Even Jane Austen Edited Herself!

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: August 26, 2014
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Here is Jane Austen’s writing desk at Chawton Cottage.

 

Last week I stumbled upon this great article about Jane Austen and her editing process.  Yes, even Austen edited herself, which as I writer I shouldn’t be surprised by since EVERY writer edits and revises their work, but seeing how it was done hundreds of years ago is fascinating and really makes me feel a writerly kinship towards Ms. Austen.  It’s the same feeling I felt when seeing her actual writing desk at Chawton Cottage in England many years ago.  Actually, seeing her editing process makes me feel even closer to her, and makes me realize that we writers, no matter what era we live or lived in, really are kindred spirits.

Enjoy, and happy writing (and editing!)

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

 

What Can/Will/Would You Do, “For the Writing?”

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: August 14, 2014
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This looks like fun! Maybe I can learn to do this someday, “for the writing!”

While writing my first realistic, contemporary YA manuscript since January, I’ve immersed myself in similar YA fiction, movies, and television shows. I notice teens at Starbucks more and listen in on their conversations. I pay more attention to their clothes and contemporary music. Now I find myself swimming in the angst of late teens and twentysomethings on an almost daily basis, which is sometimes hard because I am a fortysomething mother of two boys under the age of nine and a preschool teacher during the school year. So bobbing on the tide of young adulthood doesn’t easily fit into my life.

But I make room. I make a lot of room. It’s what needs to be done. It’s what my story needs, and it’s what we writers do. We find a way to immerse ourselves into the worlds we’ve created. We sometimes do crazy things that many people who live in the world outside of writing would never, ever think of doing. And it’s all to make our characters, our settings, and our stories come alive. Lately, I’ve gorged myself on the HBO series “Girls” (first as research for my novel and now I love the show) and there is a fabulous line from one of the characters that sums my thoughts up. Hannah is a struggling writer, and in one episode she begins to do things, “for the writing.” Some of the things she attempts to do for her writing may look completely outrageous to outsiders, but I really understand where she is coming from. There is just something about actually doing (or getting close to doing) many of the things that our main characters do that makes our writing feel more authentic and real.

This is true for any genre. If you are writing a high fantasy, and you have your characters sword-fighting, try going to a Renaissance Faire or SCA event and pick up a sword yourself to see what it’s like. Try out archery. Take a ride on a horse if your characters are doing the same. Try on some Medieval or Renaissance garb, if your characters wear similar clothing.   If you are writing historical fiction set in pioneer Oregon, get as deep as you can with your research by eating some of the food/recipes of the period. Do some of the chores children did at a living history museum (many have days you can wash clothes the way they did, play period games, make candles, do woodworking, etc). Sit in a covered wagon, or try to take a ride in one.

Immersion may make a lot of sense for these genres, but the same goes for contemporary stories, too. If your main character is a skateboarder, have you ever ridden on a board before? If someone in your book is into the goth/punk scene, try dressing up in that style to see what it feels like.   You don’t have to get a piercing or tattoo, but you could visit a parlor and talk to the people there, or get a feel for the place to try and understand your character better. (You could always go to a wig store and try on a neon blue or fuchsia wig to see how it feels to have a unique hair color.) Listen to the music your characters would like. Look at the world through your characters’ eyes.

No matter the genre, our characters sometimes do things that are dangerous and unhealthy, things that we wouldn’t ever want do ourselves. Or they simply may be things we would feel uncomfortable trying. But perhaps you can interview someone who has done those things to help get the details right. I know that’s helped me as well as my fellow Scrivas. Regarding setting, it really helps if you’ve been to the places you are writing about too, but of course monetary concerns may make it impossible to travel. If you are writing a story set in France but have never been there, many places have French festivals you can attend. Travel and art/architecture/ coffee table books are also helpful to gain a sense of place, as well as travel videos. Even French films can help.

Sometimes you can try things that totally go against your personality (or the personality you and others thought you had) all “for the writing,” and it’s a freeing experience. You can learn so much about yourself.   You can try something that isn’t even linked to the manuscript you are working on right now, but there is a kernel of an idea in your mind for something you might want to write later, and that’s reason enough to try it out. This past summer I’ve taken a class where I’ve had to create a routine and a costume, learn how to put on stage makeup, and perform on a stage…all for two story ideas that I have but I haven’t started writing yet and won’t for quite a while. But the experience will definitely help me with my writing when I do start those stories.

So go and try something new and different, even something that others may think is crazy, unusual, and not you at all…“for the writing.”   Your present and future stories will thank you for it!

Happy Writing!   -Nicole Marie Schreiber

The Power of Words– A Little Writerly Pick-Me-Up

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: May 15, 2014
Categories: Inspiration, Other Topics
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This short YouTube video really spoke to me about the power we writers have with our words.  If any of you are feeling down or stuck or like your work and words don’t matter, this will help pick you up.

Remember, “Change your words.  Change your world.”

We writers make a difference!  Our work MATTERS!

 

 

Happy Writing!

 

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

Cheating on my Novel

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: March 23, 2014
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I am currently cheating on my middle grade historical with a contemporary YA.

I’m not sure if this is anything serious, yet. I thought I would give the YA a two-three month trial just to see how things pan out.  It feels right to be doing this, even though I’ve had a goal to finish my middle grade for a long, long, time.

The affair started back at the beginning of February, during an overnight retreat with my Scrivas.  This YA idea has been brewing for some time within me– slowly taking over not only my brain but my entire being.  It will not let up.  I had to do something about it, so I decided to take the YA idea out on a date of sorts, literally an overnight date on the retreat.  (Edgy for a first date, I know…)

Twenty-something pages later, I knew this new idea wasn’t going to be easily pacified like so many others that I’ve been attracted to while trying to write my current middle grade.  Those ideas were easily satisfied with being “written down and filed away,” but not this YA one.  This new one is demanding, relentless, and needs immediate attention, so I am giving it a couple of months.  I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do, and I know cheating on my middle grade sounds absolutely crazy since I have been working on finishing it for so long, but I have to get this YA out of my brain before I can get back to my other one.

The clock is ticking…

Has this happened to any of you?  If so, how did you deal with it?

 

Happy Writing!

 

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

 

 

Surviving as a Starving Artist…with Kids

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: January 17, 2014
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THE POOR POET by Carl Spitzweg

 

I am a starving artist with two kids…by choice.

Rereading the sentence above, guilt fills me. How can one be a “starving” anything BY CHOICE when you have two kids??

Okay, just to clarify, my family is not technically “starving.”  Not in the least.  My husband and I have a home that we bought during good economic times. We have food.  My kids have gifts on their birthdays and at Christmas.  They have clothes. Holes in their clothes come from them playing hard outside.  We even get to travel sometimes due to all the hotel and airline points that my husband accumulates through his work. But we do live paycheck to paycheck, we pay for our own health insurance, we have had to borrow money in the really, really hard times from family, everything we buy MUST be on sale and bought with a coupon, we rarely eat out, we have OLD computers and no smart phones, we apply for class and camp scholarships, etc…all due to me not having a full-time teaching job in order to pursue my writing.

And at times, the guilt drives me crazy.

My husband works full-time, but he is a freelance journalist, so the money comes in waves.  My job many, many years ago as a full-time public school teacher was stable and secure.  But I left it all behind before I had kids in order to pursue art.  Now I often wonder if I’m being too selfish about my art.

Here’s a little backstory…

 

It seems that Wikipedia really does have a definition for everything.  Take its definition for “a starving artist.”

“A starving artist is an artist who sacrifices material well-being in order to focus on their artwork. They typically live on minimum expenses, either for a lack of business or because all their disposable income goes toward art projects.”

Truthfully, I’ve always felt a bit of romanticism about the bohemian lifestyle and starving artists.  I love the mod Parisian poet lifestyle showcased in the Audrey Hepburn movie “Funny Face” (as well as the swell ponytail, black slimming pants, long-sleeved turtleneck, and ballet flats she wore.)  I love artist enclaves and neighborhoods in big cities, the bohemian vibe of many indie coffeehouses, and those lovable artists in the film, “Moulin Rouge.”

What’s interesting (and I have no reasoning for this that I am aware of right now) is that I didn’t actually follow that way of life when I was in college and early adulthood.  I was raised and trained by my family and conservative university to want a stable career and, God forbid, health care! So I buried my dreams of pursuing art and went into elementary teaching, got my first full-time job right after I graduated, began my new adult life in September wearing a conservative “vest dress”  (very popular in the early nineties for forty-something year-old women, yet  I was only twenty-one) and donning an apple necklace and earring set.  I knew in my heart that I loved books and loved writing since I’d been doing it since I was in elementary school, but I NEVER thought of ever risking stability in order to pursue my art. My conservative choice in career felt safe, and since I had just gotten married right out of college, I wanted security for our new life together as well as money for all those student loans I owed.

After seven years, writing and the artist life called to me so strongly that I couldn’t resist its advances anymore. Even though I was a teacher by training, I desperately wanted to become an artist by choice.

My road to the starving artist life began, albeit slowly.

I cut my full-time, public school teaching job to part-time in order to work on an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.  After two years, having finished my MFA, I decided to quit my part-time teaching job and be an on-call substitute, which enabled me to have more free time for my writing as well as become by all definition what I had romanticized about earlier in my life– a true “starving artist.” Finally, I could be a bohemian in pursuit of truth, beauty, freedom, and love in my writing (as they say in the film, “Moulin Rouge.”)

No, it wasn’t easy.  My husband and I had loved eating out.  I had liked shopping at Whole Foods Market. I had liked going to lots of movies.  But I also liked my new writing time, and my husband was (and still is) a good deal-finder and coupon clipper.  We made do and still were able to have few little luxuries.

Less than a year later, my first son was born.  As any artist with kids most likely understands, my writing went by the wayside as I began my new life as a mother.  It came back in tiny spurts, and after two years, a little more.  The economy was strong when I had my son, my husband was doing well in his work, and the “starving” part of my artistic life disappeared.  I became more concerned about how to be a “writer and a mother.”  Besides, it felt good that the starving part of the equation wasn’t there since I had a kid now…and another kid  three years after the first one.  How could one ever have kids and be a starving artist?  The two just didn’t go together.

Two years later, the economy, and my husband’s job, tanked.  Forget trying to find writing time and having an “artist’s life”.  Now we needed money in order to live.  I searched and searched for a full-time teaching job again, but could only find a part-time one.

Slowly, after a few more years up to the present, my husband’s work has come back, as has the economy.  Both of my children are now in school, and more teaching jobs are available again. I could look for a full-time job now.  I could go back to stability and security.  A part of my brain says I should.  I have kids.  Kids cost money.  They have needs.  College funds.  Cub Scout dues.  Soccer and baseball clubs to join.  Drawing classes to pay for.  Swim lessons.  The list goes on and on.

But I choose my art.  Surviving this fact is hard.  But my heart says that I must do it.  I must keep at this artist life, this writing thing.  Or there will be a hole in my soul.  And I don’t think I could be a very good mother at all with such a void inside of me.

I don’t have a tidy ending for this blog post.  I wish I did.  I wish I could leave you with “Ten Tips About How to Survive as a Starving Artist with Kids” or something like that.  But I don’t have any answers. All I have is hope. 

A never ending hope that…

my art will someday find a home,

my passion and priority for the arts will inspire my children to become creative and have an appreciation for the arts into adulthood,

my children will pass a love for the arts onto their own children,

my children will learn to follow their dreams and passions in life and that money and material possessions aren’t everything,

and

not denying my artistic self will make me easier to live with,

a happier, more-fulfilled person,

and a better mother overall.

 

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

 

Identifying with Middle Grade Readers

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: November 15, 2013
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Today, I went on a field trip with my eight-year-old son’s third grade class to the Oregon Children’s Theatre in downtown Portland.  We had a fabulous time watching “The Magic Tree House” come to life, but more importantly, I had a great time simply watching all of these third graders interact with each other.  Before my son was born, I taught third grade for four years, and it has always been my favorite age, which may be one of the reasons why I am so often drawn to middle grade fiction.  But I’ve been away from third grade for quite some time and am in need of a refresher when it comes to identifying with that age.  Since October, I’ve been able to volunteer a few times in my son’s class, but still felt a bit out of touch with third grade. (It’s hard to identify with third graders when you are making photocopies in the teacher’s work room– though I know that is an important job!)

On the bus today on the way to the theatre, I was able to really take all of the third graders in, and I jotted down some notes about the positives of life in third grade, beginning with this phrase:

Life should be like a day in Third Grade…

It was a great exercise in seeing life through a middle grade readers’ eyes, and I think writing about life in the grade (relatively speaking) you are writing about can help any children’s writer identify more with their readers and their time of life.  I focused on the positives here, but the exercise can be done with the negatives of a grade (as there are always negatives and conflict in life) to balance things out.

Here is how my exercise turned out:

 

Life should be like a day in Third Grade…

Where being kind, caring, and considerate is expected of you– and earns you stickers and/or marbles in a marble jar, which then leads to parties.

Where you can still travel to Mars when you grow up.

Where you can become anything you want to be when you grow up.  Especially a spy, an artist, a computer game maker, a rock star, and a veterinarian.  And after that, you can still travel to Mars.

Where traveling on the bus to a field trip is as exciting as winning the lottery.

Where being placed in the same group as your best friend on the field trip is even better than the field trip itself.

Where extra recess is the ultimate happiness.

Where Santa Claus may or may not be real, but you hope beyond hope that he is.

Where magic may or may not be real, but you hope beyond hope that it is.

Where snack time is as important as breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.  Okay, maybe not dessert…

Where playing “Bubblegum, Bubblegum, in a Dish…How Many Pieces Do You Wish?” is like an Olympic Sport.

Where a hug from your favorite teacher makes you feel all warm and cozy inside.

Where being caught in a sudden rainstorm during recess is cause for cheering and applause.

Where friends bring each other to the nurse’s office.

Where teamwork and working well with others is not only encouraged, but revered.

Where watching salmon eggs hatch causes gasps of disbelief.

Where the many tricks for multiplying factors by nine also cause gasps of disbelief.

Where you can go home and still want to cuddle your favorite stuffed animal at bedtime, without your friends knowing about it.

Where reading still rules.

 

After rereading my list (which I had to stop for time’s sake), I now feel much closer to a third grader’s time of life again and I can visualize this list helping me when I next work on my middle grade fiction.  Any exercise that can help us identify with our readers will only make our writing stronger, and I felt like this got me into a third grader’s mindset again. Maybe an exercise like this can help you with your work, too.

If anyone tries out this exercise, let me know! I’d love to read your lists!

Happy Writing!

 

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

 

 

 

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 NovelConclusions.com, 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

 

 

Why Teachers Should Read More Children’s Books

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: July 31, 2013
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I recently read this fabulous article called, “Why Teachers Should Read More Children’s Books,” posted here at The Guardian.  It hits close to home since I am a teacher and a children’s writer.  It always surprises me how few teachers read a lot of children’s literature, including recent titles.  (Very few seem to read for pleasure as well, due to “not having enough time.” So any type of press that encourages teachers to get out there and read, read, read, just like their students, makes me as a writer for children and a lover of children’s lit very, very happy.  And the more readers we have, the better for our art and for publishing in general!

Enjoy.

 

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

 

On Writers and their Pets

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: July 16, 2013
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Beatrix Potter and her pet rabbit, “Benjamin Bouncer.”

Today, I am picking up a kitten from a neighborhood animal shelter with my two boys and bringing it home.  It is going to be an exciting day.

We chose the kitten last week and have visited him twice.  Our downstairs bathroom has turned into a kitten bedroom, awaiting the arrival of our new family member.   Already, we have a four-year-old lab mix and a thirteen-year-oldish calico cat.  (Our seventeen-year-old tabby cat died a couple of months ago, sadly.)  Our dog has visited our new kitten too and licked him.  We see this as a good sign.  We know our calico will not be pleased, so we haven’t bothered with an introduction yet.

All of this has gotten me to thinking about writers and their pets, and in my research I found inspiring articles and photos of famous writers and their menagerie of muses.  Many writers have now or have had the typical cats and dogs and even horses as their companions. Beatrix Potter had a farm full of animals that literally became the main and secondary characters in all her books! But there have also been more unusual pets in history owned by writers, including peacocks, lobsters, donkeys, scorpions, ewes, bears, bats, monkeys, cranes, llamas, zebras, and even an anteater!

I think I would go crazy if I had any of those different types of pets, since my dog usually keeps me on my toes. Yet, if this what helps feed a writer’s creativity, then I say huzzah to them all!  We writers are a strange folk, and we need what we need in order to work and write.  I have come to terms myself with my need for a bit of caffeine (tea or a latte) during long work sessions, and lemon drops usually help, too (though not at the same time as the coffee or tea).

Will this new kitten help feed my creativity someday, too?

According to John Farley from his article, “Fluff Piece: The Meandering Truth About Cats and Writers,” published on May 2, 2011, at the literature discussion website, www.full-stop.net,

“…there are two pragmatic, surface-level observations that help make sense of the writer and cat dynamic. First, cats are far more ergonomically suited to the writing process than dogs.   Small, quiet, and lap-sized, the cat is a well-designed pet for someone whose work entails long, solitary periods sitting in a chair.  Second, there is a considerable overlap of personality traits in our cat-author Venn Diagram, which produce a fruitful, almost symbiotic system of cohabitation.  As a generalization, (good) writers and cats possess a unique curiosity and observational nature, and lead a life largely within their own minds.  This makes for a complementary living arrangement that suits both parties’ needs.”

I’m looking forward to having a new feline companion in our home and hope he’ll take to my lap someday as I write, becoming a muse for me as many cats have for other writers, too.

Happy Writing (and Purring…)

 

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

 

 

#AMWRITING

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: June 18, 2013
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Many of my full-time writer friends take time off during the summer  from their normal writing regiment that they follow during the rest of the year.  If they have kids, summer is the time they go on vacation with their families and spend more quality time with them, and if they don’t, summer just seems like a time that they take a little break.

Not for me.  Summer is my optimal time to write.  I teach PreK during the rest of the year, and though it is only part time, it takes prime time away from writing.  But when school is out, the writer in me beams and does a Snoopy dance.  Writing Time!  Writing Time!  I’m about to have more Writing Time!

Today, my first day of summer break, I woke up and said,  “I am only a writer today!”  I wrote for FOUR hours straight this morning.   It was amazing!  With no day job to have to worry about, or school to bring my own kids to, I could just be a writer.  When I am absent for the rest of the year on Twitter or in the blogosphere, I suddenly emerge as if from a cocoon and start tweeting and reading blogs and commenting.  I wish I could be better about it during the other parts of the year, but it’s too hard.  All I can do during fall, winter, and spring is squeeze in as much writing time as I can, and social networking gets pushed to the side.

But not in the summer!  Yippee!

Now, it helps that I have a husband who works from home and helps with the kids so I can go off to write at a coffee shop or the library during the summer.  He did that today, and I am so grateful.   The few camps that my kids are signed up for later this summer will help give me time to write, too (as well as curb summer boredom for them).  I’ll be able to write, and then have quality mom time, too, instead of working at a day job and have to take away quality mom time in order to write.

So, let’s cheer on the arrival of blue skies, berry season, popsicles, the opening of the outdoor pool, and more writing time!

 

Welcome Summer!

 

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

 

 

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