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So I was watching the pairs skating last night, poetry on ice, etc. etc.
And last up come the German pair, who were wearing just the most...interesting costumes I’ve ever seen:

(image from France24.com)

Striking, you might say. Eyecatching. Well, they were all that and more. But the problem was, the costumes were SO striking that I couldn’t focus on anything else.

“Did you see that triple axel?”

 I dunno…what is up with those CLOWN COSTUMES?

“Wow, they’re so perfectly in sync.”

If you say so…they even  have a BIG BLACK TEARDROP painted on their faces!

What this has to do with writing: 

If you’re writing a novel, especially a novel for kids, please don’t get carried away with your beautiful, flowery, metaphor-laden prose. Just tell the story. Be straightforward, and stay out of the way. Otherwise, no one will notice your characters, or your story. They’ll just be staring at your clown costume.

Snowshoeing: Good news, bad news

Good news: It was beautiful today, and plenty of just enough fluffy snow.

Bad news: I had to go alone because my Valentine is far away this year.

Good news: I did bring Chipper, who is good company in his own way.

Bad news: Chipper would not have been able to protect me from coyotes or bobcats (both of which have been observed in the neighborhood lately).

Good news: We did not see any coyotes or bobcats (or even any people, for that matter).

Bad news: When you haven't gone snowshoeing in a year, you forget how to walk so that you don't flip chunks of snow up from the back of your snowshoes onto your butt as you walk.

Good news: See note re no people above, so at least I wasn't embarrassed.

Bad news: When you go snowshoeing without your glasses on, you may take a picture of your dog not looking at you:

Good news: When you're walking all alone (mostly) in the woods, you can make a lot of progress working out story problems in your head, and even saying it all out loud.

Bad news: When you get home, you realize you still have a lot of work ahead of you.

Good news (because it's always best to end with good news): I think I'm starting to feel my toes again!

Manuscript housekeeping: forest vs. trees

When writing a novel:
You (meaning me, I guess) can’t just plow along putting down words all the time (though I do love seeing that word count climb).

Sometimes you have to stop and take stock. Look at Big Picture stuff. If the words on the page are the trees of your manuscript, then here’s how you (I) look at the forest:

Chapter list, including:

            word counts

            chapter titles (if any)

            a one- or two-phrase summary of each chapter

            POV used (if it changes)

            maybe a note of which characters are in each chapter

            Clearly identifiable turning points (I like to first one to be about ¼-1/3 of the way through the ms, and if I predict I’ll need 50,000 words to tell this story, this should happen at about the 12,000-15,000 word mark.)

When I do this, I can see at a glance how my story is structured, and if it’s balanced. I think novels need a certain amount of balance, even if it’s not perfect.


Character list:

            Who’s who: full names, nicknames, spelling, etc.

            Who’d related to whom, and how

            Their ages

            Where they live
(Note: I do NOT describe what they look like, or what they're carrying in their pockets, or what their greatest fears and happiness are -- UNLESS it has a direct bearing on the story. That's just the way I do it.)



            A map of each setting in the book, for my own use so I remember and can describe things correctly each time.



            Some authors collect photos of people, to help them envision their characters. I don’t do that (see above), but I do like to collect photos of the setting, or of objects significant to the story; it helps me describe my story world, and sets a mood for me that I hope I can relay in the book.


And these are all necessary diversions from putting words on the page. But then it’s back to words on the page.

How to derail a perfectly good writing day

What's my theme????

This book here says I'm supposed to know my theme...

I have 22,000 words...it must be in here somewhere...

(Moral of the story: Some days are meant for reading. Some days are meant for writing. DO NOT MIX.)

oooh, I want to do this!

(photo from SLJ and IdeaPaint)

You can make an entire wall into a dry-erase board.

Wouldn't that be great for a writer's office????

ALA Boston

I'm attending ALA BostonI'll be at ALA Midwinter on Sunday, January 17, signing books in the Llewellyn/Flux booth from 2:30-3:30pm.

If you're there, please come say hi. It would be great to see some friendly faces!

Two other friends will also be signing that day in the booth:

Varian Johnson from 10:30-11:30

Laurie Faria Stolarz  from 1:00-2:00

Sounds like THE place to be on Sunday!

A soft spot for dogs and for Christmas

Time for my favorite Christmas poem:

The Sheepdog       

U.A. Fanthorpe

After the very bright light,
And the talking bird,
And the singing,
And the sky filled up wi' wings,
And then the silence,

Our lads sez
We'd better go, then.
Stay, Shep. Good dog, stay.
So I stayed wi' t' sheep.

After they'd cum back
It sounded grand, what they'd seen.
Camels and kings, and such,
Wi' presents - human sort,
Not the kind you eat -
And a baby. Presents wes for him
Our lads took him a lamb.

I had to stay behind wi' t' sheep.
Pity they didn't tek me along too.
I'm good wi' lambs,
And the baby might have liked a dog
After all that myrrh and such.

Peace to all, and see you in the New Year.

Swallow all beverages before viewing

The Onion has done it again.


Truman Award nominee

I'm thrilled to announce that Jump the Cracks is among 12 nominated titles for the 2010-2011 Truman Readers' Award in the state of Missouri.

It's an award that is chosen by kids in grades 6-8.

I honestly can't think of any higher honor than to be given an award by your readers. And to even be considered, and included among such wonderful books and talented authors is just ...wow!

Here's the list. Last-minute holiday gifts, anyone??

Anderson, Laurie. Chains. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Bodeen, Stephanie. Compound. Feiwel and Friends.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press.

DeKeyser, Stacy. Jump The Cracks. Flux.

Goodman, Allegra. Other Side of the Island. Razorbill.

Grant, Michael. Gone. HarperTeen.

Kogler, Jennifer. Otherworldlies. HarperTeen.

Mackel, Kathryn. Boost. Dial Books.

Meehl, Brian. Suck it Up. Delacorte Press.

Pearson, Mary. Adoration of Jenna Fox. Henry Holt.

Ratmthun, Bonnie. White Gates. Random House.

Spradlin, Michael. Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail. Putnam's.

You can't believe everything you read

I subscribe to daily e-mails from Book2Book, which is sort of the British version of Publisher's Lunch. You get publishing news here first, plus it's fun to read about literary festivals in Bath and York and other places I wish I could visit.

But today there were two headlines right NEXT to each other that read:

"Publishers Pay Big Money For Celebrity Memoirs — And Make Big Money"


"Publishing House Jobs Go As Celebrity Books Fail To
Sell :The lustre of celebrity memoirs is fading "

OK, so don't those sound like exact opposite sentiments?

This is why most days I try not to worry about it too much. Just keep my head down and write. Because the business it too unpredictable and too completely out of my control for me to do anything about it anyway.

Just write your little heart out.


Jump the Cracks
Stacy DeKeyser ~~ Author of books for teens
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