The Power of Pinterest

So I was in a definite funk. We had to move. My manuscript, The Sharpest Claw: A Talking Cat Fantasy, was off in New York, probably munching on a bagel while waiting to be proofread. I was here with day job demands, boxes all around me, and a hole in my heart where my writing usually is.

That’s when I remembered. The answer was a single word, starting with “P,” three syllables. You might think it would be potatoes, and I certainly love them, particularly baked, loaded up with sour cream and chives, and I do eat the skin, but, no, in this instance, it was Pinterest.

I have an account on Pinterest, but I hadn’t been there for about a year. I have seven boards, five devoted to my books (three essentially done and two in the ether); one for dinosaurs simply titled “I Love Dinosaurs,” because I do; one for my favorite middle grade books, and one of images I loved as a child because when I was a child, I vowed that I would write books, and I try to still listen and honor what that kid is saying to me now.

Anyway, the last time I had been on the site, I had brainstormed images for The Sharpest Claw. Now, looking at that board, I could see the challenges I had writing this book. Some of the pictures actually belonged to the next book, The Deepest Growl, which I plan to start working on in August. And I hadn’t met some of the characters who eventually showed for The Sharpest Claw. Where was Cranky Squirrel? The ravens? The celebrity cat reporter? The pitbull who loved to tease? Etc.? They all needed representation.

So I returned to Pinterest. It was something that I would do for only fifteen minutes or so each day, but it made me feel connected. I started thinking like a writer again. I felt happy. I thought that I would like this now to be part of my regular routine while writing books—brainstorming before writing linearly, returning to it in the final stage, while my beloved book is undergoing final corrections. It’s a way to pay tribute, to see if anything is missing, to celebrate, and to start moving ahead, dreaming up the next board, the next book.

On Writing Regularly

It’s one of those bits of advice tossed out to writers: Write every day. Stephen King said that you needed to write on Christmas and birthdays, too. Don’t skip a day!

Well, I’ve been skipping days. There’s two reasons behind it. We’ve moved. (I feel like I should have a T-shirt with that saying on it. It would be black. Maybe there would be a skull and crossbones under those words. The shirt would be torn. There might be some paint on it, and it would smell faintly of sweat.)

Since we moved, everything has changed. I have a new office. I have a new writing bed. My glass duck Ludwig now stares at me while I type. He is thrilled. And, honestly, Ludwig, so am I. But this is the first time I’ve actually sat up here. It’s the first time the room has been somewhat put together. And I have piles of day job work that I need to complete because, along with its pleasant surprises, moving has prompted unexpected costs.

And then there’s my seasonal philosophy, as in every day is not a day of linear writing. For me it often boils down to this: August is brainstorming and writing. September through December is writing the draft, often many times. In January, I let go of the draft to my beta readers. Then I process their feedback and revise. The draft then goes to the developmental editor. If she says it’s okay, that’s a huge hurdle jumped, accompanied with more revision, then the proofreader, then me reading it over again, and then on to production. And this schedule has pretty much followed that course escept it feels I have had lots of waiting time this year, and even though I say to myself that I could start on new books. I could research others, I don’t. I seemed tied to this book until this process is over.

Today was the first time that I felt afraid about it. Had I abandoned my muse? Will I be able to write again once it’s August again? Do I even feel like a writer any more? It tells me that I need to dream up new tricks to keep me feeling connected. It reminds me of the importance of going deep, even if it’s only for five or fifteen minutes to spend time with myself and with my story. When there are deadlines and boxes all over, it’s often the last thing I want to do, but I need to remember and honor that need to touch base.

Hopefully, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting.

We moved.

They say that moving is one of the top stressors that one can experience. They include it among death and divorce, which doesn’t seem quite right to me, but moving does shake up your world. We moved in a week ago. After two days, the toilets were on the fritz, and I locked myself out of the house, and had to climb through a garage window. Things still aren’t settled. And I have more work than I have had for a long time. Now I’m not complaining. How can I when I look out my window and see beautiful trees? (Oswald and Leroy and Brenda and Solomon) I wanted to really work hard right now because my sequel to The Loudest Meow, The Sharpest Claw, is coming out this fall (probably September) and I wanted to have the money to finance an audiobook, narrated by the incomparable Kae Denino, to accompany the launch. So it' looks like it’s going to happen, which is cause for general celebration. (If you would like to hear a sample of Kae’s narration on The Loudest Meow, please click here.)

So the house is beautiful. I’m sleeping well. I’m working my butt off. I am doing what I need to be doing, and I’m longing for that hour of down time where I write and imagine. I have a new writing bed in my new office. It’s sitting there, waiting for me. I think I will be embarking on The Deepest Growl starting in August.

It makes me nervous not to write. It makes me jumpy. I miss it so much my skin itches. But I need to take care of obligations and dreams. I hope all is well with you. Best.

A Writing Bed of One's Own

A few weeks ago, we received notice that we have to move out of our home. It has been a stressful, exciting time, full of things to do. One of the top items on my list? Find a writing bed.

Early on, when I started writing novels, I realized that I needed to write in bed. The process felt so difficult, so intimidating, but when I started writing in bed, I relaxed. Writing a novel continues to be challenging, but somehow writing in bed comforts me, especially when I have a cat by my side.

In our previous home, I wrote in our bedroom. I ended up writing my first three novels in that bed. But when we moved, the house came with a bed. My husband moved that bed into my office. Now he could nap in solitude, without a writer in creative process at his side. And I did love having my own bed in my work space, where I could look out and see Isabella, the tree who watches over all my writing.

When we found out we had to move again, I knew I would have to leave this bed behind. But we found a house that came fully furnished. We had two extra beds that we could claim as our own. Unfortunately, neither would work as my writing bed. My office in this house is cozy. It's the perfect private place to conjure up dreams. But a queen-sized bed will not fit there. I needed a bed for a nook.

This week, a kindly neighbor stepped up and offered me her twin bed with a frame. I wasn't sure if I would like it, but when we went over to see it, I gazed upon it with wonder. The bed screams magic. While I studied it, my neighbor's cat strolled over and nuzzled my ankles. That sealed it. This was the bed to write further talking-cat fantasies.

Do you have a special writing place? I would love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments.

The Power of Song and Dance

I've often heard this complaint about musicals.

“It's so unbelievable. The characters just stop what they're doing and start singing and dancing. Who does that in real life?”

A small voice says inside my head, “I do.”

Do you?

I know many people sing their hearts out in the shower. I understand. The acoustics are marvelous. But I also get songs in my head that demand to be sung, some old favorites, some bewildering songs (Why are you here), and some ditties that I make up on the spot.

Here's an example:

I rarely travel. It is not my thing on many levels. I have an anxiety disorder. Travel has many variables out of my control. I would rather spend my available resources on creating more audiobooks. I have a complicated relationship with sleep. Why would I want to travel across time zones? I love seeing family and friends and exploring new places, but travel takes a toll.

But we did go to New York recently, and on the way back, trudging the way through the airport, where the signs were confusing and misleading. (Things are much further away than I imagine they will be.) Luckily, a song popped up in my head and I sang it immediately.

Here are the lyrics:

I hate travel.

I hate travel.

I hate travel.

Traveling's not for me!

Although the song was quite simple, it felt enormously satisfying to sing. I felt cheered up after singing it through once, and so I continued to sing it, softly enough, I think, so that only my husband could hear, and he was goodnatured about it. I imagine that he probably didn't want to hear that song a kajillion times, but, hey, they say a happy wife is a happy life. It was even better when I added a few discreet dance moves. (And here I must say thank you to my high school gym teacher, Mrs. Muilenberg, who taught us dance—jazz, tap, and ballet—and cared more about verve than form. Also, thank you, to Rocco, the jazz dance teacher at the shopping center, who added to my jazz dance tool kit.)

I would also like to add here that I hope to someday have a song about how traveling's a fine thing to do because eventually I would like to travel more, but, for the moment, this is my travel song.

I've recently started to incorporate songs in my writing. My husband and I were listening to the Harry Potter audiobook series in the car, and I was quite taken with Jim Dale's rendition of the sorting hat song. So I've stuck some songs in The Sharpest Claw: A Talking Cat Fantasy. Like me, the cats in these books celebrate with song and dance. It's been fun to add that layer to the book.

The Sharpest Claw should be out in the fall. Until that time, as always, I wish you happy moments in song and dance.