Sunday, May 27, 2012

Alyson Noel and FATED in Albuquerque

Alyson Noel kicked off her new Soul Seekers series in Albuquerque last Tuesday with FATED at Alamosa Books. FATED is the story of Daire Santos, a young girl who's mother sends her to Enchantment, New Mexico to live with a grandmother she has never met. Only Daire's grandmother knows what the girl's visions mean - that Daire is destined to travel between the worlds of the living and the dead as a soul seeker. Filled with romance, shamanism, and charm, this new series is sure to be a hit.

Go here to listen to the Audio Clip of FATED available through Macmillan Audio Books at Amazon

Alyson talked about her journey as a writer and said the beginning wasn't easy. FAKING NINETEEN was rejected by several publishers, including her own St. Martin's Press. At the time they didn't even publish YA. Then a new editor came on board who wanted to try books for teens. Her agent pitched the book again, and it sold. FAKING NINETEEN was the first teen title published by St. Martin's Press. Alyson said sales for her first seven books were unremarkable. Then EVERMORE hit the New York Times Best Seller List and she's been on a roll ever since. She attributes the initial success of EVERMORE, in part, to the fact that Walmart put in a huge order. They loved the book and loved the cover. She pointed out that a lot of towns don't have bookstores and Walmart is where a lot of people find books. Of course it also helped that EVERMORE was a really good story.

When rewriting her first novel, Alyson said her agent recommended she read STORY by Robert McKee. She knew within just a few pages what was wrong with her book and how to fix it. She still looks back through STORY before starting a new manuscript. The other book she recommended was SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. Snyder, like McKee, bases his story analysis on screenplay format. He breaks stories into fifteen "beats" that keep the action moving forward. Alyson said one of the first things she does when she sits down to write is to make sure that her story has all fifteen of the "beats."

Regarding having other people critique one's writing, Alyson said she is a very private writer and does not like to share her work with anyone until it's in pretty good shape. She said "Advice comes in all forms and not all of it is good." She warned against getting too many people's opinions in your head and losing track of who you are writing for. If you are going to work with someone, make sure they understand and appreciate your genre. You don't want someone who focuses on literary fiction to critique your romance novel or vice versa.

It was very special to have Alyson Noel in New Mexico for her first stop on the FATED tour. Fans will have a special treat in store with this exciting new series.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Watching the Eclipse

Thousands of people from many distant places gathered in Albuquerque this evening for the solar eclipse. My daughter came down from Colorado with her boyfriend, a high power telescope, and a solar filter. Thank God for science buffs. We gathered in our backyard with friends, family, and neighbors to view the moon coming between the earth and the sun. The process began around 6:30 p.m. and reached it's apex with the ring of fire appearing around 7:30. It was the first annular eclipse in 18 years.

Hardware stores sold out of welding glasses and hundreds waited in line at Balloon Fiesta Park for three hours or more where astronomers had set up telescopes for public viewing. A friend of ours also brought a stack of film negatives. Supposedly, if you stack four layers of film negatives together, you can look at the sun. I certainly hope that's true because we were all trying it out as we waited for a turn at the telescope.

We were very lucky to have this view from our backyard. Here are two photos through the telescope lens.

Besides the telescope, we made the traditional pin holes in paper. Not nearly as clear as the telescope, but surprisingly effective. What we didn't expect was to see images of the eclipse on the fence through the shadows of our tree leaves.

Next up is the Transverse of Venus on June 5!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Below is an Excerpt from my recent post on Crowe's Nest. To read the entire article go to the Crowe's Nest

On Sunday, April 29th, I took part in an all day preconference institute at the International Reading Association in Chicago with seven other authors and another Crowe's Nester - Lisa Schroeder.
The title of our institute was Rekindling the Reading and Writing Fire. We spent an entire day sharing author tips with teachers about how professional authors write and think about stories as we explored a variety of genres that ended with a poetry panel that included me, Lisa, April Halprin Wayland, and Caroline Starr Rose.

The focus of our panel was on exploring how to hook struggling readers with verse novels in our segment entitled: Social Issues in Contemporary Fiction and Verse Novels: Recognizing Literary Devices and the Implications for Struggling Readers

Lisa and I have special places in our hearts for struggling readers. I work in the public schools as a speech-language pathologist and both of us have books selected as YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers.


Although TAKE ME THERE is not a verse novel, it contains several original poems. It's about a boy who can't read or write, but dreams of becoming a poet. My first true verse novel, FORGET ME NOT, will be published by Simon Pulse in October of 2012.

To Read the Rest of the Article go to the Crowe's Nest

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Being a writer requires long hours of sitting in front of a computer. So do many other professions. Sitting for hours at a time is very taxing on the body. Repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis can be extremely painful, not to mention the negative affects of lack of exercise on overall health. But for people who sit for a large part of their day, it can be difficult to get moving. As the old adage goes, "Bodies in motion stay in motion. Bodies at rest stay at rest."

So what is a writer (or other sedentary couch potato) to do? How does one get up from the chair and move, especially if there are looming deadlines? How do we fit exercise into an already hectic schedule, especially if you are juggling a writing career with a full-time job? We all know that exercise has numerous health benefits, but who has the time?

 A recent article in the IDEA Fitness Journal summarized a study conducted by The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm conducted that was published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (2011: 53 [8]). The purpose of the study was to determine the result of work productivity on workers who were given time off (2.5 hours per week) to exercise. Actual productivity of these workers was similar to that of people who didn’t get time off to exercise, but the exercise group reported that they felt more productive and took fewer days off due to illness. The bottom line was that taking time off to exercise didn’t decrease productivity, and in some cases, increased it.

Could the same be true for writers? Would I write the same number of pages even if I used some of my limited time for exercise?

My personal experience has been that when I adhere to an exercise schedule and take breaks to exercise, I feel more mentally alert, more energetic, and more organized.  It’s hard to get started though. Sometimes it can feel like trying to move a mountain, (or at least my mountain-like butt).

A book I have found extremely helpful is 8 Minutes in the Morning by Jorge Cruise. He outlines a weight lifting program that addresses all the major muscle groups and can be accomplished in as little as 8 minutes a day. He cites evidence that when we exercise in the morning, we continue to burn calories all day. His book contains handy travel cards that you can slip into your wallet when you’re on the road. There is a diet plan and even inspirational motivators. 

But to be completely honest, I leave for work at six forty-five in the morning, and I write before that, so many days even that 8 minutes feels impossible. One solution I've incorporated is to take an adjustable weight to work and do two minutes of exercise at a time. I also have an adjustable set of weights next to my writing desk at home. This reminds me to get up every now and then and move my body. Even this small amount of exercise helps me stay toned and pain free. Just as writing a book requires focusing on one page at a time, even a couch potato like me can become fit if I just do a little bit of exercise every day.