Posted in Writer's Life, Writing

A Visit with Kate DiCamillo

I felt like I’d somehow stepped into an alternate universe. From my seat on the bleachers I saw kids reading. They were not staring into the blue, hypnotizing light of ipad screens or iphones – they were real boys and girls with their noses in real books, oblivious to the whirl of activity happening around them. Whole families showed up and spread blankets on the gym floor, they read together while waiting, up to an hour, for the honored guest. A long line of shoppers anxious to get the most recent release chatted with one another. Where was I?

This is not the world I live in. In my world getting kids hooked on literature is an epic struggle, and getting parents to commit to the importance of carving out reading time in their homes is just as daunting.

Just recently I visited small town, with a big library/community center, to see children’s author, Kate DiCamillo . North Liberty, Iowa, population 18, 813, was able to host two- time Newbery Medalist and author of eight juvenile novels, two early reader chapter book series, two picture book stories and several other short stories (typically printed in children’s magazines.)

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Waiting in line….

She’s accomplished to say the least. How this small town snagged her, I don’t know. But since she was speaking a mere 50 minute drive from my home, I of course, went; to hear a master of the writing craft speak is an opportunity that should not be missed!

Unassuming and small in stature, she appeared comfortable in a pair of jeans, black long-sleeve tee-shirt and a plaid blouse. The only thing new were her shiny black leather clogs. She was also very comfortable speaking to the crowd of about 600 people. After a short talk she asked a girl in the front row if she could borrow her Edward Tulane, which happened to belong to the young reader’s mom when she was a girl!

Ms. DiCamillo shared that she couldn’t read her favorite part, which is the end of the book, she’d tried that before and it went bad because she started crying. So KDC (Kate DiCamillo) started at the beginning and introduced us to her character, Edward, as well as, for me, her definitive writing style.

Then she opened the floor to questions. For forty minutes she walked among the crowd  answering questions from her fans.

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Kate DiCamillo

Here’s the gist:

On coming up with ideas: “I eavesdrop and people watch. The city bus is a great place to get ideas. I always carry a notebook with me to write down ideas and interesting words.” She was on a plane when the pig face and name for Mercy Watson series came to her. A friend who “went on and on” about the virtues of buttered toast gave her the idea that Mercy Watson, the pig also loved buttered toast. It’s that one idea that helped bring Mercy Watson to life.

On her favorite book she’s written: “I love all my books for different reasons. They’re all flawed, but I love them.” Because of Winn Dixie is a favorite because it’s her first novel and it takes place in her home state of Florida, which allowed her to go back home (in her mind from Minneapolis) for a while. She loves The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane because that book wrote itself, “..and that’s never happened again.”

On her writing regime: “It’s the first thing I do  in the morning before I can talk myself out of it. Dorothy Parker once said, ‘ I hate writing but I love having written.’ I feel the same way. Also life makes more sense when I write.” KDC also shared that when she sits in her writing room, “I think: I don’t know what’s going on here…”

On the revision process. “I know the first draft is really bad. But the second draft is a little better. I write around five drafts before I let others read it. Then after the 6th or 7th draft, I let my editor see it. And she sends about ten pages of notes back. And I’m mad at her for that. And I think if she thinks writing a book is so easy then she should do it. But then I go through all of it and make my story much better because of my editor’s insights.”

What I loved about the woman, this author, is that she was so real about the struggles and triumphs of writing and publishing a book. She was still somewhat amazed that it’s all happened. I was buoyed by the fact that, even after all of her success, she still had doubts, fought procrastination, had to do rewrites and trust others to see the big picture (flaws and all) of her story.

And her love for literature was contagious! People cheered and applauded as she talked. Way cool alternate universe

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Her first book, Because of Winn-Dixie and her most recent release, Louisiana’s Way Home

Writing Update:

And, on a separate note, since I’ve switched from blogging weekly to monthly, so that I would have more time for my other writing, I thought I should share my progress with you. It will be entitled “Writing Update:” (Creative, huh?)

Last month my word count was around 7,000 words. A friend (a numbers guy, and engineer) asked me what percentage of that was completed book. I told him a full novel averaged about 70,000 words. “So your 10% done, huh?,”  concluded my friend. Egad! That was a real wake up call. So. Far. To. Go! I am not a person that thinks in numbers. It’s annoying.  However, as of this writing, I am at 9,411 words. Not as far as I’d like to be, but it is progress.

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself.

~Nadine

Posted in Setting goals, Writing a novel

Cha-Cha-Change…

Welp, friends, this is my 170th blog post. I’ve been at this project since June 2016. Three years and four months.

My reasoning for starting a blog in the first place was three fold. First, I wanted to set some deadlines for myself- it’s important for a writer to have deadlines because we could massage our writing to death and never get anything completed if we didn’t have a point where we had to say to ourselves: Stop! You’re done!

The second reason I wanted to blog is that I wanted to share my journey as a writer. I still want to do that. But, my biggest newbie hurtles and goals have been met.

Finally, I started this blog to become more proficient in trying to put my thoughts into words. (Which is another reason why I could edit and tweek and revise my writing until it’s never really “done.”)

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Through this blog project, I feel like I’ve  realized my initial goals.  However, blogging takes a lot of time. Time I could be and should be using for novel writing. I love blogging- putting my thoughts and ideas out there. It helps me organize and solidify my thinking, and it’s really my preferred way to communicate, in that I’m pretty introverted.

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I had planned to take an indefinite hiatus, but Tim suggested I cut back to posting just once a month. He said he knows how I love writing my blog posts, (He does???? wow, I didn’t realize that!) and that because it’s a different style of writing than novel writing, I would probably benefit from keeping this writing outlet going.  Smart, smart man.

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So, for the foreseeable future, I’ll be posting once a month. And since this is October 17th, I’ll shoot for the third Wednesday of each month. See you mid November.

And as always,

Even if I’m not saying it every week,

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Be Good to Yourself.

Love, Nadine

P.S. I know the song is Cha- Cha- Chain, by Aretha Franklin— I just took some liberties… 🙂

 

Posted in Writer's Life, Writing a novel

Mt. Rainier National Park!

Tim, or as I called him in Seattle, Chowda Man, because he ate clam chowder five days in a row, and I spent one fabulous day in Mt. Rainier National Park.

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My Chowda Man….

We were in the Seattle area for seven days, and spent just one of them at Mt. Rainier N.P. However, half of all the pictures I took, were from that one day!  Here’s some of the beauty and grace of nature at its finest.

National Park Inn, our first stop just inside the Southwest entrance, is located 2,700 feet above sea level.We would have to travel that much further in altitude before we would reach Paradise Inn, at the base of Mt. Rainier. 

national park inn

From the Inn’s porch, we saw huge stands of cliff-like structures above the trees. These columns of rock were created from volcanic flow ions ago, and are called The Ramparts. Mt. Rainier is an active volcano. The last eruptive activity from Mt. Rainier happened in the late 1800’s. We were told by several people that she’s due to blow any time now.

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Mt. Rainier base is at approximately 5,500 feet. The mountain rises nearly three miles above sea level at 14,411 feet! We were very lucky this day to get such stunning photos. Mt. Rainier is covered in glaciers and they create a lot of their own clouds. The mountain top is visible for only about 90 days of the year!

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Oh, and this. This was our first view of Mt. Rainier!

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My very favorite and great joy of this day was getting to spend time in some Old Growth Forest. It was awe inspiring. The photos just don’t do it justice! Tall, tall trees that are 850 years old! (Not redwoods.) Huge ferns bursting from the spongy soil. Great globs of Spanish moss, that when I first saw it on the ground, I thought someone had dropped a knot of light green string, swayed from the branches of trees small and large.

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Old growth forest was prevalent in the PNW, before logging operations nearly wiped them out, back in the infancy of development of the area.
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Spanish moss hangs from everything.
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Who knows how long ago this tree toppled. It’s width is taller than my height!

When ever I’m surrounded by nature, more than any other place – even home or church- I feel God’s presence. I am in awe of the complexity of the beauty and graces he’s given to us. It humbles me. It fills me with joy. It renews me.

This is my final installment of my Seattle series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself.

~Nadine