Sunday, May 30, 2010

Super-short Dogsledding Essay

With the temperature soaring, it seems a perfect time to infuse a little sparkly winter fun. I've been wanting to share this for a while, but thought I'd try to get it published first. It seems it's not the right length for magazines.

This placed as a finalist last year in the Writers' Union of Canada post card competition.

Soho, Nitro and I - winter 1995
The Orange Bib
By Terry Lynn Johnson

The cacophony of hundreds of crazed sled dogs clipped to their drop-lines sets me on edge. Odours of urine-soaked straw and thawing ground chicken hang in the air. Like a tongue poking a sore tooth, my mind stubbornly returns to the fear file. Lose the team; dog fight; entangle with another competitor…

When I stood on the shore of this lake years ago, I saw an image that has been with me ever since. In the hazy light of dawn, I watched the orange bib of a musher slowly vanish in the ice-fog. His team silently took him to a magic land. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen. I wanted to be him. Now I’m back to run my first race.

I visit with each of my six dogs and hide the jitters. They take on my emotions. Apollo, my gangly black leader, shoves the top of his head into my stomach. His habit reminds me of a photo I saw of a couple with their foreheads pressed together – a stolen, intimate moment.

Denali is hiding under the truck. I kneel in the dirty slush. “You’re gonna make people talk.” He looks out at me with soft brown eyes then crawls forward. I get a wet kiss.

Dainty Soho is shooting coy glances at Nitro. Tarzan is grinning at me with all his teeth showing. And Blaze is shamelessly on her back, legs spread.

I look at my team and realize I’ve already found the magic land.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm Alive

Just went for a dip before work for the first time this year. It does look warm, but trust me - still gasp worthy. I'm not sure if it was the 42 degree F temperature, or my crippling fear of turtles that had me leaping out as fast as I went in.

However, after I scrambled out, my skin was red, burning, tingling and deliciously alive.

What makes you feel joy of living? Gives you a new perspective on the day?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Random stuff

Few random things I'd like to pass along:

1. Elana Johnson sold her amazing-sounding book CONTROL ISSUES!!! Yay Elana and welcome to The Elevensies!

2. Elana and several other Elevensie members have formed a fantastic new blog for dystopian fans The League of Extraordinary Writers.

3. A few seriously amazing books I've just finished reading and highly recommend:
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S.King

Monday, May 17, 2010

On our hike today...

Hiking adventures continued today when we came upon this cute little creature.

With his brown fur, round ears and sweet facial expression, there was no doubt what he was. Plus he climbed a Red Pine and sat on a branch and "whirred" at us. He sounded like a grocery cart with a squeaky wheel. Give up?

This is a Pine Marten! I don't know if they are prevalent in the States.They have semi-retractable claws to help them climb better, and thick foot pads to lift them out of the snow. Mature conifer forest is their preferred habitat.They are normally very shy and hang out alone. I haven't seen very many, so I was thrilled to be given this opportunity to exchange greetings. I'm pretty sure I understood what he was saying too.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Applause for cover artists

Fellow Elevensies member Kim Harrington posted a wonderful glimpse into the day she first saw the cover art for her debut book. Go here to be moved. Though she couldn't share the image with us yet, she captured that feeling of the book now becoming REAL to her. Now she could imagine what it will look like in the bookstore.

While I wait for my own moment when I see my cover for Dogsled Dreams, I can relate to her emotions. Nick Craine, an illustrator with Dogs In Canada Magazine captured the likeness of my beloved leader Apollo for an article I wrote. It was as if the illustrator reached into my brain to pull out the quirkiness that made Apollo unique. Just look at the demonic stare! That's totally him!

I've read a lot of posts lately of author friends being THRILLED with their covers. Carol Anne Shaw's cover is stunning.  

Danika Dinsmore got a great cover after the first one didn't really work, and her publisher was willing to try a new cover. I think it was worth the extra effort!

I'm still a few months away from seeing my own cover. But I can share in the excitement of others over theirs. From someone who can't play pictionary due to the atrocious drawing, I'm in awe of the talent of illustrators.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What fills YOUR soul back up?

Silky calm waters
setting up for a sprint race. It ended in a tie after "to that pine" proved a little too vague.

finding a magical waterfall!
I've finished my rewrite! Sent off the revisions! And I'm free from the desk! Now it's all over but the waiting.
May as well spend my waiting time messing around in boats.

(My crit parter Paul Greci gave my ms a wonderful shout out on his blog! Thanks Paul!)

How do you spend your waiting time? (besides more writing)

Monday, May 3, 2010

SCBWI Michigan Conference

Whew! I'm back from the cyclone of activity that was the Lansing Michigan spring conference. Unfortunately, I was so star-strucked by all the great speakers, I completely forgot to take pictures until the end of the day at question period. Here's the panel of presenters.

The day was efficiently broken into 50 minute workshops. It was hard to pick which ones to go to since they all looked so good. Here's a bit of what I learned:

Jay Asher - author of Thirteen Reasons Why

Jay is an amazing speaker! I hope you get a chance to listen to his talk on how he got published (all 12 years of trying) what an inspiration! And he's also hilarious.
  • since everyone is different, it's hard to get relavant writing tips for everyone at a conference. The biggest thing to gain from a conference is inspiration
  • Jay started off writing funny books. It's what he thought he wanted. It took him ten years to learn he can't. Let go of what you think you're best at. Be open minded to try new things.

Beth Fleisher - Literary agent with Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency

Ms. Fleisher fills up a room with her personality. And she has a "you be you, I'll be me" attitude that is fun and refreshing.
  • setting is the soul of a book
  • you must sweep the reader into that world. If you don't create it, it doesn't exist
  • pay attention to details - kids are curious how others live, they love content
  • setting points out the emotional state of the character
  • Ground your book - you have to live in a house. Your book has to live in a house.

Ruta Rimas - assistant editor at Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins imprint)

I so enjoyed listening to Ruta! She's a delight.
  • go through your wip word by word, then sentences, then paragraphs asking if everything works
  • next she suggested working on voice - rewrite a scene in your wip with a new voice

Donna Gephart - author of How to Survive Middle School

Funny, funny lady! And great writing tips. And a Verla Kay blue boarder!
  • 175,000 books are published per year
  • your characters have to stand out, give them interesting quirks
  • they also have to have a "like me" factor to be able to relate to
  • you do this by including a universal emotion eg. desire to be included, need to be loved, etc.
  • characters need to change in such a way, they can never go back to the way they were
  • give information about your character through an eye dropper
  • what secret is your character hiding in her closet?
Lisa Yoskowitz - assistant editor at Dutton Children's Books

It was interesting hearing the insider secrets of how an editor goes through the slush pile
  • an editor evaluates:
  • if voice is authentic
  • if story has a universality
  • originality and character development
  • is there rising tension? good pacing?
  • do I LOVE it?
  • Lisa also suggests you need an agent!

I was able to purchase the top two books and get them signed by the authors. And I won a copy of Take Joy!
Now I'm full of inspiration, made new friends and contacts, and I'm eager to try out some of the tricks I learned. I'll be working on revisions for the next few weeks, so will be scarce here and on your blogs. But the best thing I heard at the conference - you have to WRITE! and I'm off to do that.