Archives: September 2013

Book vs. Baby

by Addie Boswell
Published on: September 24, 2013
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Expecting my first child, I have been thinking a lot about writing and motherhood, and how much I’ll have to give up of the first for the second. And then I think of how laborious writing a novel has been. Book versus Baby: which is harder? As far as gestation, a baby does take a mere 9 months as opposed to 1-10 years to write a novel. And those periods are similar: frustrating, delightful, insomnia-producing, tearful, surprising. Publishing your first novel, I assume, feels like sending the kid off to kindergarten or college.

Yet a novel, once published, leaves your hands and your heart and ventures forth into the world with near-complete independence. Children retain their grasp, even after their allotted 18 years. When I start to obsess about the (gasp) decades of child-rearing ahead of me, I try to think about the many successful writers and great parents I know and hear about. Here are some posts I’ve enjoyed on the balance of it all.

Writing and Mother: How I (sort of) do both, via Shannon Hale’s blog

How to be a Writer and Stay-at-home Parent, by Katherine Sparrow, via the Blabbermouth

Two (Sucked) Thumbs Up, by Jason McBride, for the New York Times.

And here are my favorite parenting books, from an ever-growing list of choices.

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The Scriva Bullies

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: September 20, 2013
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Be careful what you suggest in a critique group meeting – even in jest. A writer might just do what you say.

At a critique group meeting a while ago, we Scrivas observed that ScrivaNicole kept giving us revisions of the first 50 pages of her amazing middle grade novel over and over again. While we loved reading it each time (see post equating Nicole’s luscious writing to fudge), we also wanted to see where the story went, what happened next. And after months of seeing the first 50 pages over and over, we worried that Nicole might be stuck in a rut.

So we told her, jokingly: “Maybe we should sneak into your house, raid your computer, steal the first 50 pages of your novel, and lock them up so you would have to move on.” We all laughed and thought this was a wonderful, if silly, idea.

Then, the next meeting, Nicole said: “I did it.”

“Did what?” we asked.

“I had Danny [my husband] take the first 50 pages off my computer,” she said. She handed us each a small stack of paper. “Here they are. You can read them and comment, but don’t give me any comments, even if I ask for them…”

She looked a little worried and we felt a little guilty for teasing her, but at the next meeting Nicole handed over – and purged from her computer – another chunk of the book. She kept plugging away at it, handing over chapters. Before we knew it, she finished the whole thing!

Apparently in a critique group, there is a time and place for everything, even a little good-natured bullying.  Maybe sometimes we all need a little tough love.


Enjoying the Cross-Genre Dance

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: September 16, 2013
Categories: Genre, Other Topics
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Recently, my husband and I were blessed with a night out by ourselves (a rarity with having two kids). We decided to strap on our hipster personas, head into downtown Portland, eat at the food carts, and attend an “Electro-Swing” concert at a local club.

Yes, I said, “Electro-Swing.”

“What is that?” you might ask.  We first discovered this type of “cross-genre” brand of music only a couple of months back in early summer at a Steampunk Convention that my magician husband was performing at.

We loved it!  After having taken many East Coast Swing lessons pre-kids and going dancing at places like The Derby in Los Angeles in our vintage attire and at  “Big Bad Voodoo Daddy” and “Cherry Poppin Daddies” concerts (yes, this dates me, I know), these new bands were bringing swing back in a fresh way once again.  Not into the mainstream, but I’m more into alternative styles anyway.  We have recently added their music to our collection.

Enjoying “electro-swing” has gotten me to thinking about how cool of a time we live in—a time where we artists can melt what has gone before us into new and fresh ideas.  I am loving reading cross-genre books lately.  I’m not so sure that they’re a “trend” either, but more like a way of the future.   According to, cross-genre fiction is, “fiction that mixes two different genres, or types, of writing, such as historical fiction and fantasy, or romance and supernatural fiction, or aliens and cowboys — well, you get the idea.” Publisher’s Weekly did an article back a year ago in 2012 about “Crossing the Streams.”  Crossing genres seems like it is becoming the norm more and more.

Most of my taste is drawn to a lot of YA historical romance mixed with either mystery/ espionage/adventure or a bit of paranormal/fantasy or even a bit of everything!  YA titles I’ve enjoyed lately include Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb (historical/paranormal/romance), Born of Illusion by Teri Brown (historical/paranormal/romance), Wildwing by Emily Whitman (historical/fantasy or sci-fi/ romance), Venom by Fiona Paul (historical/mystery/romance) and Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan (historical/mystery-espionage).  And I must include our very own Scriva Ruth in this category with the Oregon Book Award winning Blue Thread! (historical/fantasy or sci-fi).

Two adult titles I have to mention that I’ve loved in the cross-genre category are the Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Romance, Sci-Fi, Chick Lit, Literary) and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Romance, Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal, Mystery).

Why are cross-genres being published more and more?  For me, the stories are fresh, interesting, and multi-layered, making for a deep reading experience.

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts about the future of this type of story as well as other titles people have enjoyed that could be considered cross-genre.

Happy Writing and Reading!


-Nicole Marie Schreiber



Can you kill a book?

by Amber Keyser
Published on: September 12, 2013
Categories: Challenges
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Tom Riddle’s Diary


Currently, I’m deep into revisions for a contemporary, realistic novel, and I’m also deep in anxiety that I am going to kill this book.

Large scale revisions which require me to adjust characterization or radically reconstruct my plot, make me feel like a puppet-master.

“Ah, my pretty!  You thought you liked boys?  Surprise!  I’ve decided you’re going to be hot and bothered for the girl next door.”

“What? Your showdown with the ax murderer happened at night in a convenience store?  Not any more.  Try the art museum in front of a tour group of little old ladies!”

Boggart Goes Poof

I’m confident that both my characters and my plot can withstand this sort of earth-shaking revision a few times, but can you go too far?  What if I force my character to try on so many things (Shy or more assertive?  Close to mom or distant?  Soccer or ballet?) that she implodes like the boggart in Lupin’s Defense Against the Dark Arts class?

What if I revise the life out of my story?

I don’t know the answer.

What do you think?

Have you ever killed a book?

I Asked for Wonder

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: September 4, 2013
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heschel-and-king This photo shows a familiar face on the right: The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Next to him stands the Jewish activist, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and between the two men is a tiny American flag. If the average picture, they say, is worth 1,000 words, then this one is worth at least 10,000. For today’s blog post, however, I will be brief.

Forget the essay on social justice and the American dream. Forget the essay on the pitfalls and rewards of writing historical fiction. As I contemplate the start of the Jewish New Year tonight at sundown, I remember Heschel’s reflection on his book of poetry:

“I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And you gave it to me.”

Dr. King, and many people of all faiths, would have understood that the “you” Rabbi Heschel referred to is the divine spirit that goes by more names than I will attempt to list. What intrigues me as a writer, though, is not the “you” part, but Heschel’s asking for wonder.

Wonder, I realize, is what drives my writing. Yours, too, I’d guess. I see wonder in the work I have the pleasure of critiquing through Viva Scriva. Wonder at the natural world, or the supernatural world. Wonder at a newly-discovered star, or the workings of a volcano, or a canoe trip into the wilderness. There’s the wonder of the power of family during war, or of two people becoming a couple, or of friendship in the midst of despair. And the wonder of simply living a life day by day.

Don’t get me wrong. Success would certainly be satisfying. I wouldn’t say no to the Prinz award and to a wagon load of money. But success in the writing world is dicey. Stories worth reading go unfinished or unpublished. Life intervenes.

Instead, I ask for wonder. There’s plenty to go around. Here. Take a bit yourself. Take more. You won’t ever be sorry that you did.



Facing our Fears

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: September 1, 2013
Categories: Challenges, Inspiration
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Twyla TharpI loved Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit when I read it months ago. I thought it was an essential inspirational book and workbook for any creative type, and wanted to return to it. I just did.


On pages 22-23, Tharp (left) exorcises her fears by naming* and looking at them, one by one. I decided to do the same. My own fears have held steady over the last few months:


-My book(s) will not be as good on the page as they are in my head.

-I am still not 1000% sure which pathway is best through the options of my story.

-My book(s) may not affect readers as intensely as some books affect me.

-My family may not be happy with what I did in books that are inspired by, or based on, family stories.

-It will take far longer to write my book(s) than I think it will, or than I think it SHOULD.


Examining my own fears:


My book(s) will not be as good on the page as they are in my head.

No, they may not be, and that’s a universal fear and reality. But I believe I can write, and I am willing to do the refining and polishing work to get my books as close as I can to my vision. And—in some ways, what I write will be BETTER than what is in my head. If you craft stories, you too know how happy ideas crop up WHILE writing, connections and twists that you hadn’t thought of before sitting down to set down, or flesh out, what you’ve been imagining. [* Hmm! I hadn’t thought of this before.]


I am still not 1000% sure which pathway is best through the options of my story.

Yet the more work I do on my book, the closer I am getting to the specific variant of my complex story that I want to tell. Scriva encouragements/exercises from a couple of months ago help. For example: Write down the scenes and components you absolutely MUST have in.  THEN figure out how to connect them, or the order they should be in.


My book(s) may not affect readers as intensely as some authors’ books have affected me.

Some works make me ache with their depth, craft, and beauty. Each writer’s gift is different, and I already know that my books will not be Shakespeare or the Bible. Yet I have rich tales to tell; ability; the readiness to do the work; the sense, honed through much reading, of what pierces deeply and what stays on the surface, or, worse, annoys. And I have the Scrivas, who will set me straight when I fall off the path or where I have blinders on.


My family may think I should have written differently the books that are inspired by, or based on, family stories.

That may be the case. So that I can write the books I want to, I’m holding myself separate from comments, negative OR positive, by keeping mum around family members about said projects as much as possible.


(In some way this last fear amuses me, and I think I shouldn’t have it, but I do.) It will take far longer to write my book(s) than I think it will, or than I think it SHOULD.

Yes, it will. Just get over it. And start now. Keep starting, as Neil Fiore, author of The Now Habit, says. Then one day, eventually, I WILL be done.


So what are your fears? What does examining them show you? What ends up being surprisingly helpful?



If you’re wondering, Tharp’s fears are:


1. People will laugh at me.

2. Someone has done it before.

3. I have nothing to say.

4. I will upset someone I love.

5. Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind.


Sabina I. Rascol


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