Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Treasures in my Life

I am writing about treasures in my life. It’s this weekend’s theme in Pandora Poikilos’s fun Blog-A-Licious Tour. You don’t have to be in the tour to blog-hop and comment. Great subject, right? It’s a valuable exercise to call up affirmations, especially when you’re stressed, overwhelmed or just plain whiny. If you’re hopping over from Janu’s blog, welcome. And I hope you’ll jump on over to David’s blog, the one after me, when you’re finished mine.

I treasure my writing community—online friends and face-time associates, my longstanding writing group, my zany retreat buddies, my wise agent and the various editors with whom I’ve worked.

I treasure my native imagination. Without it, I’d be lost. I’ve had big fun making up characters like, Johar, a fifteen-year-old Afghan poet and weaver, and futuristic inventions like a credit card skimmer, imbedded in one’s wrist.

My family is a treasure. I’m proud of my sons—one teaching history and geography in a former palace in China, and the other, a fourth-year Arabic student interested in working for a humanitarian organization, who just returned from Cairo. I’m proud of their brave and fearless stance as they traverse the globe. Was it all of our family travels when they were little tykes that inspired them? I’d like to think so. I also treasure the fact that my hubby and I have been friends for so long.

I treasure my years as a painter, and I treasure art, as it has complimented my journey into narrative. For writing, as painting, is about “brushing in” vivid scenes, plot and characters, and layering—a layer of scaffold, a layer of detail, a layer of suspense, a pulling-back layer of compression, a final glossy varnish that pops the story to brilliant highlights and shadowy depth.

I treasure my students, for they inspire and amaze me.

I encourage you to jump over to the blogs below, also in the tour, to read about what others treasure. But first, leave me a note about what you treasure!

1. Dilman
2. Debbie
3. Shelley
4. Lucy
5. Karen
6. Shannon
7. Dora
8. Hope
9. Janet
10. Karen
11. Janu
13. David

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Liebster Awards for Fab Blogs Under 200 Followers Go To...

The Liebster Blog Award was given to me by the awesome Beth Fred, whose blog is magical and has purple sparkles that follow you everywhere you put your cursor! Check it out here.

This award spotlights bloggers who have less than 300 followers (like me, so far). As recipients pay it forward, Liebster love keeps growing. Recipients are also asked to share their 5 top picks, then include the following in their blog:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who awarded you.

2. Reveal your top 5 picks & let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy & paste the award on your blog. (see award image above!)

4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

5. And most of all—have bloggity-blog fun!

Lots of my picks are indie authors to watch. So, here goes:

1. Arthur Slade, a well-published kids' fantasy author, who is turning all of his out of print books into indie gold! Learn how here.

2. Christine Murray, a journalist and author of urban fantasy, who lives in Dublin. Her blog is always thoughtful.

3. Katie Klein, successful indie author of YA fantasy, tells it like it is about her publishing experience. Worth a look!

4. Jenny Phresh's Party Pony blog. OMG, she is the funniest writer alive. I'm not kidding!

5. Angela Carlie, a middle grade & YA author of fantasy. Check her blog here. She's a member of the indie collective, DarkSide Publishing, a very impressive group. And her novel, Land of Corn Chips has the best title and cover everrrrr.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Does Your Writing Space Look Like?

A writer spends many hours in his or her den, office, cubicle, studio, or as I affectionately call mine—the rabbit hole. So, the way that the space is arranged is an important aspect of being able to settle in. Are you someone who needs a window, streaming with morning light, or do you prefer a dark, cave? Do you like music when you write? Do you use a boombox, an analog record player, or do you listen on your earbuds to the cache on your iPhone? What’s your playlist for your WIP? Right now mine is Velvet Revolver and anything metal or spooky.

I love to write outside in the summer. Witness my sandaled foot, perched on the wooden table at the Cape retreat.

On the table are essentials: coffee and my iPhone. In another photo, see my view on the wraparound porch. Then, there’s a pic of one of my writing cohorts, Maggie, who shares the side porch with me. It’s a rare person I can actually share space with when I write. This attests to how comfortable I feel around her.

Oh, and there’s my lovely retreat hostess, Helen, in her monkey PJs. You see, part of the writing process involves lounging on a morning porch in kiddie PJs and drinking about five cups of coffee, while we rant and rave about our stubborn characters,

our meandering plots, and all of the things that intervene in the writing process—kids, jobs, um… life?

I also have a photo here of my home studio in NYC (Above).
The array of stuff that I have on the wall facing my desk seems random, but it's very planned out. This is where I post pics of my characters, so I can “talk to them” when I write. I also have pics of my writing mentors—Dale Peck and Steven Wright, to name two. They were teachers of mine in my MFA program, and I still hear their voices, encouraging or demanding more.

What does your writing space look like? Do you like the Spartan or the pack rat approach? Do you post lots of photos of your characters and settings like I do? Or is most everything filed in your head? Do you put up the occasional inspirational saying? My latest favorite is from author Franny Billingsley: “A book is like an elegant and efficient machine. Each cog needs to turn something else and, if it doesn't, it should be taken out.” And what’s your writing playlist? Dish here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer Writing Retreats!

It’s that time again for the writing retreat I attend. I look forward to it for months. And I’m willing to endure crawling highway traffic and power outages for it. We have coffee on the porch in the morning while we talk shop. Then we go to our “writing stations”, at various spots on the wraparound porch. We work pretty much through the afternoon, with a quick lunch break. And then, when we're hot, tired and our brains are on overload, we trek through the woods to the beach. We take turns cooking dinner, and play writing games at night. Not a bad life for a week.

I’ve attended an assortment of writing workshops, conferences and retreats over the years. There are ones where you mostly workshop, and spend lots of time reading other authors’ work and critiquing. This is great when you're jumping in for the first time, and really want feedback on your work. There are conferences, where you listen to seasoned writers talk about their novels and how to best negotiate the writing life. This type of event is perfect when what you want is a shot of inspiration and information. And there are many permutations of the above. Summer retreats are also a chance to spend time in a deluxe location—Lake Tahoe, Southampton, Big Sur, Mendocino—you get the drift.

There are so, so many to choose from! You’ll discover this when you Google retreats. And they occur throughout the year. If you’re considering one, find out who the presenting writers are, and whether they’re a good fit for what you’re working on. You may prefer a smallish one, or perhaps a huge one, like the LA SCBWI summer conference, where you can blend in and pick and choose which breakout groups to attend. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a spa and two swimming pools out there.

So, Happy, Happy July Fourth! Have you ever attended a writing retreat? How was it? If not, what kind of retreat or conference would you look for? How are you celebrating the holiday? Getting any writing done?