Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Moved!

I've moved to a new and improved blog. Please visit me at The Write Draft. My new address is:


I'd love some new followers if you are so inclined and always appreciate your comments.

I hope to see you at my new home.

Peggy

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Second Draft

I opened an email a few days ago from my local newspaper, The Saratogian. It said that my blog has been discontinued because a lack of activity, but I was welcome back any time. They missed me. It made me smile. I liked being missed.

I replied with an explanation about why I had stopped blogging. You know, the busy life thing which included writing my second novel, working full-time as a speech-language language pathologist, reading, socializing, and embarking on playful adventures.

Still, that email reminded me how much I enjoyed blogging. Blogs really are a free flow soap box, a public journal of sorts. I liked reading your comments and I liked connecting with so many people around the world. Just last month seventy-one visitors from France stopped by. I'm not quite sure how they discovered my minuscule, inactive blog. Regardless, "Hello France!"

I also crossed off a super-sized item from my to "want" list—finishing draft two of novel two. Hold your applause and don't head over to Amazon and look for it. Finishing draft two of a novel does not mean I'm ready to publish. What it means is, I deleted all of the really bad parts of draft one.




Writing a novel is like creating pottery.

The potter begins with a lump of clay.



The writer begins with a blank page.




The potter spins the wheel and maneuvers fingers to form an original design that is tailored in imagination. The writer does the same with pen and paper.


 




I can't speak for potters, or even for other writers, but for me the first draft is the most fun. It's when I let my thoughts spill onto the page without censor. I wouldn't however, try out a new recipe on a guest and I wouldn't let anyone, not even Mom, read my first draft.


  

The first draft is dreamlike. The second draft is realty. Mine took over one year to arrive at, "The End." It certainly is worth celebrating, but "the end" is such a deceitful little phrase. If I were a potter, I'd be at this point:




The story still needs detail, depth, color, glitter.



 Eventually the creation will evolve.





The Second Draft....























Thursday, September 5, 2013

J.K. Rowling Finds an Angel

I was outside helping my husband with yard work earlier in the year when my neighbor, Barbara, called, "Peggy."

I gladly abandoned my chore to have a nice chat.

"I just read the most moving book. You have to read it," Barbara said.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Wait, I'll get it for you." Barbara ran into her house and quickly returned with the book, I Wouldn't Change a Thing by Gina Peca.

"Oh yeah," I said. "I've been meaning to buy that."



Gina M. Peca


Gina is an amazing woman who took writing classes at East Line Books and Literary Center in Clifton Park, NY, just like me. Gina attended in the morning and I went in the evening. She was writing a memoir and I was writing a novel. Word about Gina's inspirational story of how she dealt with her daughter, Caitie's cancer and eventual death spread through the bookstore and our community. You see, it's not a tale of misery and hopelessness. It's a story of how Catie turned her cancer diagnosis into an unexpected adventure and took her mom along for the ride.

One of Catie's adventures involved an email she sent to J. K. Rowling. Gina explains in I Wouldn't Change a Thing, "Catie wanted the author to know how much Harry Potter meant to her, how much his antics amused her and kept her mind off her battle with cancer." Together, they searched the Internet for J.K. Rowling's email address. They couldn't find it, but sent the letter to her publishing company anyway. To their surprise, Ms. Rowling received the message and replied. Here is the first email Catie received from the beloved author:

Dear Catie...Your friend Paul Steinberg has written to tell me how much you like Harry Potter books and I can't tell you how much it meant to me. I am working very hard on book four at the moment—on a bit that involves some new creatures Hagrid has bought along for the Care of Magical Creatures classes. This is TOP SECRET, so you are allowed to tell Paul, Simon and your mom and nobody else, or you'll be getting an owl from the Ministry of Magic for giving secrets away to Muggles. With lots of love, J.K. Rowling (Jo to anybody in Gryffindor).

That began an email correspondence between Catie and J.K. Rowling that continued until Catie's death in 2000. The author was so captivated by the nine-year-old's charm and courage, that she called Catie when the end was near and read from the unfinished Book 4 of the Harry Potter series. Here's what Gina says about their relationship, "No matter what was happening during Catie's treatment, Jo made everything better. Her kindness and willingness to take the time to write to Catie show that J.K. Rowling is more than an author. She is a sorceress who brought joy and excitement to a very sick child."
   
J.K. Rowling was certainly the most famous person in Catie's short life, but she also embarked on plenty of other escapades that would make Harry Potter proud. Attending a prom with her special friend, Kevin, cheering at a Yankee game, and convincing her parents to buy a husky puppy—all while she was going through chemotherapy, extensive tests, and hospital stays.

There is a warning if you decide to read  I Wouldn't Change a Thing. You will cry, but it will be a mixed kind of cry. One of sadness about how a wonderful family lost their treasure of a child. But stronger...one of inspiration on how to live joyfully, to take chances, to stay positive, and to embrace each moment.

Of course, Gina was devastated when Caitie passed, but she didn't wallow in her sorrow. She took action. Gina and her husband, Larry, founded the Catie Hoch Foundation to help families of children with cancer. Guess who one of the first donors was?

 J.K. Rowling. She made a donation of $100,000 along with this message:

 "Catie left footprints on my heart."


It's impossible to summarize all of the heartwarming moments in this book. You'll just have to read it. All proceeds from this book benefit the Catie Hoch Foundation. You can learn more about the foundation and buy your copy of I Wouldn't Change A Thing at  http://www.catiehochfoundation.org/  


"The stories we love best do live in us forever. So, whether you come back by page or by big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home."—J.K. Rowling









J.K. Rowling &
Catie Hoch

A Special Friendship





Gina Peca will be signing copies of  I Wouldn't Change a Thing
at Northshire Books, Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY on Friday, September 13 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.







Friday, August 16, 2013

Coffee Shops: A Writer's Studio


Writers have been taking their pens, notepads, typewriters, and computers to coffee shops to work on their stories for years. In fact, some of the most famous novels and literary moments of all time were inspired and written in cafes. For example:
 
    
J.K. Rowling sat writing Harry Potter in the back room of the elephant house
in Edinburgh, Scotland

 
 
La Rontonde in Paris hosted authors like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald,
and T.S. Eliot
 

 

 I guess I'm in good company because I often leave the distractions of home, pack up my laptop, and drive into town to work on my day's writing.
 
Why do I find inspiration in a coffee shop?
 
Maybe I'm enthused by the energy of other writers. Maybe there's nothing else to do but write until my large cup of coffee is finished. Maybe the scents of cinnamon scones and a nutty Arabic dark blend stimulates creative power. Maybe its because they bake better blueberry muffins than me...  
 
...and maybe there are similarities between writing a novel and ordering a cup of coffee. They have both become more complex in the 21st century. Just like tall, dark, and handsome is considered cliche when describing a male character, coffee with only cream and sugar is on the dull side. Look at some of the choices I have at one of my favorite writing studios, Coffee Traders in Saratoga Springs, NY.       
 
 
 
 
 
Once you select the kind of coffee to add ambiance to your writing session, you must decide what to put in it:



Choosing your coffee du jour is just as difficult as choosing how to describe that handsome man in your story. Should he be a musician with a crooked smile, shoulder-length black silky hair, and electric blue eyes; a baseball player with tousled sandy brown hair, a lanky physique, and mocha eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses; a polished red-headed businessman with an Irish brogue whose wild eyes scream to escape from the confines of his three-piece suit. I guess I'll have to head to my favorite cafe and see who emerges on the page.
 
"My ideal writing space is a large cafe with a small corner table near a window overlooking an interesting street."—J. K. Rowling 
 
 
Where do you go when you want a different milieu to write, work, read, etc.?   
 
 
BOOK OF THE WEEK:
 
The You Code by Judi James  & James Moore delineates what coffee choices say about your personality (among other unique personality indicators). A great tool for matching coffee and characters. Examples are:
 
The espresso drinker - "The unfiltered cigarette of the coffee drinking world." Espresso drinkers tend to be moody, hard-bitten, and hard working.
 
The black coffee drinker - This type is all about minimalism and take a no-frills, direct approach to life.
 
The latte drinker - Typically metrosexuals or cuddly-toy collectors, latte drinkers are pleasers with an overwhelming compulsion to be liked.
 
A Fun Book!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Cafes
Another joy along the novel journey! 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Start Your Novel Like a Country Song




 

Why is Snoopy working so hard on the first line of his book? Is it really that important?

Here's how literary agent, Michelle L. Johnson answers in an interview on Chasing the Crazies blog. "I can’t stress enough how important it is to give a great first line. A good first line should catch the reader off guard and set up the tone of the book."

Like Snoopy, writers trying to break into the publishing industry are acutely aware about the significance of a extraordinary beginning for their story. It is rumored that literary agents receive between 100-to-200 query letters per week from debut authors seeking their representation. Most agents sign-on  between two to ten new clients each year, and the vast majority of publishers won't look at an author's book without that agent.

Yup! It's competitive in  the book world. That's why a writer has to grab an agent's attention with the first line. Talk about pressure. You could have written the next Gone with the Wind, but without a sizzling opening a potential bestseller could be tossed in a slush pile.




What make a great first line? Lucy told Snoopy to use, "Once upon a time."

What does Michelle Johnson say? "The most important thing to me is to connect with the main character. If I care about the character quickly and deeply and that character feels real to me, I will want to read the entire book. If the character is intriguing but the writing not polished, it will quickly eliminate my desire to read on."

Let's see how some recent bestsellers from my bookshelf start:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:   "When I think of my wife, I always think of her head."

Wild by Cheryl Strayed:   "My solo three month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail had many beginnings."

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline:   "Through her bedroom wall Molly can hear her foster parents talking about her in the living room."

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce:   "The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday."

The first thing that came to mind about these beginnings is originality. I haven't read lines like this before, so I'm assuming the author is creative. The second thing is I find myself asking why. Why does the man (Nick) in Gone Girl think of his wife's head; Why did Cheryl Stray's trek have many beginnings?; Why is Molly in foster care and what are her temporary parents saying?; Why did the letter change everything? The authors have enticed me to move on to line two. Hopefully, the intrigue will continue (and it did in all of the above books).

Some of the best beginnings I've ever heard haven't been in books, however. They're hiding in country songs. Check out these opening lines:

"In a bar in Toledo, across from the depot, on a bar stool she took off her ring." from Lucille by Kenny Rogers

"Fifteen minutes left to throw me together for Mr. Right Now, not Mr. Forever." from Settlin' by Surgarland

"I'm on the side of the road with a car that won't go and the night won't even give me a moon." Brokedown Cadillac by Brokedown Cadillac

If those lines were written at the start of a book, I'd be instantly hooked. Instead of Lucy telling Snoopy to begin with Once upon a time, she should have advised him to turn on the radio. Lots of powerful examples are just a song away.
   
What are some of your favorite opening lines from either a book or a song? Did the remainder of the story live up to the expectation?

A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA:

Here's the entire version of Settlin' by SurgarlandA winner from beginning to end: