More Life, Less Blogging

I feel like I should feel bad about not blogging as much lately, but the truth is, on the other side of this blank screen, I’ve been having a great time just enjoying and living life. And like all changes, I know that this little dry spell on the blog will soon pass, so I refuse to fret over it.

A few of the things I’m excited about as of late:

I joined a sand volleyball league. Did I ever tell you I used to play in high school? And about my recurring dream, even 10 years later, that I’d try to play again but discover I can no longer serve the ball over the net? (Happy to report it did not come true.) Or how about the story of how writing in a journal helped me learn to serve in the first place? No? I’ll come back to that some other time. Promise.

The new cards I printed with info about my book.

The new cards I printed with info about my book, in preparation for this week’s conference.

I’ll be in NYC next week for the Comadres and Compadres Latino Writer’s Conference. And I’ll be meeting with my publisher while I’m in town as well. I’ll be sure to share lots of updates and pictures on my Facebook page.

Today’s my first day volunteering for a local organization that teaches kids creative writing. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for the longest time, and I finally realized that even if life doesn’t calm down to give me time, I need to make time for the things that matter.

E and I bought a new car this weekend. So now the question is, “Where to?”

I recently got to see cover concepts for Chasing the Sun and they took my breath away. Can’t share just yet…but I couldn’t help teasing, just a little.

What’s new with you?


25 Wonderful Photos of Today’s Women Writers At Work

A couple of weeks ago I came across this post called 16 Wonderful Photos of Women Writers at Work. I loved that it captured so many of the writers who inspired women like me to pursue our love of the written word. They helped fuel entire generations of writers after them, and there was something special about seeing these women in action, in a moment as private as writing behind a desk or as public as signing books for fans.

I wondered what a post like this would look like today, so I put out a call for women writers to send me pictures of themselves at work. I’m tempted to say so much about these pictures, but I think they more than speak for themselves:

1. Camille Noe Pagán, author of The Art of Forgetting

2. Sharon Short, author of My One Square Inch of Alaska, and Emilie Richards, author of Somewhere Between Luck and Trust

3. Suzy Spencer, author of Secret Sex Lives (photo credit: Joe O’Connell)

[Read more…]

Getting Your Hands Dirty With Edits

Ever since I can remember, my mom’s had a motto: Orden y Limpieza. Order and Cleanliness. When my sister and I were young and tasked with mopping the floors or scrubbing the bathtub (yellow gloves: mandatory) my mom would repeat this to us with cheer in her voice, hoping we’d echo her enthusiasm.

We never did. When we were done cleaning, she’d look around the room, breathe in the power of Pine-Sol or Pledge or whatever concoction we’d been using, and say, “See? Doesn’t a clean house make you feel better?”

Sometimes we’d humor her and nod and smile. Mostly, though, we’d roll our eyes, relieved to wash our hands of those nasty little chores.

You know how this part of the story goes. I grow up and realize my mother was right …even when the dirty work is torture in the beginning.

As I may have mentioned a few times on the blog, I’ve been busy revising my novel lately. I got my edit letter from editor back in November and turned in the edits just a few weeks ago. Though I’ve always preferred revising to writing rough drafts, this time the experience was different; it was daunting to know that I wasn’t just revising for myself or for my writer’s group, but for my editor (and then, if the edits stuck, for a future audience).

I read her letter multiple times before we spoke on the phone. It was clear I had a lot of work to do, but we were on the same page with most things and were both convinced it’d make the story stronger. I hung up the phone with a truckload of motivation and a deadline 3 months away.

I was ready to get those rubber gloves on and start polishing my manuscript until it shone like a set of abs on a Men’s Health cover. My mom would’ve been proud.

So I began gathering my cleaning supplies—I told myself I needed to research a few things first.

Days passed and the manuscript started getting a little dusty. Weeks passed and the dogs’ hair shed so much that it collected, in clumps, around the corners. Outlines, random articles I printed out, and DVDs of documentaries I checked out from the library began cluttering the story to the point I feared walking into it.

“It’s not a hot mess. It’s just lived in,” I told myself. I skimmed the pages and made small changes like switching a pronoun with a character’s name in places my editor had indicated confusion, or cutting and pasting a passage to a later part of a chapter.

“See? I’m cleaning up,” I thought, when really I was just shoving dirty shoes into the closet and stuffing clothes, unfolded, into drawers to get them out of sight.

Then one day, while sipping a breakfast smoothie and caught up in barely-lifting-a-finger-except-for-the-one-that-hits-delete edits, I came upon a nasty spot. I leaned in to get a better look.

“What? Is that…is that a piece of flat dialogue?” I scratched at it a little, saw it start to disintegrate. The last part of the passage was stickier, though. No matter how hard I scrubbed, I could still see its remnants on the page, glaring at me like the ghost of a wine stain on a fancy white couch cushion. I added some elbow grease. This wouldn’t do. This was personal now.

That’s when the rubber gloves came on. [Read more…]

How Much Time Do We Really Need to Write?

Fellow Studio'ites: Da FrogsSo you know how last Friday  on Twitter I mentioned something about a pseudo-secret experiment?

I couldn’t mention it on Twitter or on the blog because due to the nature of the experiment, I wasn’t supposed to be online. Inspired by Cynthia Robertson’s post on whether or not having a day job hinders or helps a writer’s efforts to find time to write, I decided to not have a day job for the day. I completely cleared my calendar on Friday and devoted it to absolutely nothing but my new WIP.

As with all experiments, I had a hypothesis. I had the suspicion that while time helps, it’s not the only thing writers need to write.

The procedure went a little bit like this:

I finished up all my freelance writing work for the week on Thursday. I answered all my pending emails, and even scheduled one or two Tweets so I wouldn’t feel completely cut off from the world.  I imagined my Friday would give me a taste of what it’s like to be a full-time author, dedicated to nothing else but writing fiction. Dreamy, right?

Here’s how it played out:

8:30: Woke up (yes, I tend to let myself sleep in on Fridays. It’s one of the perks of having a 30-second commute). Had breakfast and took Maggie for a walk around the park.

9:30: Sat down to write and cheated just a little. I checked my work email and replied to two or three messages that needed answers right away.

10:00: Took my laptop from my office to the kitchen table and started writing. My kitchen table has officially become my “it’s time to start writing some fiction” place. I guess you could say I’ve come full circle—in my first apartment, when I only had one bedroom, I’d write all day at the table. Now that I have an actual office, I need to separate my freelance writing from my fiction writing. So, back to the kitchen table it is. This trick works every time. I sat down to write and edited the chapter I’d written the previous evening. I don’t usually edit as I go, but I figured since I have the whole day ahead of me…

12:30: Stopped for a lunch break and a much-needed stretch. Checked the mail and took Maggie out for a quick walk before realizing it was 108 degrees out.

1 – 2:45: Wrote the first scene of my next chapter. Finally started to feel like I had some momentum going.

2:45 – 3:30: Took a reading break on my couch. By now, my back was killing me and I felt my creativity starting to lag. Reading helps get my juices flowing, so I thought it’d be a good time for a break. What I didn’t account for is the fact that it’s nearly impossible for me to read shortly after lunch and not fall asleep. At about the 30-minute mark, I was just a blink away from passing out. Luckily, E called from class because he needed me to turn on his computer and activate his Dropbox account. This woke me right up. I suspect it was the embarrassment of almost being caught asleep in the middle of the afternoon that did it.

3:30 – 6:30: Wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I think I hit a pretty good stride here, and it only took me five and a half hours. By the end of the day, I’d written just over 4000 words and edited about another 1000. That’s well above my usual goal of at least 1000 words a day.

6:30-6:45: Popped into Twitter real quick to answer some tweets, then wrote a couple more emails.

6:45 and onward: Took Maggie for another walk. Me: Starving and exhausted. My back: destroyed. Dinner and a movie. And a bit of whining about my back pain.


While I loved setting aside an entire day for only writing and definitely got more done than usual, I don’t think it’s something I could keep up on a daily basis. For one, the experiment’s slightly tainted because I have to wonder if I would’ve been so productive if I wasn’t so interested in getting results. I’m sure a part of me didn’t want to have to write a blog post to the effect of: Woke up and went back to bed. Wrote 100 words in between bathroom and lunch breaks.

Another thing to consider is that the day left me both physically and emotionally drained. This whole month I’d been working on my new WIP for a couple of hours every single day. For 26 days I managed never to skip a day because I was pacing myself. Friday’s sprint was exhausting, and I ended up needing the weekend to recover.

And yet…at the end of the day on Friday, as tired as I was, I felt really good. It was empowering to know that I could keep going all day, even through moments of exhaustion and moments when I felt blocked and moments when I just wanted to crawl into bed.

So maybe I keep my slower, steady pace for now, and go for the sprints every three weeks or so. It’s nice to mix things up every once in a while, which brings me to my final conclusion: We need time, yes. But we also need variety to inspire us and rest to leave us feeling rejuvenated. At least, that’s what my back is telling me.

What about you? If you had an entire day to just do what you love to do, what it be like? And writers, do you think time is the most important tool in our toolbox? Or are others just as important?

Creative Commons License photo credit: juhansonin

Music, Maestro, Please!

This week has been so crazy busy that I almost forgot I’m going to a concert tonight. And not just any concert—I’m going to see the band responsible (okay, partly responsible) for the first few drafts of my book play live.

I don’t always listen to music while I write. The best soundtrack for me is usually silence, except for when I’m in first draft mode and I just want to get the words out and clean them up later. I discovered Explosions in the Sky around the same time that I started my book, and for four months straight, they became part of my daily routine: I’d start up iTunes, open Scrivener, and write for hours, all the while trying not to let my inner editor get too much in the way. Those days were magical; they’re what Dani Shapiro described as a time in every writer’s life when they’re just starting out and writing in the dark.

These are the guys I listen to when I want to get back there.


What’s your go-to writing music? Share them in the comments below.