Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mom's New To Do List

My little girl turned 5 last week.  5!  That means she'll be starting kindergarten in the fall, and we all know kindergarten is the gateway drug to college which means she'll be all grown up and moved away and wearing a suit to work before I know it.  

I checked my to do list and didn't see "have panic attack about daughter turning 5" anywhere on it.  So I added it and checked it off.   Then I looked at the rest of the things on the list: run dishwasher, kids laundry, grocery store, schedule 5 year check up, pack lunch, caulk the windows, vacuum...blah, blah, blah.  Hundreds of items of blah, blah, blah. 

Well, I am rewriting my to do list right now:
Lauri's Stories
BIG plans today!

1.   Hug each girl 153 times per day. 
2.   Be the first one down on the rug asking them to play Candy Land.
3.    Come running when one of them yells, "Mommy I need you right now!" even though it's just to put pants on a Ken doll.  (Keeping pants on Ken really should be a goal anyhow.)
4.    Try my very hardest to color within the lines.
5.    Quit picking my nose so much.  Wait how'd that get in there? That's a different list.
6.    Take a moment to enjoy the smell of bath night hair.
7.    Linger in the girls' rooms even after they are asleep, just to watch them breathe for a few minutes. 
8.    Write with wine.   Hey don’t judge me!  I watched the kids sleep, and man they are out.  And everyone knows the Mediterranean diet is the best one for writers.

There.  That's a much better to do list. 

Hey, isn't someone going to take care of all the frickin' laundry around here?!

Which one fun thing are you going to add to your to do list today?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Robot Ran Away!

Kathy Temean at Writing and Illustrating hosts a picture prompt each month to write a 23 line first page.  January's featured this delightful robot/alien/dog picture by Patrick Girouard.   I tackled this prompt to practice "boy voice," but, boy, did it put up quite a fight giving me inspiration!  Here's where it took me:

Illustration by Patrick Girouard

My Robot Ran Away

By Lauri C. Meyers
     "Mom!  Have you seen my robot?" I yelled as I ran down the steps.
     "Isn't your robot in the Lego box?"  Mom yelled back.
     "Not the Lego robot, Mom!" I said, searching behind the door.
     "You mean the Robodog you got for Christmas?  I think I saw him in the basement."
     "Not that robot, either," I said looking under the kitchen table.
     "Robot waiter?  Robot action figure?  Robot toothbrush?  You have 100 robots!  I can't keep track of all of them," Mom said. "Maybe you could get a Robot Mom to be in charge of robot observation."
     "Nice, Mom.  You know, making fun of me lowers my self confidence," I said, secretly annoyed she came up with such a great robot surveillance idea. 
     "You're such a sensitive scientist," she said and stopped cooking for a second to help me.  "Which robot disappeared?"
     "The one I made last night.  His name is..." I couldn't finish the sentence because I hadn't had time to brand him or even test him yet.  "Um, you would recognize him as the Electrolux vacuum cleaner you threw out with a toaster on top."  Mom's eyes glanced at the counter to confirm the toaster's absence and returned to me with a glare.  
     "Hey, you said you were tired of the kitchen smelling like burnt toast," I spit out quickly.  She stared at the ceiling and nodded her head side to side like she always did when she noodled an idea.   She shrugged her shoulders satisfied with the solid excuse for a toaster upgrade.   
     I heard Robodog's mechanical bark coming from outside.   When I opened the door, a flash of vacuum hose legs and stainless steel ran past.   Was that my robot?  But how?  Sure, I'm pretty good at making things, but every project requires some tweaks to work properly.  I needed to run a few tests and tinker with his settings.  But first I had to catch him, before he caught Robodog.   

Thursday, February 21, 2013

MG Research: Erik's Top Ten Playlist

I am so excited to share today's post!   Erik Weibel at This Kid Reviews Books is an expert at reviewing books.  But This Kid also happens to be an expert at being an 11 year old boy, just like my MC in my MG project.  So, I asked Erik if he might help me with research: 

Erik, I'm still getting to know my character in my current manuscript.  He's not the coolest kid at school, but he's in the highest grade at the school, so at least he's cooler than the little booger-nosed kids.  He's not nerdy, but he really likes books.   I was wondering if you might develop a playlist for this kid which might help me to get to know him better?   

And here's Erik:

Mrs. Meyers asked me a question no one ever asked me before. She wanted to know what my top ten playlist was because she is researching a character for a book she is writing. After telling her I’d be happy to help, but my playlist probably isn’t a typical one for a kid (I really hate modern music), she asked me to do it anyway.  (Lauri note: in fact this made me even more excited!)
I have an “Erik’s Favs” playlist on my iPod and there are more than 10 songs on it, but here are the ones that I listen to the most  –

#10 “Why Don’t We just Dance” by Josh Turner. This is the ONLY country song out of the 165 I have on my iPod . It’s a fun song and I like Mr. Turner’s voice.  

Erik's iPod (when I was
eleven I had a Walkman...
this is cool, too)
#9 “Another One Rides the Bus” by Weird Al Yankovic. To me, any and all Weird Al songs should be on my iPod.  (Lauri: I've spent $2.28 on iTunes and we're only on song 2!)

#8 “Burning Down the House” by The Talking Heads. I love The Talking Heads. I have a video of a concert of theirs. My parents tell me that Blue’s Clues and the concert video are the only TV I ever wanted to watch when I was really young.  (Lauri: LOL!)

#7 “American Pie” by Don McLean. I like the original song but not the remakes (except for the Weird Al one called “The Saga Begins”).  (Lauri: Classic.)

#6 “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. My mom and I sing this in the car a lot. My Dad hates this song (and I pretty much hate the songs he listens to, so we’re even).  (Lauri: Nice!)

#5 “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers. The lyrics of the song are awesome. I like the original of this song too, not the remakes.

#4 “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees. The Bee Gees have been a favorite of mine for a long time. My mom told me that she would play the Bee Gees to get me to take a nap when I was a baby. (Lauri: Being a Mom, I'm betting there's more to this story...)

#3 “Godzilla” by Blue Öyster Cult. With lyrics like –
With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
He pulls the spitting high-tension wires down.”
“Oh, no, there goes Tokyo - Go go Godzilla”
 What kid wouldn’t like this song?  
(Lauri: Yes! This is one of my favorite songs too! It was awesome live at a BOC concert.)

#2 “Piano Sonata #11 (Turkish March)” by Mozart. 60% of the music I have on my iPod is classical. I especially like Beethoven, but this sonata by Mozart is my favorite.  

AND THE #1 song on my playlist is – “Cupid” by Sam Cooke. This is my favorite song of all. I really like Mr. Cooke’s voice. I have a bunch of his songs, but this is my favorite.
(Lauri: This is what you call an eclectic playlist - I love your taste in music!  And I realized my library didn't have any Weird Al or Bee Gees in it! What?!  The situation has been corrected.)

Since I told Mrs. Meyers that I really didn’t like a lot of music that other kids may like, she asked me what song I have to kind of fake that I like because the other kids like it.  
I know who Lady Gaga is, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you any of her songs. I can’t stand Katy Perry, but I usually don’t admit that. I really don’t get “Gangnam Style” and can’t dance it at all. I guess I know enough so that I don’t seem like a total geek, but I just can’t get into most modern music.  

Lauri: Erik, thank you so much for bravely sharing your "fake it" songs.  I will say Gangnam Style is a reasonably good workout, if you don't mind shin splints.

So there you have it folks, 41 minutes of awesome inspiration for a writer to get to know her character!   Thank you Erik for the research!  You can really get to know someone through the music they pick. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tackling a Novel in Little Bites

I'm not ashamed to admit I'm (exceptionally) slightly chicken.  I've been talking about starting a middle grade project since the summer, but I only recently got plucky enough to begin.  That sounds braver than the reality - actually my local critique group set a dare goal to bring a novel project this month, so I had no choice. 
So here I am, four weeks into this bad boy, and I'm ready to talk about the "picture books are harder to write than novels" soundbite. 

A picture book is 500 words.  But you change about 492 of those words eight times each before you have a final manuscript.  So let's call that writing about 4,000 words to get 500 good ones.
When I write a few hundred words of a novel, probably 90% of that writing is good.  But I have to do that, oh, 100 times.   That's like writing 100 (really crappy in desperate need of editing) picture books!
I think it goes without saying I'm scared to Poopytown with the idea of writing 30,000 words. 

What's your mama say when you have a big intimidating project?   Tackle it in bite-sized tasks. 
Thought Bubbles
Hey there little bubbles!  You don't look
intimidating at all.  Just sweet little bubbley-boos!
photo by lfelton via
So I've been breaking the work down into "thought bubbles."  I define a thought bubble as 300 words or a couple paragraphs that encompasses a thought.  A scene. A story element.  A moment. 
The moment of terror when you see a love note from your Mom in your lunch (uncool mom.)   The feeling of knowing your neighbor's German Shepherds are licking their chops because they smell you peeing yourself.  The internal conflict of panic that you just ripped your pants off on a fence versus the joy of knowing your pee stain is history. 
I just have to write 100 of those bubbles and stitch 'em together.  And pray they cohesively come together in a story.  
I suppose if you want to be Mr. Fancyfeathers you could assign yourself a bigger chunk, like a chapter, but I'm just a baby chicken here.  I need tiny bites from a pink baby spoon circling at me like the Red Baron flying a plane, or (if you prefer a consistent metaphor), I need my worms regurgitated in manageable gulps.
I can't say this is a good professional method, but it's effective if you are a chicken like me.  Those of you who have written those big bad manuscripts- how did you tackle the effort?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The S Curve for Writers

The S curve makes its way into many concepts beyond its origins in math to biological systems to innovation to change.  Time we apply it to writing.

Riding the S Curve! 
(car pic by jeroenbeel via
The writer's S starts where all good things do - with an idea!  Hooray!  A lovely ball of an idea!  But then you have to do the work.  This is the lower curve of the S, writing, editing, plotting (that's how the pantsers do it at least.)   Heading up the side of the S obstacles are encountered and overcome, probably including a scathing critique that almost makes you throw it away and a glowing critique that makes you fall in love all over again. 

At the top of the curve you are full of the adrenaline associated with knowing it's ready.   Print.  Stuff.  Lick.  Stamp.   Mailbox.

After the manuscript is safely in the hands of your trusty mail carrier (Is he really that trustworthy?  I certainly wouldn't let him burp my baby, why would I hand him my manuscript?  And did I see the address label start to peel off as he put it in his bag? ) and after you are done hyperventilating, then the wait begins.    

You can just relax now, sip some herbal tea, attack the mountain of laundry which has grown over the last few weeks of final edits.  Just wait.  And wait.

But it's even better to hop on another S.  Otherwise, your writing skills and energy start to fade, slipping down the top of the S.  If you wait, you'll be starting again from a lower point than you are right now. 

Even better- layer those S's, so you are writing one while the other is in critique land - growing faster than would otherwise be possible.   Besides, it doesn't hurt anyone to turn their undies inside out for a day or two, so Mommy can write!

I'm currently slogging along at the bottom of the S on a MG story (which really makes me susceptible to procrastination.)  Where are you in the curve?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Plot Outline - Night of the Spadefoot Toads

Sometimes I need a break from all the pink-fairy-cupcake-unicorn books my two princesses command me to read at home.   So my inner tomboy was delighted when I won a collection of "boy books" from Peachtree Publishers.   The reads also showed me I love middle grade boy books (which probably doesn't surprise anyone, knowing my penchant for potty humor, pirate speak, and torturing bugs.  

I admit to reading Night of the Spadefoot Toads (by Bill Harley, 2008) first, because the cover made me think it was about an attack of zombie toads (which would be awesome!)  It turned out to be a great environmental story where the scary things were moving to a new town and the threat of losing a vernal pool where endangered toads were breeding.

I have started work on a middle grade story (and by "started work" I mean I have a character, a situation, and a lot of sheets of blank white paper).  Spadefoot Toads with a simple story line and a short span of time (4 months) makes for a great book to study plot.  I graphed the plot across the book's 218 pages (about 40,000 words).  

Chapter 1:  The first three sentences introduce the Main Character, Key Supporting Character (his teacher/neighbor) and the Nemesis.  The first page provides the setting and the MC's challenge of starting at a new school.  The Buddy is introduced on page 3.  The MC makes his first mistake by page 5 which creates the relationship dynamics for the rest of the story.  Bam! All that in the first chapter.

Chapters 2 & 3: We learn about the MC's main problem, and the MC is confronted with an obstacle.  He has a couple small wins.   

Rising Action

Chapters 4-10:  MC has a small step forward and a small step back (more obstacles) in each chapter which shows us his personality and demonstrates how his relationships are developing with the other characters.  The foundation is laid for the main conflict.

Chap 11-15: Learn details of his teacher's problem and takes his first action to solving the problem.  

Chap 16: BANG, BANG, BANG - Bad things are piling up.  He reaches his lowest low, but then is given a second chance.

Chap 17: Peak: Momentum is in the MC's favor and good things start to happen.  He makes his final attempt at solving the problem.  

Chap 18: Resolution!  I'm not going to include spoilers here, but let's just say it's a happy ending.

So that's how it's done!  Easy enough.  Now why do these white pages seem so darn intimidating?!

Do you have any great plot resources to share?  Post them in the comments, please!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Groundhog Day!

Kids add more excitement to each and every day, but I was still surprised when the kids ran up at 6AM like it was Christmas morning and asked whether the groundhog had seen his shadow.   I fumbled the remote as best as I could with only one eye open and tuned in the live coverage on the weather channel.  

I just hope Phil was right about the early Spring, because my 4 year old looked very concerned when I said the groundhog wasn't always right.  You would have thought I said, "Sometimes Santa brings the wrong presents."

Susanna Leonard Hill, author of Punxsutawney Phyllis is hosting a Groundhog Day party complete with groundhog action figures.  The idea was to color Phyllis and take her on an adventure.  We didn't go anywhere exciting, but I think Phyllis enjoyed the relaxation and the fine company.   

Sorry Phyllis!
She told me the conversation was delightful. 

Susanna's "Short and Sweets" writing prompts always get my imagination flowing.  A few months ago the prompt was to write a poem describing a holiday with each line as one of your five senses (or six if your lucky).  Here's mine: 

Groundhog Day
The air tastes of almost spring as
My walking stick steadies each muddy step.
Shadows abound in the woods,
Groundhog feet patter back to their den.
I smell Grandma adding more logs to the fire.
Groundhog Day

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