Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Theme: Creative Spaces (Christine Brodien-Jones)

My creative space is an alcove of our living room, near windows with views of the sea. I work at a large Shaker desk littered with carved wooden owls (my muses), surrounded by photos, framed prints and drawings, and shelves of children's books. There's a cupboard door covered with notes to myself and a map of the desert. Gazing out over the salt marshes and boats, I can see sky and waves and shifting colors. It's easy to imagine distant places and other worlds.

A quiet place, a comfortable chair and a computer, plus long stretches of time (and access to a refrigerator!): that's the ideal creative space for me. Up until a few years ago, however, I've written on rickety tables, in cramped corners, sitting in uncomfortable chairs, trying to fit the writing around a full-time job. Only now do I have the luxury of my own space and time.

When I'm in
Argentina or Maine, where I go often, I take my light and compact netbook. (Here it is, on the left, in my apartment in Buenos Aires.) Sometimes when traveling I'll write by hand. With my liquid gel ink pen, I go into organizational mode: outlining, world-building, making timelines and/or sketching maps and characters for my next book.

Favorite time to write: early morning
Favorite snack: popcorn and iced tea
Favorite chair: Aeron ergonomic chair from Herman Miller
Favorite desk: my Shaker desk from Maple Corner Woodworks in Vermont

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June Theme:Living (and Writing) Spaces (Jennifer Cervantes)

I love this month’s topic and the idea of peeking into authors’ caves. To get a snapshot of their creative process and the habitats where they create life on the page. It tells me something about that writer: where he or she finds motivation, focus, inspiration. For me, there is no one defined space, but rather places where I live and share the days and moments with friends and family. Which cave I choose depends on my mood, the weather, and the scene I am up against (my characters can be real terrors sometimes). I love being outdoors where I feel connected to something bigger than myself. My favorite outdoor writing space is on the back portal. I love this space early in the morning, and at sunset when the sun shifts from orange to pink to a pomegranate red. But on windy (or super hot) desert days, my muse and I head indoors.
The Red-Room is a warm cozy space and the perfect place for those hard writing days where distractions like a majestic coyote or adorable bunnies must be ignored.

This coyote actually walked right up to my window and stared at me!

This small den below is a sitting room off of my bedroom and the space I use most often. I love the light in here during the day and the views of the city at night. Don't let the desk fool you, I tend to write sitting in the leather chair ACROSS from the desk :)

In each space, I prop my feet up and set my computer on my lap and type away. My iPod is always nearby with a Writing/Reading play list. Some songs on there now? Canon in D, Air on G String, Hedwig’s Theme (Yes, I am a Potter fan), and many many others.
No photos allowed: other places I write that wouldn’t exactly shine in photos? My car (I wait for my kids a lot), my university office, volleyball games, grocery store parking lots, the side of the road (yes, I have been known to pull over when inspiration strikes), and the miraculous three A.M. wake up call. Must keep paper and pen near bed.

I love my spaces, but I never created them as intentional writing spaces as much as living spaces. Places I wanted to be, to enjoy, to live in the moment, to share with others. And for me, that makes the best writing space of all.

June Theme: Writing Spaces (Holly Schindler)

I pride myself on my ability to churn out a fairly high daily word count. When I’m really in the zone, I can knock out a good five thousand words (or more) a day. Part of my ability to churn out such a high word count is because I’m a full-time, home based author (and have been, since the spring of ’01, but only because of incredible, incredible, incredible financial support from my family). And part of my ability to churn out the words is that I’ve done a pretty good job, over the past ten years, of learning to work—well—almost anywhere.

I do have a home office, where I spend a good deal of my time…and because I’m a bit of a flea market, antique store junkie, my office is filled, like Brian’s, with a good deal of muses, like Griselda here:

(I swear, the word "muse" now instantly brings this print to mind...)

And I’ve got quite a few funky tchotchkes in the mix, too:

Here, my four-leaf clover hangs out among some Enid Collins box bags that I've discovered are truly impossible to carry as purses, but great for holding office supplies.

My favorite office item's an old enamel sign from a bookstore...

If I had my druthers, though, I’m with Dia in that I’d write outdoors…Even under a tree in the backyard is preferable:

My favorite outdoor space is the park by the Finley River in Ozark:

I also do a good deal of writing on my AlphaSmart NEO. The thing has zero Internet capabilities, runs for months on AA-batteries, and is really durable; I can take it anywhere, knowing that it won’t run out of juice, and I’ll never get distracted. I so love this thing—I’ve had it for years, and I’m not quite sure what I’d do without it.

Here’s a glimpse of me and my NEO—and Jake, my Pekingese / constant companion:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June Theme: My Favorite Writing Space (Lucy Jones)

Hey everyone, I’m new to Smack Dab in The Middle and am so excited to be part of such an amazing group of authors! For my first ever post I will be carrying on the June theme of where I like to write.

Here’s my bedroom, where 90% of all my writing takes place. I am almost positive that Tracy Emin modelled her most famous art piece, 'Messy bed' on this!

And trust me, this is it on a tidy day! I know it's a little chaotic, but I've heard that it's usually the creative minds that are the messiest. Well, that's my excuse anyway...

I also keep a cork board on my wall. This is where I pin all my writing achievements; like the letter my agent sent me when I first signed with her. For a short period of time I even had my entire book contract pinned to the wall! I find it inspiring to look at when I’m feeling like my writing isn’t going so well, or I’m having one of those “I’m a terrible writer” days.
When I sit down to write, there are a couple of things that are 'a must have' in order to get the creative juices flowing.

1. My comfort Zone

I have to be comfortable. Usually, I pull on some baggy jogging bottoms, lay on my bed with my back supported by about a zillion cushions, and have my laptop balanced on my knees. Sometimes in the winter I even crawl under the duvet for extra warmth!


I usually have a box of ‘treats’ tucked under my bed which I keep in full supply. This consists of mini packets of Haribo, drumstick lollies and Cadbury’s buttons. I always feel these come in handy for taking the stress out of deadlines. I can reward myself with a little something, say, every 1000 words.

3. My dog

Boo, my Yorkshire terrier is my writing buddy. (You can see her in the picture above.) Sometimes I wish the workload was a little more balanced but she definitely stops me from getting lonely.

4. Peace and quiet

I can’t listen to music or have any sort of background noise while I’m writing. Most of the time I’ll even turn my phone on silent because the slightest distraction can completely throw me off track. Talking of distractions, the internet seems to be one of my biggest vices. I’m usually pretty good at not getting tempted to go on facebook or ebay, but occasionally this can prove impossible (usually when I’m working through a tough plot hole and I’ll find any excuse not to write!). During these times, I’ll go upstairs to the office. The computer up there isn’t connected to the internet, so I find it a lot easier to concentrate.

And here it is (slightly neater than the bedroom). I bought this big comfy chair off ebay recently and it's so nice to sit in that sometimes its hard not to drift off to sleep.

Well there you have it! I think If I ever win the lottery or become a super dooper wealthy author (yeah... sure!)I'd love a really big conservatory to write in, overlooking a beautiful lake and towering hills. Until then, I'll keep dreaming. So, do you need certain necessities in order to write, or are you one of the lucky ones who can pen a novel just about anywhere?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The final frontier

1=Trusty laptop
2=Homonculus #1. He does my bidding.
3= Homonculus #2. He keeps Homonculus #1 in line.
4=Pinky and the Brain mega mug. Narf!
5=Voodoo doll. Given to me by a former employer who apparently harbored false beliefs that I would never use it against him.
6=View of the liquor warehouse and parking lot
7=Sync cable for iPod touch. VERY important

My muses, who sit to the left of my desk. Can YOU name them all? (Hint: Not all, such as the penguins, have names.)

This is a print called "Flight of the Red Pajamas" by Lori Bitwer-Stewart. It hangs to the right of my desk. I'd been admiring it for years and finally bought it to celebrate selling my middle grade trilogy. It is very pretty. I keep telling myself that, someday, I'm going to write the story that goes with this picture.

Another print by Lori Bitwer-Stewart. In my mind, THIS is what my workspace really looks like.

Now for the kicker: I rarely use this space to write. I've crafted a lovely work area, complete with muses, homonculi, and art. And I'm almost never here. Largely because, owing to space restrictions, I share the office with my wonderful husband. And when he's working on his computer, I have to be somewhere else. (Not his fault; it's just how my brain works.) Often, I find myself at the dining room table. (Actually, I wrote 90% of THE VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES at the dining room table.)

Sometimes I find myself at this desk. Right now, for instance. But, honestly, I take what space I can get. Wherever I am, I need room to pace. I pace a lot while writing, talking through scenes, speaking bits of dialogue. Give me that and an acceptable degree of solitude and I can be extremely productive.

Or not. Sometimes, the optimal conditions are met and I sit like a lump for eight hours, wondering why there are cars in the parking lot of the liquor warehouse at 6m on a Sunday. For me, having a space is nice. But having something to write is GLORIOUS.

Friday, June 24, 2011

June Theme: Too loud!

By Stephanie Blake
When it comes to writing environments, I'm a bit like Baby Bear.
  • I can't write at Panera because it's too loud. (The hustle and bustle is not relaxing.)
  • I can't write at Starbucks because it's too cold. (Mine always has the air conditioning up full blast.)
  • I can't write at the pool because it's too wet. (And too bright.)
  • I can't write with music or TV on in the background.
  • I can't write at the park because of the wind.
  • I can't write if my time is limited. (Yes, I know a page a day is better than nothing.)
The best place for me to create is in a quiet space with my laptop, a package of Red Vines, some M&M's, a bag of Salt & Vinegar chips, a tall drink or water, and a pencil and notebook at my side.

I usually work at my kitchen table or in a cozy spot at my local library.

I also do a lot of pre-writing, plotting, and revising while I'm sleeping. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June Theme: Luminous Imagination by Dia Calhoun

All year I dream of summer, wait for summer, count the days and weeks and months until summer, because that is when I get to write at the Farm—my family’s orchard in Eastern Washington. I leave the city and drive 250 miles over two mountain passes to reach paradise in the Methow Valley. When I arrive on the 100 acre Farm, I hang the hammock under the maple trees, haul out the deck chairs, put up a big umbrella to shade my laptop from glare, plug in a long extension cord, and begin to write outside. For me, writing outside is pure bliss. I can look up at the hills—no houses, no people, no internet, no e-mail, no cars, no noise—only the pear trees, pine trees, sagebrush, and meadow larks. Also, I spend most of the time in almost complete solitude as my father-in-law spends his summers fishing in Alaska.

So I write and write, and after a few days, something marvelous happens. I become inhabited by my story. Even when I am not writing—taking a walk in the canyon, or resting in the hammock, or reading a book—my story is with me. Everything I see or think seems to speak to the story, or speak from the story. This is a magical experience whereby the imagination becomes luminous. My best work results.

After a week or so at the Farm, I drive back home for a week there—so my husband will remember my face! Then I return to the Farm. And that is how my summer goes—a lot of driving. Sometimes I get lonely. Sometimes I ask very special writing friends like Lorie Ann Grover and Justin Chen to come write with me for a week.

I am sad when September comes. I don’t know how to achieve this state of luminous imagination in my city life in the winter, where I juggle writing with my freelance work as a lettering artist. But I have learned a few things which help. When not at the Farm, I write in the morning. I check my e-mail in the morning before I begin writing. I respond ONLY to urgent business from clients, editor, agent. The rest can wait. Then I turn off the e-mail. I don’t look at it again until noon. I also do not answer most phone calls. I do this because I have learned that getting busy with the outside world disrupts the focus I need to write well. (It takes amazing discipline not to check e-mail and not to answer the phone.) I also have learned that I need what I call active drifting time. At the Farm, I achieve this in the hammock. I swing under the maple trees and let my story swing in my mind. I let my mind carry the story wherever it wants to go—even into the realms of the absurd. The idea is to let your story free, to be unstructured. I might end up using only one idea or image from my drifting time, often a nugget of pure gold. So when I am not at the Farm, I also give myself active drifting time under the skylight in my office.

I know I am lucky to have the Farm. In fact, the Farm has given me the inspiration for four books now—Firegold and White Midnight, my young adult fantasies, and my forthcoming Eva of the Farm (Atheneum Summer 2012) and its as yet untitled companion volume (Atheneum Summer 2013). All of these are set on orchards.

So try writing outside and see what happens. And may you, too, have a summer of luminous imagination.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June Theme: The Nonfiction vs. Fiction Environment by Trudi Trueit

My first job out of college was as a TV news reporter and weather forecaster at the tiny ABC affiliate in Yakima, WA. It was at KAPP TV I learned how to photograph, write, and edit news stories as a one-girl band. In a humming newsroom (okay, warehouse), I used to pound out scripts on an old manual Smith-Corona typewriter (I'm not that old but the station was that cheap). Here I am giving the weather forecast . . .

Apparently, shoes weren't in the budget. Don't let anyone tell you broadcasting isn't glamorous. I learned early on how to focus my energies when telling someone else's story; a daily deadline will do that to you. Now, I can pretty much write nonfiction anywhere, any time with any noise going on in the background. So far, I've published 68 nonfiction children's books on all kinds of topics, from storm chasing to video gaming. And I've done it to the tune of construction crews, leaf-blower lunatics, and a duo of 24-hour-a-day barking Dobermans.

Fiction, however, is a different story. I know that many writers like to write in coffee shops or set the mood at home with music, candles, and food. I admire that, and aspire to it, but I can't do it. To me, these things are distractions. If I'm listening to music, I'm going to miss what my characters are saying. If I am smelling a lovely scented candle, I'm not going to be able to write dialogue set in the boys bathroom. If I have chocolate on the brain, well, forget thinking about anything else. There is only one thing I need to do my best fiction writing and that is silence. That's not to say I always get what I want, but it's what I strive for.

Having a cozy, peaceful place to write is also helpful. Let's take a tour of my office and I will show you a few things I keep close to inspire me. First, and most important, is Kira. She's my 18-pound ragdoll cat. Kira makes sure I take frequent breaks to tell her how wonderful she is and attend to her every need . . . 

Here's my bookshelf where I keep most of my nonfiction titles. On top of the shelf I have laser-cut plastic cutouts of a few fiction characters. Here are Julep (from the Julep O'Toole series) and Scab (from The Secrets of a Lab Rat series) . . . 

My husband, Bill, surprised me with this 20" X 30" wrap-around canvas print of my first Secrets book cover . . .

So that's a little glimpse into my writing world. If I leave you with anything it's that there is no right or wrong way to set up shop. Write in whatever way, in whatever atmosphere, that makes you feel most comfortable and productive. The main thing is to write.

Ah! It looks like Kira is down for her afternoon nap. Time for me to get back to work . . .

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

(June) Where I Write - Alan Gratz

My office. I've had some variation of this for the past eight years, depending on which house we've lived in. We built this house, so I was able to design a space specifically for writing. (You can see, kind of, that the window trim still isn't done. Let's say we are building this house. Still.) I try to keep all that desk space cleared off, but it's a losing battle.

I added the second screen when a desktop computer died and we replaced it with a laptop. I thought it was an extravagance, but I've ended up using it a LOT. When writing, I often put my outline on the separate screen, and write the book on my laptop. Very handy.

Finally, a place for all my writing books--both research and how-tos! And a special place of honor for my own books, of course. :-)

My favorite thing about my office is the big bulletin board I made out of insulation board from a home improvement store. My wife covered it in IKEA fabric, and now I have a big, beautiful board on which to plot out stories. That one's the new Star Trek young adult novel I'm writing right now.

Monday, June 20, 2011

June Theme: How to Write a Novel (When You Don't Even Have Time to Read This Blog Post) -- by Lisa Graff

This month's theme is where we write our books, but I'd like to talk about something a little different--when I write mine.

I sold my first two novels three months after I started as an editorial assistant at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. And I was, of course, head over heels ecstatic about it.

And then I had to figure out how to find the time to work on them.

Writing when you have a full time job (as many authors will tell you) is hard. But it's by no means impossible. The trick is to find the chunk of time you're most productive in, and then train yourself to write in bits and pieces. When I was working full time, I found that the very best time for me to get some good writing in was on my lunch hour. Nearly every day for five years, I would steal away to a nearby coffee shop or library during lunch, and pound away at my keyboard for 40 minutes before returning to the office. I became very good at the 40-minute sprint.

The hardest part of writing a novel this way, of course, is that you don't have much time to dilly-dally. In an ideal world, I like to take my time when I write. I like to spend a little time thinking about what's going on in the scene, maybe do some character sketches, check Facebook for twenty minutes, and then type. But with the full-time-job method, you have to dive right in. So here were the three most helpful tricks I found to keep me focused:

1) Always read your last chapter before typing a single word. When you don't have long stretches of time to write in, it's easy to forget what your characters were thinking or doing when you last left them. So as soon as I sat down at my computer, I would open up my document and read the last chapter or section I wrote. This would put me back in the world of my novel, and give me a little extra oompf for moving forward.

2) Writing stretches are for nothing but writing. No email, no Facebook, no planning your social calendar. Basically, no internet at all. If I needed to look up a legitimate bit of research for my book, I had to put a note to myself in the document and find time to look it up later. Opening up a browser when you're pressed for time is just asking for trouble.

3) Don't look back, and never pause. I never rewrote anything until I reached the end of a full draft. This helped me move forward and kept my momentum going. If I couldn't think of the right word or phrase I needed, I would write "OR SOMETHING" in the middle of the sentence, in capital letters, and then move right along. (When I finish a draft, I search the document for "OR SOMETHING"s and fix them then. There are always about three hundred.) If I realized that I needed to fix a plot point, I'd make a note to myself to change it later, and then continue forward as if I already had.

I meet a lot of people who tell me they plan on writing a book when they retire. Or when their kids get older. Or when they finally get some vacation time. But I think that if you really have a story burning inside you, you need to find a time to sit down and write it. We all have a million things keeping us from that desk chair--so find a time to write where you don't need one. I have written on the subway, in airports, and I have written many, many pages in the waiting room of my doctor's office (really, I should pay them for making me wait so long!). Finding time to write with a busy schedule is insanely difficult. But it is absolutely possible. I hate to admit it, but now that I write full time, I often have trouble focusing. Guess it's time to come up with some new rules, huh?

So, tell me: when do you write?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Release: Tracy Barrett's The Missing Heir

In addition to taking the exciting plunge into full-time authorhood, Tracy Barrett also celebrated a book birthday this month!

The Missing Heir is out now...and the jacket copy is more than just a little enticing:

"Xena and Xander have just learned that their shy classmate, Alice, is the heir to a royal throne! Then they discover that their ancestor, Sherlock Holmes, had his suspicions about the kidnapping and return of Alice's grandmother, the princess of Borogovia.

Alice is to be crowned on her thirteenth birthday . . . but she goes missing days before the ceremony. Who would kidnap a princess? Where would they hide her in a city where Xena and Xander Holmes—and the police!—are looking for her? And then there’s the biggest mystery of all: is Alice really the princess?"

Grab yourself a copy of The Missing Heir here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Publishing / Industry News: Merchants of Culture (Holly Schindler)

Okay, so this isn’t exactly the kind of book we’re used to talking about here at Smack Dab…These pages contain no wizards or magic—not a single pint-sized protagonist. But John B. Thompson’s Merchants of Culture is a fantastic read for anyone with a manuscript in a drawer or an idea for a novel floating around in their head.

Thompson spent four years interviewing editors, publishers, and agents in the world of trade publishing, and offers, in MOC, an analysis of how book selling has changed in recent years, explains the dynamics between editors and agents, demystifies the process of acquisition, and even, to some extent, explains the forces at work behind the promotional decisions made by publishing houses.

Let’s face it—getting your book to publication (and, once it’s out, learning the publicity ropes) can feel a bit like stumbling around in a dark room. Thompson’s book offers, I think, a much-welcome streak of light.

…Those of you who also love to read about writing: What books on or about the writing process changed the way you think about the craft or changed your approach as a writer?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June Theme: Creating a Writing Space (by Stephanie Burgis)

Here's what used to be my fantasy of the ideal writing space, which I would surely have by the time I was a professional author:

Imagine a room filled with books and gorgeous artwork. There's a big comfy armchair in one corner. There are shelves of research books (since I write historical novels) helpfully close to the beautiful antique desk. There are flowers blooming in the corner. There is an atmosphere of absolute peace.


Ahem. Excuse me.

Now here's my actual writing space, as an officially professional author:

Anywhere I can prop my laptop. Which usually means on my knees.

I don't have a desk, much less a "writing room". I write while either lying on the couch, or lying on my bed propped up on the pillows. My toddler son's toys are stacked around me in either place. Every time I look away from my laptop screen, I'm reminded of all the household (or business) chores that I've left undone, all the burning issues that I desperately need to handle...just as soon as I can finish my scene.

Here's how I focus anyway:

1. Desperation: I only have a limited amount of time and energy for writing, so I need to buckle down and use it, no matter what!

2. Music: I keep a playlist on iTunes for each writing project. I never listen to those playlists except when I'm writing. That means that from the moment I put on my headphones and hear the first song, I'm already in the mood and headspace for that project (especially since each song on the playlist has been picked for its resonance with at least one of my characters.) No matter how much clutter might be stacked around me, how many chores might be begging to be done, once my soundspace is full of inspiration, I can focus on my laptop screen and be swept away to 1803 England (or anywhere else in time and space).

3. Bribery: My favorite kind of tea is Earl Grey. My favorite kind of chocolate is dark and gourmet. Guess how I start every writing session? With a cup of hot tea and four squares of delicious dark chocolate. It's a perfect bribe to start writing, and it's also become a ritual - and every ritual helps!

Yup. Desperation, Music, and Bribery: my top three tips for creating a writing space. They may not sound romantic...but they really, really work!

What about you guys? What do you do to help yourself feel creative no matter what your physical environment might be?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sometimes Neat, Sometimes Not by Bob Krech

I do most of my writing in an extra bedroom upstairs in our house. My computer sits on a kidney bean shaped piece of wood rescued from a dumpster. Two file cabinets underneath act as pillars. There are printers, computers, and a fax machine on top, along with files, books, paper, a phone, notebooks and anything else I deem necessary to have at hand (ie; Cheetos). There is an old teacher's desk (very appropriate since I am an old teacher!) where I do non-creative things like paying bills. On the opposite wall are bookcases full of books and magazines. A pullout couch gives me a space to sprawl and edit away from the computer and also helps the room double as a guest room.

The space swings from neat to horribly messy. The photos here document the h-messy stage, which to be honest, is the usual condition. Sometimes I feel the urge to eliminate all clutter and I'll spend a day cleaning, straightening, and throwing things out. Usually at the beginning of a project.  I'm not sure if that is a convenient excuse not to attend to the writing that day, or whether somehow cleaning everything up really helps me focus and begin. Other times I can create and maintain "the cocoon of concentration" in the middle of the mess, and it wouldn't matter at all how the surroundings looked. Neat or not though, it's nice to have a space. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

June Theme: The Division of Labor Space (Tracy Barrett)

Like many writers, I have a day job (I’m a college professor), and like many people—writers and others—at first I had a hard time drawing a line between work and home. Early on, I decided that home is home and work is work, and never the twain shall meet. I determined never to bring work home. When I had children, this became especially important. I may be at work a lot of the day, I decided, but when I’m home, I’m home.

This division worked just fine until I started writing. Was writing something I did at home, or something I did at the office? It’s work, but it’s not university work. It didn’t make sense for me to stay at the office any longer than I already did, especially while my kids were small, so I carved out a home office. I took over a side of our guest room and set up a computer, a bookcase, and my great find, one of those office mailbox things turned on its side, for storage. I expanded my decision never to bring work home to include never writing at my day job.

Office mailbox thing (what are these called, anyway?)
It's worked well—maybe too well. If I turn out to have a spare hour at work and decide to revise a chapter I’ve written the day before, or get to work on a new writing idea, I find that I can’t do it. I’ve trained myself too well that writing is something I do out of the university office.

The Jack Russell Terrorists
I can't write with anyone else in the room. Well, except for these two, whose excuse is that they can't read the "KEEP OUT" sign on the door.

Soon my division of labor space will be in the past, though. I’ve turned in notice at work, and in May of 2012 I’ll officially become a full-time writer—or a full-time self-publicist, I guess, since promotion takes up more and more of the average writer’s time. I’m blogging about my last year of having a day job, along with thoughts on pre-planning, at Goodbye, Day Job! I’d love to hear from any of you who have done the same or are contemplating it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I want to thank all our incredible followers—and the Smack Dab authors—for an amazing first few months here at Smack Dab in the Middle! I’ve absolutely loved reading both the posts and the comments, and getting a chance to know some of my favorite MG authors all the better…

I’m also thrilled to announce a few changes here at Smack Dab!

New & Improved:

First, those of you who have been here before will see that we’ve got a few new pages at the top of the blog…That’s because we’re going to implement some new features: Writing Tips, Publishing / Industry News, and Guest Posts / Interviews. Initially, all these posts will be seen in the main stream of the blog; they’ll later be cut and pasted into their appropriate pages so that visitors will always be able to find that content easily.

You’ll also notice a new “Contact Us” page at the top of the blog. Those of you with questions or suggestions on writing, drafting, etc. are welcome to shoot us an email…We’d be happy to put up one (or a few) writing tip posts based on your questions or prompts. Any other MG authors who would like to do a guest post can also absolutely get in touch! We’d be happy to feature you here at Smack Dab.

Also, we’ll be hosting giveaways…of our own recent releases or of books we’ve loved and would like to pass on. We’ll also be giving away some swag courtesy of our guest posters and interviewees. Any current giveaways will be listed on the sidebar.

Head on over to the "Contact Us" page and shoot us an email! Looking forward to hearing from you...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June Theme: Where I Write (And When I Can't) by Jody Feldman

If you happen to go to my website, you’ll seen the highly cleaned up version of my main workspace. (Look fast, though, because the website is soon changing.)

Until my house got turned upside-down by construction, the desk sat in what’s basically a pass-through room between the TV room and the rest of the house. Most important, it sat on the other side of the kitchen wall so I had ready access to brain fuel.

Right now, behind the plastic curtain which doesn’t keep out as much saw- and general dust as one might hope, I can still work.

And while this is my go-to space for first drafts and on-computer revisions, I employ two other highly important writing environments:

Most of you can understand why a writer might get up and take a walk. When I do, I first clear my head of anything book related. At some point in the middle of my walk, my brain magically drifts back to it and, on its own, works on plot or setting or characters while my heart gets the aerobic benefits.

But why theTV? It’s my main brainstorming tool when I create the puzzles I frequently incorporate in my books. I wish I could tell you how that works, but again we’ll have to go with magic.

And I’d stop there, but I should tell you one more thing about how I write. I can do it with the TV on. I can do it with a parade marching through my house. I’ve been doing it (because of the construction) with temperatures ranging from 52 to 90 degrees in here, with workers sawing and hammering and doing other stuff that makes weird sounds, with their radios blasting everything from classic rock to hard-core country. But put a friend or family member in the house, and forget it. Doesn’t matter if that person is totally silent and barricaded in another room. I can’t write. Unless of course, I’m in the zone. Anything’s possible in the zone.