Categories: Celebrations

Pick Your Holiday, Bring On the Light

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: December 5, 2015
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sun-on-earthIt’s December, according to a popular calendar. In the days deemed to fit within December, there will be a holiday or two for many of us, including Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and, for some Muslims this year, the birth of the prophet Muhammad.

We Scrivas sprout from a variety of faith traditions, but we share a common location: a spot in the Northern Hemisphere just a bit closer to the North Pole than to the equator. December is dark where we are now, and getting darker. The light is leaving us. And even if we know intellectually that the sun will return, still there remains the urge to brighten our spirits if not our days.

And so, yes, Viva Scriva celebrates during these days of waning sunlight. When we meet for the December critique, we eat chocolate (well, actually, we do that year round), and we exchange gifts. A favorite activity is one that Scriva Liz started. She gleans books from her own shelves, and then gives one book to each of us to enjoy and perhaps pass around. Some of us do the same. The book exchange is fun, of course, but what really brings on the light is the easy laughter and camaraderie that follows.

I could get metaphorical here. I could try for a “deep thought” sentence about bringing the promise of light to those dark places of the mind and soul that both stifle creativity and engender the passions poured out in story.

Nah.

I’ll simply wish you a December filled with delight.

 

The Vicarious Release!

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: October 5, 2015
Categories: Celebrations, Inspiration
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Amber-signingThe vicarious release. Sounds kinda sexy, no? Anyway, I can tell you this: the vicarious release is a delight. It’s like playing with someone else’s puppy or watching your team’s winning soccer goal, only a lot better.

The vicarious release happens when another Viva Scriva launches a book into the world, particularly a book that has grown up and come to fruition under the Viva Scriva mojo.

Vicarious release is what happened a few days ago when Amber’s debut novel, The Way Back from Broken, officially left the nest. Here’s the gal herself signing the title page.

Viva Scriva has had the pleasure of numerous releases. One of the most memorable recent ones was Liz’s Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek. Let me just say that mud was involved. There will be more releases to come, for sure, from every member of Viva Scriva. With luck, even from me. I will celebrate and enjoy, and be inspired by, every single one.

A New Life

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: September 22, 2015
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Candlewick biography coverToday I want to share something that I didn’t know happened in the publishing world.

In September 2013, Candlewick Press released my picture book biography ELECTRICAL WIZARD: HOW NIKOLA TESLA LIT UP THE WORLD. The book has sold well, but to reach a broader audience they decided to  repackage and re-release the book in a new format.

The design has been changed to a smaller chapter book format, and the story has been broken into chapters and spread out to fifty-six pages. The book will publish as part of the Candlewick Biographies series for readers ages 8-12. While this is older than the original audience, the text has always skewed older and in the new format it looks just right.

We’ve been able to make an improvement, too. Early reviews complained about a lack of dates, so we added a timeline.

The new version has recently released simultaneously in hardcover and in paperback, the latter priced at a very affordable $4.99.

So with a bit of repackaging ELECTRICAL WIZARD gets a whole new life – ready to reach older readers and with the new low price, I hope a lot more readers!  I think it’s an example of a publisher doing something remarkable—and right – for a backlist book.

Thanks Candlewick!

P.S. The new version released September 8!

Dear Wayback, I Knew You When…..

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: July 4, 2015
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Way-Back-from-Broken

July 4, 2015

Dear Wayback,

I hope you don’t mind your nickname. The Way Back from Broken is a great title, but I’ve known you since before you even had a title, and Wayback is how I think of you now. The Scrivas are swamped with works-in-progress at the moment, as Liz wrote recently. We all seem to be on a roll, especially Amber. Wayback, you’ll soon have several more of Amber’s works to keep you company on the bookshelves. Still, you’ll always be special to me.

The other Scrivas and I were there at your beginning. Well, not exactly. Amber wrote you into being first. Then the rest of us went over every part of you word by word, coaxing and critiquing, encouraging and suggesting. We watched your characters take shape and your subplots change. We cried at your tearful parts and sighed with deep satisfaction at your deeply satisfying parts. I’d like to say that we Scrivas nourished you until you were ready to nourish us…and soon the rest of your readers.

I hope to take part in your official launches, promotions, and social media buzz. That’s what Scrivas do for each other, with enthusiasm and delight. But this is a letter between you and me, a quiet celebration in the midst of July Fourth fireworks. Wayback, I just want to say that you snuck up on me halfway through your first draft and you snagged my heart.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Scriva Ruth

Let Me Count the Ways

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: November 25, 2014
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I’ve been part of Viva Scriva for seven years, and I’ve learned and received so much from them, individually and collectively.

Inspiration, and a demonstration of the value of Perspiration.

One time we were talking frankly about envy. I had to say that, interestingly, I wasn’t jealous of different members’ success, because, “If I’d worked as hard, I’d be further along too.”

Writing. Submitting. Revising. Revising. Repeating. Sending off to agents or publishers. Writing again, writing something different. Letting a project rest for a while. Picking it up again. No agent, wrong agent, new agent, right agent.

Perseverance. Stick-to-it-ivenss. Keeping on going.

Fun

-Crysanthemums, gum drops, and other delights served up Saturday evenings at retreats

-Viva Scriva salutes (forming a VS with our hands when all agreed on a comment at a critique meeting)

-Presents, most of them components of the “Viva Scriva outfit.” Ruth actually knit each one of us personalized socks (can you believe it?); colorful wraps from Brazil from Addie; wear-them-ten-ways hoodies from Amber; Czech bracelets from Nicole, customized VS pendants commissioned by Liz, logo Ts from Mary; wool scarves from Ecuador… (My contribution was culinary rather than sartorial: hand-carved wooden spoons from Romania.)

Thought-provoking Reflection

-Addie’s incredibly valuable, pretty-much annual, reflective exercises.

-Liz’s coaching about pursuing “low hanging fruit,” query letters, market overviews, etc.

-Amber’s review of careers of favorite authors as inspirational guides.

-Liz’s gratitude beads.

Support as we in turn went through professional or personal or family cares. Commiserating during setbacks. Celebrating accomplishments.

Retreats. Business meetings. Writing days. Art as process meetings.

Oh, yeah—and the monthly Critique Meetings that started and undergird everything. I received invaluable feedback on my manuscripts, and learned so much from others’ comments and writing even the months when I hadn’t submitted a manuscript.

-Respect and kindness (the praise sandwich).

-Truth (things said graciously, but everything that needed to be said, said).

-Sometime inadvertent tutelage about story arcs, motivations, trying it different ways, tight writing…

-Brainstorming manuscript problems, or process/approach, during one’s 20 Minutes.

-Encouragement: “This is so great.” “I know you can do it.” “I can’t wait to read more.”

-So much received from each Scriva and her particular “eye,” approach, and writerly-personality; from Addie, Amber, Liz, Mary, Michelle, Nicole, Ruth.

 

Reflecting on these and other gifts from these seven years, I have to paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s verse. How do I appreciate you, Scrivas? Let me count the ways.

Thank you, Scrivas.

 

-Sabina I. Rascol

Gift of Gratitude: Thankful Beads

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: November 20, 2014
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[This is a post that ran a few years ago about a gratitude activity that I think is worth repeating in case you missed it. Happy Thanksgiving! Scriva Liz]

One holiday season, a couple years ago, I had a strong urge to give something to the Viva Scrivas to thank them for all the ways they have helped me and my writing.  What I had in mind would take some time, so it wouldn’t work during a normal critique group session. I saved it for a writing retreat.

After dinner the second night of the retreat, after the plates were cleared but the wine was still flowing, I gathered the Scrivas back to the dinner table and pulled out a box of beads and some thin wire.

I felt a little awkward, kind of dorky, at first. What if they didn’t like the activity? What if they thought it was tiresome or corny? But I went ahead and explained that we were going to make Thankful Beads. Each person would make a string of beads, each bead signifying something they were thankful for in their writing life. They could start by picking beads that inspired them or by making a list of things that they were thankful for and then choosing beads that best represented each item.

The Scrivas got quiet, and I got nervous.

Then they slipped into the work, jotting notes, fingering through beads. I swear I have never seen these writers so quiet unless they were writing – and with wine goblets at hand, noless. They wrote:

Writing time

Health

My beautiful desk

 

A husband’s support

Great books

The outdoors

 

Writing conferences

My editor

The Scrivas

Someone chose a brown, lumpy bead for a faithful dog. A shiny sparkling amber bead for Ideas. A red bead for her mother.

When we were finished, we each shared our string of beads, touching each one as we said our thanks aloud.

And the next day, as the Scrivas wrote, their Thankful Beads were right nearby.

Happy Thanksgiving,

ScrivaLiz

 

 

Credit where Credit is Due

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: October 20, 2014
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COVER FINAL FEB 2014My newest book The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans just published.  Hurrah!

Thanks to wonderful Scriva critiques, it is a Junior Library Guild selection and has gotten a starred review from Kirkus, which called it “timely” and “important.”  As I read the review, I thought about comments Scrivas had given me on early drafts and how they were responsible for much of the praise in the review. Here are some snippets from the review that I can thank the Scrivas for:

“well-written…” thanks to comments that pointed out each part that was not as well-written as it could be…comments like “you could condense this,” “tighten?” and all the copyedits that fixed awkward constructions and grammar problems.

“She draws in young readers…” thanks to comments that highlighted the adult-speak in early drafts and that pointed out the most kid-friendly parts and suggested I do more like that.

“clear explanations,” thanks to comments that pointed out sections that were confusing.

“appropriately focused and interesting…” thanks to comments that highlighted sections that went off topic or “could perhaps be presented in a more interesting way” (read: BORING!).

Without the excellent critiques I get, I believe my books would be rather mediocre. Critique groups help you do your very best work.  So Scrivas, WE got a great review! Thanks for all your help with the book!

Scriva Liz

Celebrate!

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: July 20, 2014
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Scriva Amber recently sold her wonderful YA novel THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN in a two book deal (YAY!) and I asked her what she was going to do celebrate. The conversation went something like this:

Amber: Well, I’m not sure when to celebrate.

Liz: I know. If you do it when you get the offer, what if it doesn’t work out?

Amber: We both know that happens. I don’t want to jinx it.  Maybe when I accept the offer?

Liz: Or sign the contract?

Amber: But that’s just paperwork.

Liz: Yeah, kind of anticlimactic…

But we both agreed that we MUST celebrate these successes because we face so many challenges, frustrations, and yes, even failure along the way.

With that in mind, I want to invite you all (especially Portlanders!) to join illustrator Mike Lawrence and I to celebrate the launch of our first ever graphic novel Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek on Saturday, August 2 at the Fremont Fest outside A Children’s Place bookstore at 4807 NE Fremont, from 12 pm-4 pm. Festivities will include:

  • * Tubs of mud for kids to dig through to discover what is in mud.
  • * Squirt guns for kids to test their demudifying skills on mud dunked dolls
  • * Temporary mud tattoos
  • * A raffle of original Muddy Max art

Good dirty fun for the whole family! Join us! Celebrate!

Scriva Liz

 

NEVER Give Up on a Book You Believe In

Don’t give upWhen I was pregnant with my second child, who is now 10 years old, I started writing a picture book called Squeaks, Stumps, and Surprises: A Big Brother’s Guide to Life with a New Baby. I was trying to see my second pregnancy and the appearance of a new baby in the family through my first child’s eyes. I asked him and his friends what they thought about pregnancy and new babies, especially new siblings. And I learned that little kids don’t see things the way we adults do.

In the book, I tried to capture the voice of a slightly older, wiser kid giving insider advice about what life with a new baby would really be like. I loved writing it, I loved revising it, and when I submitted it to publishers, I got nice notes back about the writing and the concept. But all agreed it wouldn’t stand out in the crowded New Baby market.

So I went back to it, revising it again, making the voice stronger, fresher, funnier. This went on for several years (I had a new baby at home after all) before I submitted again. This time I found a few editors who liked it, too. It went to acquisitions several times, but alas, no one bought it.

I got busy with other projects, busy with my two kids, and forgot about the manuscript for a while, perhaps years. If I happened to think of it, I would open the most recent version and read it. I’d think: “I still really like this book.” Sometimes I’d play around with it again. I changed the boy to a girl. I broke the book into sections. I added more dialogue, more funny lists, more punch lines. I cut it radically. I added more material. I cut again. I went from one narrator to two: a boy and a girl.

I started working with a wonderful agent who sold some of my manuscripts. When I first showed her this one, she said something to the effect of: “I’m not sure this would stand out in the crowded New Baby market.” Sound familiar? So I put it away again.

In the meantime, I started writing a graphic novel. (MUDDY MAX, coming this August!) Sometime while working on the graphic novel, I took yet another peek at the new baby book. I thought: “I still really like this book.” And I had an idea. What if the book was a picture book/graphic novel hybrid with some main narrative text and some funny scenes in comic form? I carved out some time to try this, got great feedback from my critique groups, revised again and showed my agent. This time she said: “All right, let’s give it a try.”

And I am happy, ecstatic, thrilled to report, that TEN YEARS after first writing the book, we got an offer on it. I am still in shock that it actually happened. Look for The Big Kids’ Guide to Life with a New Baby sometime in 2016!

And don’t EVER give up on a book project you believe in.

Elizabeth Rusch

P.S. In case it’s not obvious from the story above, it is OK to put a manuscript aside for a while (months or even years), play around with it a lot, try some radical revisions, get feedback, put it away again, revisit it again. But if you like it, if you believe in it, if there is something in there you think is special, don’t give up, don’t ever give up.

What Do You Want In Your Circle?

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: January 20, 2014
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In a recent, early-in-the-new-year Scriva meeting, we did two short activities that are meant to sharpen focus, boost spirits and build community.

The first was inspired by Igolu.com, which has some wonderful goal-setting exercises, which you can check out here.

In the simple exercise that we tried, you draw a large circle on a blank page. Inside the circle you write all the ideas, emotions, things and qualities that you want in your life. You can do this for your writing life or your life in general – or both! Outside the circle you can write what you don’t want in your life. Then spend some time just thinking on what you wrote in your circle. How can you welcome those things into your life?

The second exercise is meant to shift the focus a bit to some very important people in your life – your beloved critique group members. This exercise is designed to build community and boost spirits by recognizing each member’s strengths and sharing your hopes and dreams for them.  For each member, complete the following sentences (write out your thoughts):

* I really admire/am inspired by the way you…

* The words that come to mind when I think of you are…

* The words that come to mind when I think of your writing are…

* If I could wish anything for your writing life this year, it would be…

Then give these slips of paper for people to read later.

Writing these thoughts down made me think about what I appreciate about each person, made me grateful that they are part of the group, made me hopeful about what the year might have in store for us.  And reading mine made me feel understood, appreciated, supported. And that is something we can all use more of in our lives.

Elizabeth Rusch

 

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