interrupts to tell me about Arles.  Aix-en-Provence.  He’s found six flights a day we could take from Paris.   Maybe they’ll have space.  “That’s where Justine was,” I say, “when she wrote those secret letters to Old Finn.”  Maybe next week I’ll land in southern France and see them for myself—the greens and golds and blues she loved so much.  “Sounds great,” I say, reaching for the guidebook, hooked again on all the possibilities ahead.   

In travel and in story, it's the mystery that gets me every time.  It's why I pack my suitcase, and why I sit down at the page; it's why I travel through the story-dark with the heart of an explorer, a modern day adventurer convinced that some amazing wonder is waiting up ahead.      




      

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Theme: Watching TV and Writing (Kristin Levine)

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We are talking this month about taking a break from writing, so I thought I'd spend my post talking about what I like to do when I'm taking a break, namely, watch TV.
There is something sort of embarrassing about admitting I like to watch TV.  I'm a writer, right?  Isn't it required that I hate TV?  But the thing is, TV has changed a lot since I was a kid, and well, there is now a lot of good writing on TV.
When I was a kid, before DVDs and streaming, if you missed an episode of your favorite show, you were out of luck.  Most episodes had to be "stand alones," meaning you could start watching the show at any time and pretty much figure out what was going on.
No more.  With the event of TV shows being released on DVD, and now streaming, I've noticed shows becoming more complex, and dare-I-say, novel-like.  Writers and producers talk about "season arcs," in much the same way I might talk about a novel, as if each episode were an individual chapter of a greater story.
So I guess you could say, I view my TV watching as research into the art and craft of writing.  I don't just randomly turn on the TV.  I pick a show that I've heard good things about, preferably one that has a large number of episodes available on Netflix. Here are a few of the things I like to focus on:
1. CHARACTER

For me, when a TV show works, it's usually because of the characters.  That's the fun, right?  Tuning in each week (or each night if you're studying a program) to see how and why the characters grow and change.  Are you looking to introduce a large number of characters quickly?  Watch the first few episodes of Firefly.  Want to learn how minor characters can become major ones?  Study the evolution of Spike or Anya on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  

2. COMMENTARY TRACKS

Listening to a commentary track can be a huge advantage to a writer.  You have a storyteller, sitting down to tell you all the ins and outs of a story, what worked and what didn't.  Sure, a TV show is different than a book, but a story is a story, and listening to other storytellers talk about their process is often interesting and enlightening.

I find that TV commentaries done by the writer and/or director are usually the most useful to a book writer.  More and more shows, like the new Battlestar Galactica, offer a podcast or commentary for every episode.  Sometimes, the commentary for a bad episode can be extremely helpful, especially if the writer/director talks honestly about what went wrong. 

3. THINKING VISUALLY

As middle-grade writers, we spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer screens, imagining people having conversations in our heads.  But how much time do we spend thinking about the visuals of a scene?

I'll give you an example from my own book, The Lions of Little Rock.  It originally started with the main character, Marlee, lying in bed listening to the lions roar.  Truthfully, I knew it wasn't quite right. But I couldn't figure out what was wrong, until I asked myself, how would a director film this scene?

That's when I realized a director would hate this opening - because a character lying in bed thinking is not visually interesting at all!  So I started imagining what would be visually interesting to film, which is why the book now starts with Marlee standing on top of a high dive at the swimming pool on a beautiful summer day.

Finally, if I'm not convincing enough, consider Neil Gaiman.  He might have won the Newbery for The Graveyard Book, but he's also written for the new Doctor Who.  So me?  I'm off to watch another episode.

Monday, March 18, 2013

March spring break theme: Poetry!


Because I have always worked at another full-time job in addition to my career as a children’s book author, I have had to focus my writing efforts toward producing pieces that I hope will be publishable. Given that I can devote, on average, only an hour a day to my professional writing (my own blog is called “An Hour a Day”), I need to make sure that I wring maximum benefit from that hour, keeping my eyes on the prize of meeting publishers’ deadlines. I love every minute that I spend writing, but the vast majority of my writing minutes have been devoted to scribbling a page a day, in my hour a day, on some children’s book-in-progress.

Then, seven or eight years ago, I had the chance to attend a poetry writing retreat in early January, held at a historic inn in rural Pennsylvania. I loved writing poetry as a child and adolescent, but had written no poetry since, except on the happy occasions when I needed to craft a poem on behalf of a poetry-writing book character.  But that winter I was at a bad place in my personal life, and a dear friend who was planning to attend the retreat urged me to sign up for it. So I did. And poetry came back into my life again.

The first year at the retreat I could hardly write anything. My words remained frozen within me. The second year a few dripped out, drop by drop, from some melting corners of my hurting heart. The third year, poetry gushed out of me in a torrent, a deluge, a Genesis-worthy flood. I continued writing poetry after the retreat ended; I arranged poem-a-day exchanges with fellow writers; I signed up for a wonderful poetry boot camp with poet Molly Fisk; I took a challenge from contests sponsored by Tupelo Press to write poems prompted by first lines of Petrarch sonnets and by fragments from Sappho.

For a while I entertained the idea of trying to “do” something with my poems. I had some on fairy tale themes – perhaps a kid’s book of fairy tale poems? I had many, many, MANY poems about doomed love – perhaps the New Yorker would want me to become a regular contributor?

But then I discovered, after taking a few of my fairy tale poems to my writing group for critique, that I didn’t like hearing suggestions for improvement. Like the worst stubborn novice, I liked my poems just fine the way they were. Rather than sending them off to poetry journals for possible publication (and much more possible rejection), I found that I liked emailing them to a few friends, just to share. Poetry, I realized, was not meant to be part of my writing career. It was something I wanted as a break from my writing career, albeit a break that itself involved writing. It was therapeutic, cathartic, liberating, and most of all fun. Poetry, at least for now, is writing I do not for a publisher, but for me.

So here’s one little fruit from the season I spent writing poems inspired by Sappho. The prompt here was a three-word fragment: “If not, winter.” This blog will be the only place it’s ever published. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine and dandy.

Do You Love Me?

If not, winter
If yes, spring

If not, feet
If yes, wing

If not, empty
If yes, filled

If not, barren
If yes, tilled

If not, hole
If yes, healed

If not, desert
If yes, field

If not, homeless
If yes, home

If not, silence
If yes, poem

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March Theme: A Break from Habit (Sarah Dooley)

As a kid, I used to drag home so many books from the library that I needed help carrying them. That wouldn't have been a problem, except for the fact that my mother and both of my sisters had their arms loaded down with books of their own. We took to bringing back packs, shoulder bags, even plastic grocery bags -- whatever we could find to lug home our loot.

Back home, we would each begin with our own pile of books. But long about midweek, we would begin to wander through the small library created by the books our fellow Dooleys had chosen.

The result was that, although we each had our distinctive reading tastes, we read widely. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, having read and re-read the horse books and ghost stories in my own stack, I might flop backwards in patch of sunlight on the carpet, kick my feet up on the couch, and read one of Heather's poetry collections. Heather might test the waters of historical fiction out of Jennifer's stack, and Jennifer might learn about dairy goat farming or organic gardening from the books my mother chose.

Years have passed since I've had the pleasure of lazing around with my sisters, reading our way through a towering stack of library books. Of course I still read, and read widely, but all the books that make their way home with me from the library are books that I choose. And a lot of the time, they are books that I choose because they are the type of books I write.

There is nothing wrong with reading the books that surround your own on the library shelf. It can be helpful as writers to read the things our colleagues are writing, to devour and enjoy the books our target audience adores. And of course, many of us write what we do because they are the type of books we love to read. But in staying abreast of our craft, our genre, our favorite library shelf, sometimes we forget -- or at least, sometimes I forget -- to browse a few shelves over, to stock up on historical fiction, poetry collections, farming guides. Things we might not otherwise choose.

Tomorrow is the start of spring break for my students, and I'm going to have some free time on my hands. My plan for the break is to fill that time, and those hands, with books that have languished far too long in my to-be-read pile -- and books that aren't there yet at all, because I haven't stopped to consider them. I'm going to take a break from my usual fare and sample all the wonderful types of reading material I too often skip over simply by habit.

Tell me, what are you bringing home from the library this week? I've got my feet up and I've found a patch of sun -- now somebody give me something new to read.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

March Theme: Spring Break (Stephanie Burgis)

This month's theme is "spring break", and I think most of us here have been talking about the times we've needed to step away from our own manuscripts, taking a total break from writing - and oh, those times really can be crucial! Personally, I have an inescapable pattern with every new book: the idea comes to me in a blinding flash, I scribble like mad, lit up with inspiration and excitement...and then, within an absolute maximum of two chapters, I run completely out of steam.

Oops. Turns out book ideas don't come quite THAT quickly, after all! From long (and painful) experience, I've finally learned that there's no point trying to force myself onward at that point, trying to hammer a too-thin idea into working. Instead, what I need to do - the ONLY thing that works for me - is to take a month or so completely off...and give my subconscious the time to develop that cool opening idea into the makings of a real, solid BOOK.

I can actually feel it, like a click! when all the elements finally fall into place. That's the moment when I need to go back to work, plowing through even on the days when it feels hard and bleak and uninspired. But without taking that initial break, my books would never happen.

This month, though, I'm not in that first, flashing moment of a manuscript. I'm a quarter of the way through my newest work-in-progress...and I cannot wait for my own personal Spring Break. Next week, for the first time ever, I'm actually taking myself and my book off for a private vacation together! Because I'm the mom of a four-year-old, this is going to be a short break...but because I'm the mom of a four-year-old, this also feels really radical to me.

For about 54 hours, I'll be taking a break from responsibility, from house- and childcare...from everything but my writing. For 54 hours, I won't be looking after anyone but my book!

The truth is, I don't have really lofty wordcount goals, by many writers' standards. If I can write 5,000 words in my writing retreat, I will be absolutely thrilled. But no matter how many words I do or don't write, the chance to step away from real life and just be nothing but a writer for 54 hours - taking all that time to dream and plan and work on my book without interruption - sounds like absolute perfection right now.

I'm going to miss my son a LOT. But I'm hoping to come back to him feeling refreshed and ready to be a full-on parent for his own Spring Break (which starts the afternoon I get home).

I think we all need Spring Breaks from time to time. And I can't wait for mine.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Avoidance or Reward? Taking a Break (March Theme) by Bob Krech

I understand about staying in my seat and doing the writing, but I also appreciate that sometimes you have to take a break. I am two thirds of the way through revising a book that has twenty-one chapters. Most days I can stay at the computer for a whole chapter. That's usually my goal at this stage of the revisions. If I hit the goal I give myself a break/reward. I think that's reasonable. Here are some of my recent break time activity/rewards in no particular order; downstairs to kitchen for popcorn, youtube "Epic Rap Battles of History," do laundry, youtube Macklemore videos, take out trash, do sit ups, eat blueberries, read a few pages from a book I'm in the middle of (The Sense of an Ending), walk in the neighborhood, make green tea, e-mail my kids at college, check my e-mail, read newspaper, check physical mailbox, watch an episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix (very hard to just watch one), read from an old favorite book (ie; The Commitments), pay some bills, search for job leads on internet for my college senior son, downstairs to kitchen for almonds and walnuts, read an article in Time, read local news on AOL, check local police blotter online (any old friends?), check weather, run dishwasher, do stretches, get receipts out of wallet and enter in checkbook, pack lunch for work, check planner for tomorrow, clean car out, fold laundry, take out recycling, straighten top of desk, do pushups, downstairs to kitchen for a seltzer, check e-bay, downstairs to kitchen for Cheetos, shine a pair of shoes, arrange ironing pile so my best shirts are on top, chop wood for fireplace, downstairs to kitchen for vanilla ice cream with the blueberries, make food shopping list, make to-do list, check my kids' twitter feeds, see if there is dark chocolate in the kitchen, take a walk to library and return books, dust bedroom, pay a few bills online, test pens sitting in old mug on desk (throw out dry ones), see if there is any chocolate anywhere!!!???